The How of Happiness: Activities for lasting Increases

This is from a research paper I did in my final year of university in regards to perception and positive psychology. It was incredibly rewarding at the time, and I hope its at all helpful to you….

We all desire to be happy, yet we are conditioned to search for this “happiness” outside ourselves, in a never ending pursuit of material pleasures. We are conditioned to believe that by getting “the bigger house, the better job, the faster car, etc” we will fulfill the magic formula for our happiness.

Unfortunately studies have shown that these things just don’t correlate to lasting increases in happiness. Happiness needs to be approached as a life long “project”, which requires sustained effort, creativity, and internal motivation. But I assure you the rewards of this pursuit will far outweigh the required effort on your part. Comparatively, happier people have stronger immune systems, have higher salaries, better social networks, more resilient in the face of hardships, physically healthier, greater energy levels, and greater self-confidence and self-esteem, to name a just a few of the rewards.

The problem does not lie in “why” become happier; the problem lies in “how” to become happier. To gain a better understanding of this, let’s figure out “what determines happiness” based on the scientific literature. There is a general consensus coming from the scientific community which states:

50% of happiness is based on genetics (who we are, personality, etc.)
10% of happiness is based on our circumstances (rich or poor, single or married, healthy or unhealthy, etc.)
40% of happiness is based on our behavior (what we do, how we think, intentional activities)

Instead of trying to change our genetics or life circumstances ( highly resistant to change) lets focus on the part of happiness which is in our control. Below are 12 intentional activities or behaviors which have shown to have significant effects on happiness when practiced over time and with sustained effort. Choose one or two that work for you, and begin today. Make it a personalized happiness program based on your current needs or situation, and begin to reep the rewards of a life long journey towards greater levels of happiness.

1)Expressing Gratitude ( journaling, verbally, etc.)
2)Cultivating Optimism ( look on the bright side, feeling good about the future)
3)Avoiding over-thinking or social comparison (dont ruminate, stop comparing yourself to others)
4) Practicing Acts of random Kindness ( compassion, being generous, “golden rule” mentality)
5) Nurturing social relationships ( make time, dont isolate, manage conflict)
6)Develop strategies for coping ( identify negative beliefs and challenge them, social support, find meaning through writing)
7) Learning to Forgive ( appreciate being forgiven, write a letter, practice empathy)
8)Increasing Flow experiences ( live in the moment, adopt new values, balance difficulty with skill, be attentive while conversing)
9)Savoring Life’s Joy’s ( reminisce about the past,relish the present,anticipate positive events)
10)Committing to your goals ( intrisic, authentic, flexible, manageable, fullfilling)
11) Practicing Religion and Spirituality (find meaning and purpose, pray, find the sacred, connect to higher power)
12) Taking care of your body ( meditation, phsycal activity, smile and laugh more, stand up straight, keep your head up)

This is just scratching the surface for these activities, but use this as a road map, and make it personal, flexible and have plenty of variety in your activities to avoid the traps of routine. For more in depth information I highly recomend the book ” The How Of Happiness” by Sonja Lyubomirsky, since that is where these activities are taken from.

I am no professional, so take this information with a grain of salt, and test it out for your self. Whats the worst that could happen?

As a experiment, I am going to take my own advice and choose three of these activities to focus on for a month. I’ll keep you updated on the journey. Please feel free to comment if any of these work for you, or if you have any other activities to add.

Stay Inspired !

Brandon Nadeau

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