Happiness seems to have almost magical properties. Scientists claim it can make us more resilient and creative, harder working, healthier and even live longer. But happiness is a fuzzy concept, and attempting to harness it and ‘get hold of it’ can be tough. The ‘Happiness Formula’ is a proven way to begin that process, the results of which we could all benefit from.
We’ve all got a lot on our plate nowadays, from jobs, childcare, family worries, juggling a social life and being agony aunt to numerous friends and colleagues. In a fast paced world where you’re assumed and expected to be superwoman – there’s no wonder that many of us have moments of despair and worry.
A new form of psychology – positive psychology – suggests we can think ourselves happy and actually re-wire our brains to be more optimistic. We are told we all have a set range of happiness, and positive psychologists say we could make ourselves 10-15% happier simply by knowing what our strengths are.
We would, perhaps, be happier if we did not compare ourselves to those at the top, but we are encouraged to do so. We would be happier if we were not so bloody selfish, but we mostly are. Some people just have a gift for happiness. “A table, a chair, a bowl of fruit and a violin; what else does a man need to be happy?” asked Einstein. But we are not all Einstein’s and positive action as well as thoughts is what we need.
How, then, can we make ourselves happy? There are a number of recognized ways to do this:
* Seek out positive people to associate with.
* Rid your mind of negative thinking with yoga and exercise.
* Speak in a positive tone.
* Expose yourself to all the wonderful books, music and movies available.
* Discover the one important thing in your life that’s important, and pursue it.
Happiness is not a genetic trait we are born with, but a choice. It is up to us, then, to be willing, hold onto positive thoughts, create happiness, maintain it, share it, and build our lives around it. In short, we are all just about as happy as we choose to be. Follow this day-by-day checklist to put yourself on the road to a brighter tomorrow.
Day one: Instant mood booster – Build some mental muscle Just as weight-training can help you be a better runner, exercising your brain can make it easier to think positive. For most of us, meditation is like flossing – something that never makes it off the to-do list. But just a few minutes a day could help get your brain in happy shape, so try this simple technique.
* Pick a word with peaceful connotations, such as ’calm’, ‘relax’ or ‘love’.
* Sit somewhere quiet, close your eyes and breathe slowly.
* Each time you exhale; silently repeat your chosen word.
* When other thoughts arise, gently dismiss them and keep repeating your word.
* Build up to doing this for ten minutes at a time.
Day 2: Instant mood booster – Have a daily ‘happy hour ‘‘People don’t devote enough time to thinking about their life and how much of it they actually enjoy,’ says psychologist Dr David Schkade. Schkade once asked 900 women to write down what they’d done the day before and then analysed how they felt during each activity. The women were amazed at how much time they spent doing things that made them unhappy. Write down how you spend your time for a week. Then think how you could swap an hour a day from an activity you feel indifferent about (surfing TV channels, tidying the house) to one you enjoy (going for a walk, spending time with your partner).
Day 3: Instant mood booster – Take up something you’re passionate about According to research, It’s when you’re so fully focused on a pleasurable activity, you tune out of everything else. Think back to what you were passionate about at the age of nine and consider taking it up as a hobby. It’s said that we are most true to ourselves and least influenced by others when we’re about this age. So apply the ‘rule of nine’ and try ballet or tap-dancing classes, knitting, embroidery, sketching or painting. In fact anything, which makes your heart sing.
Day 4: Instant mood booster – Believing you’re a good person is easier if you act like one According to her studies, doing lots of small kind acts in a single day gives a more noticeable mood boost than simply trying to be a kind person generally. One day a week, look out for kindness opportunities – but vary what you do. ’When we gave people the same kindness task to do over and over again, we found their happiness levels went down,’ says Professor Lyubomirsky. ‘Variety and spontaneity seem to be the key.’
Day 5: Instant mood booster – Surround yourself with psychological supports Dr Zelsel,, a psychologist says that ‘Minimalist interiors can starve your brain of stimulus. Personal objects and pictures aren’t just décor, they’re psychological supports, increasing your sense of self, and reducing the production of the neurotransmitters in your brain that create anxiety.’ Zelsel suggests that we; ‘frame photographs of family and friends, along with visual reminders of your own achievements (such as that snap of you finishing a marathon) and your academic or vocational certificates’, because on a bad day, ‘they’ll be instant reminders of your success’.