If we look back into history, the focus on personal happiness is a relatively new concept. Today, people want happiness. They strive for it and do unpredictable things to get it but still report they don’t feel it. Much has been researched and written about unhappiness, specifically among those who are the most fortunate. Through this research, we know so much more about the mystery of happiness.
As it turns out, it isn’t so mysterious. Stick with our blog as we post future articles, feature guest posts and mental health news to keep you informed!
Here are 10 things that will help you begin on the path to a happier you – moment-to-moment, day-by-day.
1. Expressing Gratitude
Identify what you are grateful for each day. It is said that this simple activity, when routinely followed, leads to increased levels of happiness. It can be anything. Just simply take time to acknowledge these things and think about them briefly. If this is too obscure, write them down on a sticky note and place them somewhere you can glance at occasionally throughout your day.
2. Are you a Pessimist or an Optimist?
CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) can help you learn how to think in a more optimistic way – Cultivating Optimism.
People are genetically and environmentally programmed to reflect on themselves and their lives. An Optimism Test (located on Penn State website or Martin Seligman’s book, Learned Optimism) is one way to raise awareness of yourself. Seligman’s book states, “after determining your level of optimism, it is possible to begin to change your thinking style.”
3. Develop your strengths
Research has shown that focusing on your strengths instead of trying to improve your weaknesses leads to a strong sense of accomplishment and happiness. The VIA Institute of Character, established in 2001 is a global leader in the science and practice of character. They have developed the FREE Character Strengths Test. The VIA Survey is scientifically validated and results in an assessment of character strengths that can be useful in raising awareness of the areas of YOU and that if further developed, can enrich your life tremendously.
4. Practicing Acts of Kindness
Performing small or large acts of kindness is a proven way to bring happiness to your day. It can be very small to start. Many people find this to be one of the best ways to turn around the gloom and doom. The simple act of smiling at someone can be so powerful. Maybe you have the opportunity to hold the door for someone or you want to go a little further and compose your thoughts in a letter of gratitude for a person who has supported you or who has gone out of their way to make a difference for your community. Another powerful gesture that “gives back” in spades is to just tell someone a positive thing you believe about them. Once you get in the habit of making this effort, you will see a change in your overall feelings about yourself.
5. Nurture Social Relationships
People who have rich social connections report being the happiest. Once you have the acts of kindness down, it will be easy to take a little extra time to develop relationships with a few friends. You don’t have to be a social butterfly to nurture interaction with a few people in your life. We all thrive when we have a sense of connectedness. A feeling like we belong or our closest people accept who we are. This is powerful and the happiness it brings is unparalleled. There are many people who tend to get caught up in their day and they forget about taking time out for a friend. This is very important in life — start small if you are not the most social of people. An act of kindness can really start you in the right direction!
6. Managing stress, hardship and Trauma
There are many ways to learn stress management. It is important to understand the difference between average stress and knowing when getting treatment for trauma is appropriate. Contact a trusted therapist who knows about stress management and trauma, can really speed up the “learning curve.”
“Happiness consists in activity. It is a running stream, not a stagnant pool.”
John Mason Good
Our intentional, effortful activities have a powerful effect on how happy we are, over and above any “set points” we are born with. What this means for us is that to be happier, we must be fruitful, active, purposeful and intentional in making our lives flowing and not stagnant. Set goals, maintain activity towards those goals in any area will help produce a happier person in you. We can actually work with the percentage of life that is not genetically predetermined (40%).
8. Living in the Present
By incorporating strategies like “Flow” and “Savoring” can help.
Living in the present can create a greater sense of happiness. When we fail to enjoy the present to thoughts of the past or future, we are cheating ourselves out of greater opportunities for happiness.
- Flow – This is when one is so absorbed in an activity like reading, woodworking playing chess, fishing, praying etc…that you lose track of time. Some researchers argue that “flow” or complete absorption in what one does is what creates a happy life.
- Savoring – The ability to savor the positive experiences in your life is one of the most important ingredients of happiness. Sometimes, people report an increased ability to “savor” after a trauma or near-death experience because they are truly aware of what is given them or around them to appreciate. This skill of savoring can be done regularly with some assistance to increase the feeling of happiness at any given time.
9. Committing to the Pursuit of Goals
“People who strive for something personally significant, are far happier than those who don’t have strong dreams or aspirations.” This quote was said to be from Sonja Lyubomirsky. You can read more about the connection of happiness and dreams or aspirations in her book, The How of Happiness.
10. Caring for Your Body and Your soul
There are different ways to care for your body and soul. One is spirituality and seeking religion. People who do this have been shown to recover more quickly from traumas and are generally happier. Meditation: This process can be studied further in Ms. Lyubomirsky’s book (mentioned in happiness tactic number 9) but seems helpful in digging deeper. The regular practice of Meditation is said to produce true happiness by realizing a state of awareness and detachment.
The Reference for this list is the book: The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky