On Tuesday, Jan. 18, professional speaker Matt Glowacki came to Penn State Abington to show those in attendance how to find and practice happiness. Glowacki isn’t your typical ‘be positive’ speaker, darting around the stage spewing run-of-the-mill how-to-be-happy jargon. Although he moved quickly from one end of the platform to the other, he did it in a wheelchair. Born without legs, Glowacki, 37, had plenty of advice to offer the audience about identifying happiness and sharing it with others.
Watching Matt give his presentation -- overflowing with humor and positivity -- was like watching a subtitled foreign film. At first the audience member sees only the legless man maneuvering across the stage in his tricked-out wheelchair; similar to how a movie-goer concentrates solely on the words streaming across the bottom of the screen, missing the beautiful scenery of the film. But then without realization, Glowacki’s audience is enthralled with his story and absorbed in his message -- not unlike the movie buff who eventually is able to watch the film unfold, unconscious of reading the subtitles.
According to Glowacki, 91 percent of Americans claim they want to be happy. He identified three components of a person’s ability to achieve that goal: 50 percent is genetics, 10 percent is environmental and 40 percent is up to the individual. He offered a toolbox-full of techniques to help the audience put that 40 percent to work.
“That’s why this program is called, ‘Doing Happiness,’ said Glowacki. “The cool thing about doing the work is (that) it’s happiness when you’re doing it. It makes you happy and then as you’re happy and ‘Doing Happiness,’ you make other people happy. It’s a good pay-it-forward idea.”
Glowacki identified four paths to happiness: Live in the moment, practice positive input (what you put into your body), practice positive output (what you broadcast to others) and be more curious. Guilt and worry were high on his list of emotions to avoid.
“Guilt allows you to live in the past and worry prevents you from living in the moment. To alleviate the guilt, take responsibility of your action, learn from the bad experience and move on. As for worry, 90 percent of the things you worry about never happen and 10 percent can’t be changed.”
Glowacki had plenty of tips for practicing positive input; some obvious, some not so much. Exercise is essential. He referred to a study done by Duke Medical School which dramatically showed how the effects of not exercising were the same as taking a depressant.
He demonstrated--with the assistance of a good sport, sophomore John Broskey--that hugs, if held long enough, can actually produce happiness.
“A hug doesn’t become real until six seconds into the hug because that’s how long it takes for your body to react to the stimulus of the hug,” said Glowacki. “At that point your brain releases all the happy chemicals.”
He referred to the positive power of music -- music that makes you want to dance. Writing love letters was another suggestion. Not only will the letter make the recipient happy but the actual act of writing the love letter has the same effect on the author.
Glowacki relayed the heartwarming story of how he wrote a love letter to his future wife (who he hadn’t met yet) when he was still in high school.
“I was a heart struck 16 year old and I really thought I knew what I wanted in a wife, and I thought I had the words to use to explain it, but I didn’t have the nerve to say it to any girl, even if she existed. I also had the awareness to realize (that) telling a girl in high school all the things that I was thinking about my wedding and how special she was and how lucky I would be to be able to spend the rest of my life with her might not be the best thing to do. So I wrote it and kept it saved away in a box that moved with me for the next 22 years.”
Glowacki plans to give the love letter to Shannon whom he met four years ago, on their wedding day this summer.
He spoke of how to broadcast happiness to others by giving some incredibly simple examples like recording your phone voicemail message while smiling. The caller will actually be able to hear the happiness in the recording. Or by giving a compliment not just to the person it’s meant for, but to a mutual friend who will spread the kind words to the intended recipient; thus spreading happiness through more people.
Curiosity is another path to happiness. According to Glowacki, it can transform a couple’s relationship -- keeping it real and fresh -- just by learning something new about each other. Curiosity also has the benefit of overcoming anxiety, by the mere task of distracting the brain from the thing that is causing the anxiety.
After the well-received lecture, Glowacki reflected on his own power of positivity.
“In terms of my personal levels of happiness, I believe I have always had a pretty bright outlook. Of course we all have our moments from time-to-time, but I think when people are posed with challenges, and if they want to overcome them; people develop coping strategies. I enjoy and see humor in most things and that has helped me get through some challenges in my life.”
Glowacki is living proof that his “Doing Happiness” techniques work. “I found things that I like to do and I actually get to do them for a living,” said Glowacki. “I do stuff that makes me happy.”
Glowacki is an entrepreneur three times over. He has a DJ/dance business, he makes wheel chairs for athletes and he is the most sought after diversity speaker in the nation.
For more information on Glowacki and “Doing Happiness,” visit his website http://www.mattglowacki.com/ on line.