HOW TO Be Happier with 9 Steps

Make time to find things that make you happy every day.  Happiness doesn't just happen to you—you can proactively create it. You have more control over how you feel than you may think. Mindfulness helps you understand this.  As you learn to observe, you realize that thoughts and feelings come and go frequently.  With mindfulness practice, instead of reacting to every emotion, you can choose how you want to act. For example, instead of getting  worked up over that person who cut you off in traffic, take a deep breath, accept that you have no idea why that person was in such a hurry and let it go.  That's right.  Exhale deeply.

1. Let it go.  In addition to not letting emotions carry you on a minute by minute roller coaster, use proven tips from happiness science, known as positive psychology, to boost your daily dose of well-being.

Practices that can increase your gladness include the following:

2. Single-task.  Avoid doing several things at once. Over-stimulation dilutes your ability to savor what you’re doing. Do one thing at a time, focus and get it done.

3. Celebrate accomplishments.  Take time to appreciate the satisfaction of getting a task done. Treat yourself. Or, even better, share your joy with others. Go out to dinner or meet a friend for coffee to acknowledge what you've achieved and celebrate.

4. Prioritize.  Spend more time on preferred activities, and limit less satisfying tasks to essentials that you finish efficiently.

5. Underdose.  Refrain from going overboard when you plan fun activities. Too much of a good thing is too much. Overstimulation actually reduces pleasure. For example, enjoy dinner out and fully savor it, rather than planning a string of hurried events that feels pressured.

6. Share the moment.  Do activities you enjoy with people you like.

7. Set goals.  Give yourself goals—and then work to complete them.  Avoid the sameness of everyday life. Punctuate your week with goals and accomplishments. Happiness is increased when you reach for and achieve objectives.

8. Cherish good memories.  Spend time recalling and relishing happy moments. For example, frame photographs of a significant event or a happy memory. Play a slideshow on your screensaver. Make playlists of music that recall fun times and listen to in the background.

9. Think ahead.  Plan fun future activities. Enjoy the preparation. Look forward to the good times that you will enjoy. Plan what you'll wear, organize meal reservations or pack a picnic lunch or dinner.  Add a little romance. Envision all the pleasures ahead.

The bottom line about boosting happiness is that less is more.  Commit to happiness and create your joy. Practice these techniques to boost your daily contentment. Let me know in comments what worked best for you and share your good ideas with your friends. Everyone wants to know how to be happier. 

Research findings that support these points are discussed more fully in Harvard Medical School's Special Health Report "Positive Psychology" (September 2011), available at www.health.harvard.edu.

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