Increasing Happiness and Wellbeing

March is Happiness Month, and March 20th is the International Day of Happiness. Why would a whole month be dedicated to happiness when sometimes it feels like there’s nothing we can do about our levels of happiness? It turns out that we can all take steps to increase our happiness, and doing so profoundly impacts our lives.

When asked what they want most out of life, people put happiness at the top of their lists, and eight out of ten Americans report thinking about their happiness at least once a week. So: are we happy? Fifty-four percent of American adults are moderately well when it comes to their emotional wellbeing, yet not flourishing. Many of us lack enthusiasm for life and are not actively and productively engaged with the world.

So what is happiness and how do we create more of it in our lives?

Happiness is a deep sense of flourishing that goes beyond fleeting pleasurable moments. It refers to “our personal experience of joy, contentment, engagement, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that our life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile,” according to Sonja Lyubomirsky, psychology professor and author of The How of Happiness.

And happiness isn’t just about personal gratification. It leads to success in nearly every domain of our lives, including marriage, health, friendship, community involvement, creativity, our jobs, and our organizations. If we observe genuinely happy people, we find that they do not just sit around being contented. Instead, they make things happen; they pursue new undertakings and seek new achievements; and they have influence over their thoughts and feelings rather than being controlled by them.

The good news is that advances in the field of happiness studies are now solid and rigorous enough to translate into specific recommendations for people. Enjoying a real increase in our happiness levels is attainable!

The science of happiness suggests that what we DO and how we THINK affects our happiness despite the effects of our genetic makeup and the circumstances in which we find ourselves. If an unhappy person wants to experience enthusiasm, contentment, peace, and joy, that person can make it happen by engaging in specific techniques that have a powerful influence on happiness.

Just some of these techniques include:

  • Counting blessings and expressing gratitude
  • Avoiding overthinking and social comparison
  • Practicing acts of kindness
  • Developing strong, nurturing relationships
  • Committing to significant, meaningful goals
  • Learning to forgive and letting go of anger and resentment
  • Taking care of our bodies by engaging in physical activity and meditation

For more about these techniques and others, check out this link to the International Day of Happiness where you can receive resources and tips for increasing your happiness (you need to sign up with your name, email, and location – it takes less than a minute).

Power Henrico is all about taking charge of our health and well-being, and happiness is a key part of doing just that. If this is a topic you’re interested in exploring more deeply, be sure to check out the new Training Catalog on July 1 and sign up for the class, “Happiness: Proactive Steps to Improving Your Well-being,” as well as several others that support our resilience and well-being.

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Charting His Own Course

Starting in July of 2018, Eric Leabough took on the new role of Henrico County’s very first Housing Specialist and has not looked back. Leabough is no stranger to the County as he worked for Henrico 14 years ago. However, after leaving to work for the State, he is back with a passion to lead strategic efforts in addressing challenges presented by the aging housing stock in Henrico. “There is no box, lets be different and innovative,” said Leabough. His desire to affect change is evident, and his experience and background has allowed him to hit the ground running.

In a little over six months Eric has represented the County in a multitude of ways. From being a policy adviser to the County Manager surrounding affordable housing and revitalization, to representing the County on regional housing efforts, his position allows him the opportunity to facilitate interdepartmental communication as well as external partnerships. He is currently focused on recognizing the needs of our more mature areas as well as making sure we have diverse and mixed income communities to represent all of Henrico. Ensuring that owners of these mature properties have the tools they need to continue to make investments in their property so that they do not become poor living conditions for themselves or future citizens of the County is a key effort for Eric. “Giving people hope that quality housing opportunities exist is what I want to see,” said Leabough. One way has been through leveraging the tools that have already been put in place by legislative efforts. Through outreach and education Eric is already making positive strides in the Henrico community.

Not only does Eric focus on the larger picture, but on a daily basis he fields calls from citizens with landlord and tenant issues or he helps direct people to organizations who can advocate for them at any stage of the housing process. One thing Eric would like to be is a resource for anyone, employees and citizens alike, who have questions related to housing. “I may not have all the answers, but with the support of a great team, we can find the answers for you,” said Leabough.

The course ahead of Eric might look long and challenging, but if his first six months as the new Housing Specialist is any indication of what’s to come, Henrico County is in good hands.  

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Tax Time = Financial Planning Time

It’s tax time. It’s not everyone’s favorite time of year, but a tax refund is a good time to create and implement some financial strategies:

  • Review your paycheck tax withholding. A large refund may indicate that you have too much withholding while having to pay the government may indicate that you need to adjust your withholding’s.
  • Review and adjust your retirement savings amount. Increasing your retirement savings by 1% can increase your retirement income.

  • Pay down high-interest debt. If you pay off a credit card bill that was charging you an 18% interest rate, it’s like earning 18% on your money. It’s never a bad idea to minimize credit card debt whenever possible.
  • Increase your Lifetime Income Score (LIS) with one easy step.
    • Review your VRS projected monthly income (go the VRS website to access your account)
    • Login in to your Empower 457 Deferred Compensation Plan
      • Take note of your LIS (green circle) 
    • Under “Other Assets”, add an Account
    • Select “Monthly Income During Retirement”, add VRS (as source) and your monthly amount
    • Save
    • Now, look at how your LIS changed. o Send an email to Anne Strine with your name, last 4 digits of your SSN and note that says “I increased my LIS!”. Each week in March, we’ll draw the name of someone who increased their LIS and they’ll be awarded a gift card. Spread the word.

Bonus: If at the end of March, we’ve had more than 500 employees increase their LIS, we’ll draw 10 more name from the pot.

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