McFerrin was Right.

Don’t Worry. Be Happy.

Picture by Christa Regina — Pixaby

In September of 1988 Bobby McFerrin released the song, Don’t Worry Be Happy. There’s one part of the lyrics that really stand out to me:

“In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy”

This is so true, but often hard to live up to. We double the trouble when we worry about things that are out of our control, but how do we shift our mindset? Furthermore, why would we bother?

[1] McFerrin, Bobby — Don’t Worry Be Happy

Let’s start with the why

The Impact of Happiness:

Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage goes into detail about shifting our minds from the negative towards the positive. When we prime ourselves for the positive what can we expect?

Productivity and energy at work rose by 31%

Sales increased by 37%

People who were optimistic and happy were 40% more likely to get a promotion

Even when people experienced the same level of stress, the negative effects of stress dropped by 23%, e.g., headaches, backaches and fatigue

Happiness triples creativity

If people are happy, they are 39 % more likely to live to age 94

Happiness has a positive impact on health outcomes

That’s the why, but what if you are just more inclined to be negative? Isn’t happiness tied to our genetics? Yes, it is, but we are not bound to those ties. You have a way out.

Science tells us that approximately 50% of our overall happiness is steered by our genes. Notice I said steered. I chose that word on purpose. Steering is what we think about when driving. We have an opportunity to take over our happiness wheel by training our brain to increase its happiness.

5 Simple Steps to a Happier You

People who are more optimistic or happy get better results, so a little happiness training is well worth the effort. Studies by Shawn Achor, a happiness guru, researcher, and Harvard grad have proven this over and over. He suggests trying a few simple things to take the steering wheel of your happiness back under your control:

1. Pausing for Gratitude — turns out when we think about what we are thankful for, it fuels positivity. Our brains are reptilian and designed to find fault. Our fight or flight was designed to protect us, but we tend to lean towards the negative when we aren’t mindfully aware of this tendency.

Tip: Gratitude Journaling

Journaling is tied to happiness. Shawn suggests that we should think of 3 NEW things we are thankful for each day. Then, we need to write about them. The act of writing helps cement the experience in our brains.

2. Smiling — smiling seems simple doesn’t it? We turn our lips up, maybe show a few teeth, but did you know that there are 2 types of smiles?

Duchenne Smiling — known as smiling with the eyes and in my words a Duchenne smile is the real deal. These types of smiles are associated with living longer.

Ekman, one of the researchers, found that the Duchenne smile engages the left frontal cortex of the brain. That’s the region associated with experiencing enjoyment.

Non- Duchenne smiles use the zygomatic major muscle, the muscle responsible for lifting the lips, but not the eyes.

Smiling Tips:

If you want to light up your brain’s enjoyment center and live longer, make sure you smile with not just your lips. Add your eyes to your smile! Smizing is in!

Smiles are also contagious, but in a good way. Our brains have mirror neurons that enable us to reflect another’s behavior. When we smile, we cause others to smile back and they can start to get their happy on too.

3. Exercise and endorphins — when we exercise, we get a dual benefit. Our bodies are moving as they were designed to do, and our brains release endorphins, the feel- good hormone. If you are down in the dumps, a little frustrated or just plain moody, it’s a good idea to get moving. No, you will not feel like it, but that’s all the more reason to get up and move. Once you get started, you’ll begin to experience the benefits of exercise.

Exercise Tip: Fit in mini movements throughout your day. 5-minute breaks add up. You can always start slowly and build an exercise regimen that works for you and your schedule. Remember you are worth the investment of time because without you, time doesn’t matter.

4. Breathe — the breath is an amazing thing, often taken for granted. Whether you meditate or not, I highly encourage you to begin to focus on you breath. Deliberate and attentive breathing influences the parasympathetic system which is responsible for our relaxation response. It’s much easier to be happy when we are more relaxed versus stressed.

Breathing Tip: Try a 2 to 1 breath exchange. That simply means exhale twice as long as your inhale.

5. Appreciation — doesn’t it feel great to be appreciated? Then we should all practice showing appreciation to others. Shawn’s studies support that even a recognition email or text makes a difference in the lives of others. That small act will be just as meaningful to you.

Appreciation Tip — If you work with someone who makes your life easier then let them know that. Maybe they help you stay organized or just cheer you up because they are naturally encouraging. Whatever their strength, let them know you appreciate their contribution to your life.

Will your happiness investment pay off?

Whenever we invest in anything, we want a ROI. We already know you are more likely to get promoted and live longer, but there are also many other benefits associated with a happiness mindset.

Dr. Martin Seligman is one of the founders of positive psychology and author of Flourish. His theory of happiness includes 5 key categories, he named PERMA.

Positive Emotion





If you want know more about Seligman’s PERMA theory checkout my TED Ed mini course. The video is 6 minutes long and I link you to a free PERMA assessment, both there and on my website.

I’d love to get your feedback about TED Ed. I’m using it in my new course, IMPACT which I will release in April. Until then, “Don’t Worry, be Happy!”

About the Author: Kimberly Sheldahl is a former executive, turned Kolbe Certified ™ Consultant who is also an Integrative Health Coach. She is passionate about the integration of productivity and well-being. She knows that by allowing individuals to focus on their well-being they have the energy to be more productive. Everyone wins when the focus is on the right intersection of life, health and work.

Contact me today for a free discovery call! I’d love to help you find more happiness and IMPACT your life!

Chief Priority Strategist |Practical Priorities™ | Certified, Predictive Index ™ & Kolbe™ | Full Focus Planner Certified Pro™|Health Coach

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Kimberly Sheldahl

Kimberly Sheldahl

Chief Priority Strategist |Practical Priorities™ | Certified, Predictive Index ™ & Kolbe™ | Full Focus Planner Certified Pro™|Health Coach

More from Medium

Four Lessons from an Endurance Event

A lone trail runner fades into the distant mountains.

What if every day were the 22.02.2022?

Top 5 Best Foods To Control Blood Sugar

What's your Goal In Life? This Monk’s Answer will Enlighten You.