There’s been so much funding pumped into studies on what happiness is and how to get more of it that the media has now dubbed it “the happiness industry.”
If you Google “happiness studies,” more than 45 million listings pop up! Are we happier as a result of all this scholarly research? I’m not sure. But from my years of working with individuals and groups, I’m certain that happiness is a state anyone can achieve. What we need to do is learn how to change our moods quickly and efficiently. To transform an attitude such as boredom, frustration, or disappointment into its positive counterpart takes a few simple behavioral tweaks.
It’s not complicated. You just have to take action in small, targeted ways to become happier on the spot. Here are six ways to increase the amount of happiness you experience, and bring more joy, love, and peace into your daily life.
1. Connect to your best self.
Every day for a week, write down two things you appreciate about yourself. At week’s end, read your list out loud. Sometimes we forget to acknowledge our good points, or we spend too much time berating ourselves for mistakes or flaws. Become aware of self-demeaning chatter inside your head, and interrupt it whenever you do. Substitute a contradiction that affirms your best self, such as, “I’m whole and complete” or, “I do the best I can.”
2. Be an unconditional giver.
One of the quickest ways to overcome “poor me” syndrome is to direct your attention onto someone else. Give without wanting or expecting anything in return. Offer to assist a coworker who has too much on her plate. Cook a meal for a neighbor who just had surgery. Call a needy friend or elderly relative out of the blue. Give a stranger a compliment. It’s nearly impossible to be in a bad mood when you’re genuinely focusing on and caring for someone else.
3. Freshen up your routine.
One of the reasons we get depressed or blue is because we’re involved in something that feels boring, humdrum, or merely unpleasant. It’s a short and beautiful life we’re in, and there are endless ways to make life interesting, challenging, or surprising. Try a new activity. Learn a new skill. Join an exercise class, learn to cook, or pick up a musical instrument and take some lessons. Mastering a new endeavor or just learning something new about yourself will feel really good.
4. Adopt a happy persona.
Have you ever tried fake laughing with a friend, and then you both ended up laughing for real? There are lots of explanations for this, but the simplest one is that when we mimic a behavior and do it long enough, it starts to happen naturally. Start out by smiling to family members first thing in the morning, then to everyone you meet on your way to work, as well as everyone at work. Exchange pleasantries with strangers. Make a lighthearted comment instead of buckling under stress. Soon, others will reflect your good nature back to you, and you create a positive feedback loop.
5. Practice accepting what is.
It’s normal to have aggravations, stressful events, crabby encounters, and all the other experiences during a typical day that put us in bad moods. Life has its ups and downs. The next time your computer crashes, your high heel breaks, and a cup of coffee spills on your lap while the person next to you is screaming at you, just take a breath and say to yourself, “People and things are the way they are, not the way I expect them to be.” Yep, it’s that easy. Unrealistic expectations are what make us unhappy. When you can accept that life isn’t always the way you would have planned it, it will instantly change your mood.
6. Take a happiness break.
You know that excited, happy look a dog gets when you mention the word “outside” or “walk?" That dog is completely in the present moment. Humans can do the same thing by learning how to halt thoughts that are rooted in the past tense (“I really messed up that presentation”) or in the future (“I’ll never be able to get this done.”) Instead, take a happiness break by putting your mind “in the now.” You can do this by closing your eyes, taking some deep breaths, and flicking away any thoughts until you mind is empty. You can also take a brisk walk outside in the fresh air, paying attention to the sights, sounds, and smells of nature. Watch how quickly your stress melts way and your mood improves.
Want to find out more about the attitudes and emotions that dominate your character and may be sabotaging your personal happiness? Take a quick self-quiz here, and then try the coping strategies designed to address them.