Happy Habits in your Marketing with John Ellison
Can you create habits that make you happier? Do you have to be happy all of the time to tell if they’re working? What even is happiness?
In the Marketing Masterclass, we were joined by John Ellison, founder of Happy Habits, to take a deep dive into the work of habit and happiness to learn more about how forming habits can help you work on discipline, find clarity in your aspirations and underlying feelings and make you appreciate happiness even more.
John started by explaining what led him to create Happy Habits after a difficult and stressful period of his life. He explained how the term was coined after looking into the science of wellbeing and trying to work out how he could change the way he felt. After dismantling some of the preconceptions he held about what happiness was and what it was dependant upon, he started experimenting and playing with different well-being practices in his life. This led him to start a weekly newsletter, Happy Habits to condense some of the research insights into specific things people can do.
The surprising thing that john discovered is that a lot of the things he did were in fact small changes, not the big things he thought would build long-lasting change. Not only does the science back up that these small things work but John’s own exercises and feedback from others show that it does make a difference and is a lot of fun along the way.
You don’t have to be happy all of the time
The next thing we discussed was the idea that you don’t have to be happy all of the time. Frances explained the common misconception that you need to feel happy emotions all of the time to be happy. John shared how he has learned that research describes happiness as subjective wellbeing, where you in yourself report that you feel well. He describes it as overall wellbeing in ourselves.
Happiness is not just feeling bright, joyful and excited, it also goes deeper. It’s also how you deal with the negative emotions in your life like fear, anxiety, frustration and anger, which all influence wellbeing. These have a bigger influence on our long term wellbeing than our feelings associated with happiness, so working on these negative emotions influences your happiness.
Building the discipline muscle
Forming habits is all about discipline and doing things you might not “want” to do. John shared how getting in cold water is a great example of how to build your discipline muscle. With cold water you know it’s going to be intense and uncomfortable, the same might be true for starting a podcast or going on stage. By regularly exposing yourself to small amounts of discomfort, going for a cold shower or a wild swim, you build the discipline muscle by finding comfort in discomfort. John shared how he has learned from Whim Hoff who uses cold water and breathing to help people build that disciple and mindset so that they can look at something scary and think yes this is going to be uncomfortable but I’m going to do it anyway.
Habits and aspirations
BJ Fog author of Tiny Habits talks about habits as being specific things that you at a specific frequency. eg weekly, monthly daily. They help you fulfil aspirations and longer-term goals and ideals. John says the best way to form habits is first is to get “crispy clear” on the aspiration. Maybe the aspiration is to earn £3000 per month from your business, or it could be something less concrete. What’s really interesting though is what’s underneath that surface-level aspiration. It might be “I want to feel good about myself”, or, “I want to feel comfortable in saying this is who I am”. By understanding the emotional needs that are underneath the aspirations, you will form much more effective habits that fulfil what you’re longing for, rather than just looking at on the surface. Decoupling the aspiration and what you think your habits could be to fulfil is a useful design mechanism that can unlock a lot of freedom.