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PR Techniques for Work-Life Balance

If Happiness is a matter of perspective, internally spinning your message can help you cope with stress

Easy enough to put it down to luck (or lack thereof), a bad streak over which we have no real control. Being something of a control freak, however, that sits uneasily with me. I like people who make their own luck.

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Yet that mind-set is not exactly conducive to a happy existence. For the control-obsessed, life quickly becomes a series of endless chores, with lists to be crossed off as quickly as possible before moving on to bigger and better lists.

For the control-obsessed, life quickly becomes a series of endless chores

Working in the high-pressure environment of the London technology scene — heading up communications for a high-growth startup — things often get quite intense. Thus I signed up for membership at my local hot yoga studio, in a bid to de-stress and learn to “live in the moment”. At the very least, I figured, it would count towards my weekly exercise quota (list item #132 — tick!).

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And so it was that one evening, after a particularly long day, I was at that studio watching sweat drip steadily from my forehead onto a towel, when I heard our teacher say something quite striking: “we have no control over what happens to us, only over how we choose to feel about it”. Maybe it was the beginnings of heatstroke, but it felt like something of a revelation.

What a beautiful way, I thought, of squaring that circle. Here was how one could reconcile the contradiction of craving control in a world where some factors were always going to be beyond control. By acknowledging whatever comes your way, yet framing it in such a way as to deal with it on your own terms, it is possible to have your cake and eat it too — coping with reality without letting it sweep you along to places you don’t want to go.

By acknowledging whatever comes your way, yet framing it in such a way as to deal with it on your own terms, it is possible to have your cake and eat it too

That, in turn, got me thinking about how the PR and Marketing skills I use in my work relate to that concept. The word “spin” carries a lot of negative connotations (thanks very much Alastair Campbell) yet contrary to popular belief it’s not actually all about lies and bullshit. There are many shades of grey in between, and not all of them rude.

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When you’re marketing a brand or handling PR for a client, you’re often presented with products you can’t change, and unpredictable situations which you have to “deal with” or “fix”. To do this effectively, you must learn to constantly make unlikely connections, present things from different and unexpected angles, and sell the positive story. Monty Python-style, you become adept at always looking on the bright side of life, even in the most outrageous and seemingly inappropriate circumstances.

When you’re marketing a brand or handling PR for a client, you’re often presented with products you can’t change, and unpredictable situations which you have to “deal with” or “fix”

It might look like PR folk live in something of a parallel universe, but it’s surprising how often you can shift reality itself, if only you stick to your story for long enough. Go back far enough in time, after all, and most “universally accepted truths” were not always taken for granted. In the end, truth boils down to perception.

In the end, truth boils down to perception.

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On a personal level, that translates into the concept of “fake it till you make it” which was revived in Amy Cuddy’s TED talk, where she explained the benefits of power-posing. Her experiments revealed that simply striking a confident stance for two minutes can significantly alter hormone levels and make you feel more powerful in tricky situations such as job interviews or — judging my Amy’s brilliant performance — giving a TED talk.

Simply striking a confident stance for two minutes can significantly alter hormone levels and make you feel more powerful

Similarly, researchers at Cardiff University found out that smiling, or even just refraining from frowning, could impact happiness levels. In other words, we’re just as likely to be happy because we’re smiling as the other way around.

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We’re just as likely to be happy because we’re smiling as the other way around.

“But it’s fake!” I hear some protest. Perhaps. But that implies there is such a thing as “real” happiness and that we actually know what that looks like. I believe human beings are complex and often illogical creatures, and our moods are affected by a host of factors that range from interaction with our peers, to the weather, our diet, etc. etc. etc. Ad infinitum.

So nudging yourself into a pattern of behaviour that is more conducive to happiness could be an useful addition to the overall happiness toolkit. One that makes you view negative situations in a positive light, so you can, for example, view a redundancy at work as an opportunity to pursue your dreams, rather than a disaster.

Nudging yourself into a pattern of behaviour that is more conducive to happiness could be an useful addition to your toolkit.

Just as yoga and mediation are practices which you train at, developing a positive mind-set is no different than exercising your muscles. And maybe the ones to teach us the best techniques for that are not dreamy-eyed hippies, but practical marketers and astute PR people, whose job has always been to convince us to see things their way.

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Amy Cuddy says it’s not so much about faking it until you make it as “faking it until you become it,” so believing your own spin might well be the first step towards a happier life.

Believing your own spin might well be the first step towards a happier life

And if that fails, well, everyone knows that the shortest path to happiness is getting dog. Hence why all pictures in this post are of my own personal happiness coach, Dr Watson. You’re welcome.

Written by

Technology writer for FastCo, Quartz, The Next Web, Ars Technica, Wired + more. Consultant specializing in VR #MixedReality and Strategic Communications

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