I’d like to think that I am generally a happy individual. I greet people with a smile, share a laugh and look to the positives when confronted with a challenge. I too have fallen into the pitfall of thinking “I’ll be happy when…”. This is dangerous thinking because once I have achieved filling in that blank, I am already thinking about the next thing or maybe that blank does not live up to my expectation of what I wanted to achieve. With that being said, how can I break this type of thinking and learn how to be happy in the present moment? How can I increase my happiness now?
Research on Happiness:
More and more research is being done into the positive gains from happiness, optimism and positive emotions. Research has shown that a happy brain proves to be a better functioning brain. When we are focused on positive emotions, we tend to achieve more, are engaged in building deeper relationships and experience greater satisfaction with life. Harvard researcher, educator and author, Shawn Achor, states that “people that work with a positive mindset, performance improves on nearly every level – productivity, creativity, and engagement”. (1)
The keys to happiness:
- Getting more pleasure out of life (savoring sensory experiences)
- Becoming more engaged in what you do
- Finding ways of making your life feel more meaningful
The goal then is to spend part of every day engaging in positive exercises to increase happiness. Achor recommends spending 21 straight days engaging in any of the below exercises:
Tips to be more engaged and happy:
- Gratitude journal- write three things that you are grateful for.
- Write a positive message to someone in your social or professional network.
- Exercise for 10 minutes each day.
- Take two minutes of your time to describe in a journal the most meaningful experience in the past 24 hrs.
- Acts of altruism or kindness – can be random (let someone in line in front of you at a busy store or paying for the next person at a highway toll) or systematic (bring Sunday dinner to elderly neighbor).
- Gratitude visit- write a letter expressing your gratitude towards a grandparent, mentor, friend, etc. Go visit that individual to read the letter to them.
- Take 10-20 minutes a day to do something you truly enjoy. For me, this means making a fresh healthy juice to start my day.
As an experiment, I am currently engaged in increasing my happiness by writing a daily gratitude list, exercising 10 minutes a day and taking 10-20 minutes to make a healthy juice. At this point, I have already noticed a daily shift in my overall happiness. Keep in mind that it is the simple and small steps that lead to big results.
1) Achor, S. (2012). Positive Intelligence. Harvard Business Review. January-February 2012. http://hbr.org/2012/01/positive-intelligence/ar/1