Easy Ways to Turn Happiness Into a Habit
While it may seem counterintuitive to think of happiness as a science, you’ve probably seen it on magazines and books. Here’s the short of it: Many researchers acknowledge that there are numerous biological, sociological, and psychological factors that create or deter happiness. Harnessing the emotion goes far beyond simply deciding that you will be happy, no matter what someone giving you a well-meaning pep talk might say. Here are six easy-to-try activities that are a great start to fostering happiness on a regular basis. Practice Active Listening While we appreciate the ways in which virtual platforms like Zoom and FaceTime can keep people connected, most find themselves frequently letting their mind wander during meetings. Active listening involves truly engaging in the conversation without taking it over. The main goal of active listening is to “deepen your connection and communication and… try to really get to the bottom of what they’re trying to tell you.” Interpersonal connections are very important to your happiness.” Thus, any way you can nurture those bonds will help with overall happiness. Body language is a huge component of active listening. If you’re having a conversation on-screen, position yourself in a way that lets the speaker know you’re really paying attention, whether that’s turning towards them or nodding your head on camera. Ask questions without interrupting, and use “I” statements instead of blanket ones or assuming the other person agrees or has the same opinion. And unless you’re explicitly asked for your take, hold back on the advice — you’re there to listen and emphasize, not tell the speaker what to do. Perform Random Acts of Kindness This is one of the most rewarding (yet hardest) exercises to do. The idea is to do a few nice things each day for other people, such as saying “thank you” to the grocery store clerk or checking in on a friend. You may wonder how all this would make you feel better, but central gratitude contributes to overall happiness. The more grateful you are — and the more you express it — the better your overall mood will be. Performing random acts of kindness is just one way to practice gratitude, but there are many ways to do so, from thanking a partner for supporting you, to telling a coworker how much you appreciate their support. Tap into Mindfulness Mindfulness is another buzzword that has garnered a lot of the spotlight in recent years. I describe it as “practices that cultivate this state of non-judgmental awareness [… which] tend to boost positive emotions and reduce stress and negative emotion, and strengthen coping.” You can practice it by performing a body scan (laying down and focusing on how each part of you is feeling in the moment) or a loving-kindness meditation, in which you focus on feelings towards a particular person. I find the body scan particularly helpful, especially when falling asleep. For people to benefit from a positive activity (or any self-improvement behavior, for that matter) they have to effortfully engage in it, be motivated to become happier, and believe their efforts will pay off. In other words, in order for any mindfulness exercise to have a good chance of working for you, choose one that you’re genuinely excited about and truly hope will help. Take an Awe Walk Sure, you’ve likely heard the jokes about taking a “silly little walk” for your mental health. How is this different? Well, it takes into account awe, an emotion that pulls your focus away from yourself and to the greater world. This allows you to experience a sense of wonder and appreciation for the world from which you might have otherwise been tapped out. The next time you take a walk, slow down and stop to appreciate things like how nice the sun feels on your face or the beautiful view of the sea. Write a Self-Compassionate Letter Let’s be honest. Writing a letter to ourselves that is full of compassion, is more than a little uncomfortable. The practice requires focusing on a trait that you don’t necessarily like, as well as forgiving yourself for it. Tthere are plenty of benefits of self-compassion, including better physical health, increased levels of coping with stress, and lower rates of perfectionism, anxiety and depression. Perhaps you always get nervous before presentations at work or find it difficult to be motivated to exercise some days. Science shows that by accepting these as a part of yourself, and not approaching them as something that needs to be “fixed,” you’ll be on your way to a happier and healthier life. Envision Your Best Possible Self Personal narratives, including how you think of the little things in your day-to-day life, as well as your stressors and triumphs, are huge factors in your overall happiness. The good news is, if your own narrative is currently less than sunny, it can be re-written. One good way to go about re-thinking your reality, is the “Best Possible Self” practice, developed by Laura King, Ph.D of the University of Missouri; it has been shown to cultivate happiness. Take a few minutes to envision living your best life at some point in the future. Write down how you feel and act. What have you achieved? Where do you live? How do you feel about work, your relationships? The exercise requires you to consider what you truly want in life and how you’ll feel when you accomplish your goals can help keep things in perspective during turbulent times. I find the exercise immensely helpful for dealing with my stress , and appreciate the focus on the “how” you would feel at your best. No one is ever 100 percent all the time, but having a sort of game plan has kept my anxiety in check, lowered stress responses, and made me feel more at peace. I hope you found today’s newsletter informative. For more information and tips on how to turn happiness into habit head over to my website for a list of books that I have enjoyed reading and would recommend. ~Nathalie xoxo
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