Need more joy in your life? Here’s what happiness coach Angela Reiner recommends.
I’d love to hear a bit about you.
I focused most of my career in HR, but doing it in primarily international companies and organizations, so I really wanted to do it in a lens that was benefiting the world. Through a series of events I had an epiphany, change of heart, whatever you call it, reckoning, and made a huge leap and quit my job and started my own business, and just went after my dreams to create what I really want to give to the world.
So I call myself a happiness coach, because that’s what I really believe I’m doing. I studied positive psychology, I did a year-long certification under the Wholebeing Institute. That kind of just lit me up to the possibility of doing good and changing people’s lives by helping them live a happier life—whatever that means to them.
So what was the epiphany?
I was at Partners In Health, I was doing support for the humanitarian aid workers that were going to really remote countries all over the world. They had the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, so our organization did decide it was the right and moral choice to go into West Africa. At that point I was working HR for them, and they said, ‘You know what Angela, we need you to solely focus on our West Africa staff, you’re going to be helping the doctors ramp up that are going to West Africa, and you’re going to be helping the doctors when they come home.” And it was really hard, the level of secondary trauma that I experienced from people who experienced real first-hand trauma in those countries.
After the emergency subsided, things started to wind down and just go back to normal. I felt a sense of meaninglessness, and I looked around the office and I saw a lot of other people were feeling a sense of meaninglessness. I felt like something had to shift.
I stumbled upon a [life] coach. It was super transformative, my whole outlook on life changed, a lot of my coping mechanisms changed around staying more balanced and present, she helped me accomplish a lot of personal goals that I had in my life, and in return I’d go back to work and I started coaching staff. They’d come to me with a problem and I’d be like, “OK, how do we think about this differently, what do you want to do about it, how do we set goals that make you feel more fulfilled.” And people started really loving it, I started doing positive psychology all over the office. I turned to my coach and I said, “I want to do what you do.”
How would you describe positive psychology?
It’s the science of happiness, it’s the science of what makes us happier and more fulfilled and gives us more meaning in our lives.
Marty Seligman has his PERMA model. PERMA stands for positive emotion, engagement, relationships, meaning, and accomplishments. In positive psychology, we’re looking at how to fulfill those five tenets. To put some of this into practice, there are techniques we use, like mindfulness and meditation, we use elements of self compassion, we use [character] strengths, gratitude, savoring the moments, social support is huge. Those are just some key approaches we use that do shift your outlook day to day.
Happy people live longer, they earn more money, they’re more creative, they’re more philanthropic, the options are endless. The happier you are, the higher you are performing in your life. And that’s pretty awesome. That stuff lights me up—there’s a key to unlocking all this, and it’s right there.
What’s the difference between you and a therapist?
Coaching is a lot more action-oriented. What it is for is, “Hey, I just need help mapping how I’m going to get from A to B, and I want to find, with intention, more meaning in my life.” So I ask questions like what is it that really excites you in your job, what is it that really excites you about life, what was your biggest dream? A big question I have for clients starting out is to create a vision with me, and so I say, “Imagine with me, 10 to 15 years out, your life is as ideal as possible, everything has gone perfectly for you. What does it look like?” And then we can take those answers and say, “What about that can you start applying, what steps can you take to move closer to that vision?”
I would love to hear about ways that you speak to your clients about holidays.
Holidays are really complicated. A big thing about positive psychology that I would like to acknowledge, [is that] I don’t want people to think I walk around with rose-colored glasses and think everything is awesome—it’s not. If you are feeling mixed emotions around the holidays, or let’s say quite negative emotions around the holidays, whether it’s family dynamics, financial stress, work stress, whatever it could be, take that extra time around the holidays.
I cannot emphasize self-care enough in the winter months. We in Boston have very dark skies— get your vitamin D, get your blue lamp. Taking breaks is really important to our well-being, we can’t be plugged in 24/7, whether it’s with work or with our families.
Also, gratitude is huge. I think we all often forget what these holidays are built around, it can become very commercialized, but these holidays are built around people coming together, connecting, sharing love and sharing gratitude, what they’re grateful for. Gratitude can make us happy—it’s actually one of the bigger indicators.
Angela Reiner is the founder of Angela Reiner Coaching and The Flourishing Co., a consulting business. To schedule a complimentary happiness coaching consultation, visit angelareiner.com.
Editor’s note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity and conciseness.