Have you ever noticed that some people appear to be happy all of the time, while others seem to exist under a black cloud? Happiness is not something that happens to us, or something we are born with. Happiness is a choice we make, reported positive psychology leader Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness and The Myths of Happiness, no matter what life throws at you.
Happiness is one of those words that doesn’t have an exact definition. It means different things to different people. However, we all want happiness. Here are some techniques that will bring happiness to the forefront of your life.
1. Check your thoughts
Negative thoughts lead to negative feelings. Simple. All this negativity robs you of energy that you could be focusing on more positive aspects of your life, steals valuable time, and clogs up creative avenues. In addition, overthinking a negative situation can also lead to over-dramatization of it, another time suck. “Positive thinking, on the other hand, is a mental attitude that produces constructive results,” said Darshan Goswami, M.S., P.E. “Positive thinking is a skill that can be learned to create happiness.” Quell the drama by concentrating on positive thoughts, and every time you catch yourself thinking negative, turn that thought around and look for the positive.
2. Create a gratitude journal
Oprah Winfrey said “For years I’ve been advocating the power and pleasure of being grateful,” and kept a gratitude journal into which she wrote five things for which she was grateful each day. As she became more successful, she started to realize that although her wealth, possessions and responsibility had increased, her happiness did not. She was no longer feeling the joy of simple moments. She went back to journaling and now notes whenever she has a grateful moment. “I know for sure that appreciating whatever shows up for you in life changes your personal vibration,” she wrote in Oprah Magazine. Write down five things daily for which you are grateful.
3. Do random acts of kindness
Make it a point to perform a random act of kindness every day. This can be as simple as holding the door, paying for coffee for the next in line, helping a co-worker bring in boxes, or saying “thank you” to the clerk at the office supply store. This simple act not only makes someone else’s day, it brightens yours as well. In a study published in the Journal of Happiness Studies researchers discovered that people were happier when remembering a time they bought something for someone else. The study’s lead author, Lara Aknin, also reported that the happier you feel about performing one kind act, the more likely you were to do another.
4. Get physical
Exercise makes us feel better, look better and sleep better by releasing dopamine into the brain, easing stress and anxiety and increasing energy. Physical activity can also boost happiness, and significantly decrease depression, reports a study by the Human Kinetics Journals. Even moderate exercise done three times a week for 30 minutes can have major effects on one’s happiness, cites another study. So get up and get moving to stimulate your mind and shake up a normally cubicle-centric daily life.
Start by taking a 30-minute walk three times a week.
Focus on others and less on yourself. Volunteering offers vital help to people in need but the benefits can be even greater for you, the volunteer. Volunteering and helping others can help you reduce stress, combat depression, keep you mentally stimulated, and provide a sense of purpose. While it’s true that the more you volunteer, the more benefits you’ll experience, volunteering doesn’t have to involve a long-term commitment or take a huge amount of time out of your busy day. Giving of yourself can help others in need and improve your health and happiness.
There may be no magic potion that bestows contentment, however, these practical steps will start you on your way. Why not put them into action this week?