Pop quiz time. Is happiness an inherent trait you’re born with or a learned skill?
The answer is both. While our genes may provide a baseline for how happy we feel, our overall sense of happiness is not just an innate personality trait. It’s also a skill that can be honed over time. It’s something you can develop and train yourself to master despite life’s ups and downs.
It all comes down to how you choose to react to your environment, to those around you and to life in general. University of Wisconsin-Madison psychology and psychiatry professor Richard J. Davidson has conducted various studies that all point to the fact the brain can be trained to think happier. It’s a matter of creating healthy habits that support a more positive outlook.
Living a happier life is much easier than most people realize. It could take as little as five minutes a day to put yourself on a happier path. If you can time block a few minutes a day for this ONE Thing you’ll see even bigger gains in the happiness department.
10 Easy Ways to Develop a Happiness Habit
Happiness is a topic of interest here at The ONE Thing because happiness makes just about everything easier (which is one of the pillars of the Focusing Question). Being in a healthier emotional state leads to positive changes in our mental and physical health as well. It’s the first domino in becoming more productive and more fulfilled in all that we do.
Visualize Happiness for the Day Ahead
Simply envisioning positive outcomes can be enough to put us in a mental state that’s primed for happiness. Right after waking up, take five minutes to visualize the delightful day you have ahead of you.
Imagine a Better Experience Before Reacting
How we react to negative experiences is the largest determining factor in our happiness. Before complaining about a situation or a person, imagine how the situation could have gone better as well as what you’ve gained from the experience. This will help curb knee jerk negative reactions that could make matters worse.
Think About the Less Fortunate
Taking a moment to reflect on the hardship of others is often enough to put our own problems in perspective. The old adage “things could be worse” makes us consider our good fortunes rather than our bad luck. When we stop to think about how those around us may be struggling, we can’t help but become more compassionate and less focused on our own issues.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Scientific research has directly connected gratitude and joy. When we practice gratitude we naturally become happier. Keeping a gratitude journal is one of those practices. Each day write down just ONE Thing that you’re grateful for. This will not only make you more joyful, it’s also a barometer for your emotional state and what’s currently impacting your life.
Connect With a Pet
Pet owners have another excellent outlet for cultivating a happier mindset. Interacting with pets, dogs in particular, can immediately relieve stress and increase serotonin production (a feel good hormone).After a long day at work spend the first few minutes at home connecting with your pet.
Start Eating a Healthier Breakfast
Feeling rundown and physically unfit can quickly spill over to your emotional health and make it more difficult to think positively. One of the most impactful changes you can make is starting the day with a healthy breakfast. Skipping breakfast or eating something with little nutritional value can throw our blood glucose levels out of whack and affect our decision making. Eating a healthy breakfast will provide a steady source of glucose, which makes it easier to take on the challenges of the day.
Acknowledge Negative Emotions
Repressed negative emotions can silently eat away at our happiness and even cause physical health problems like high blood pressure. If something is bugging you or making you unhappy, acknowledge it. Once you acknowledge the issue, come up with several strategies for overcoming it.
Anger is one of the most destructive emotions, especially if you’re hesitant to admit you’re feeling it. If you’ve been holding onto a grudge or feuding with someone, now is the time to make peace. Forgiveness is a powerful thing. It frees us from negative emotions and allows us to move on without baggage that drags us down.
Spend More Time With a Happy Friend
Smiling, kindness and happiness are contagious. Study after study has shown that being around happy people boosts our own happiness. Make a list of all the happy people you know and find ways to time block activities you can do together.
Researchers from Cornell University have found a positive feedback loop between getting adequate, high quality sleep and happiness. People who are happier sleep better and better sleep in turn makes us happier. The secret is to get at least six and a half hours of uninterrupted sleep each night. Sneak in more sleep by either going to bed or waking up five minutes earlier each day until you’re getting the recommended amount.
Participating in the 66 Day Happiness Challenge? Then use these suggestions as your cheat sheet for getting happier in the next nine weeks!