The American Dream does not work. We are taught to succeed, then we will be happy. Science has proven that it works in exactly the opposite way. Happy people are more productive, resilient and have greater success. They are not only better at getting jobs, but keeping them, as well. Happier people are healthier and have stronger friendships.
Positive Psychology is redefining the American Dream: If we are happy, then we will succeed. As a therapist, positive psychologist and teacher of Happiness 101 for the past five years, I have seen many, many people struggle to be happier. Most of these people are applying their efforts in the wrong place. They chase the carrot and even when they get it, they are not satisfied. Bewildered, they just set up a new goal. Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, their ability to be happier has laid at their feet the whole time.
If you really want to be successful, work to be happy now, and success will follow. But how? Positive Psychology pioneers Barbara Fredrickson and Sonja Lyubomirsky offer 20 scientifically proven happiness activities in their books, Positivity and The Hows of Happiness. Some of these suggestions have an almost child-like quality to them. In fact, these activities may be effective for encouraging happy children, as well.
1. Be open. Develop a curiosity and appreciation for all events and find the good.
2. Find nearby nature. Find solace in our beautiful land.
3. Use your strengths. Instead of wishing you were better in some area, discover your strengths and use what you have.
4. Dispute negative thinking. “This won’t work!” Yes, it will. They have proven it scientifically.
11. Exercise. Exercise releases eight different feel good chemicals into the body.
12. Cultivate kindness. Scientists have proven that kindness spreads like a virus. Get infected!
13. Savor life’s joys. If you can enjoy the little things, you will have reason to be happy every day.
14. Ritualize gratitude. When you make gratitude a habit, what you appreciate, appreciates.
15. Avoid social comparisons. Sometimes it can inspire us, but mostly it depresses and deflates us.
16. Visualize your future. Go ahead, dream. It is brighter and better than you may think.
17. Forgive. They say to forgive is divine but no one taught us how – until now.
18. Cultivate optimism. Think people are born optimists? It can be learned and is easy when you know how.
19. Work toward goals. Enjoy, not just crossing the finish line but the journey along the way.
20. Learn to cope. Feel reassured with your personal emotional emergency preparedness kit.
How can you know which happiness activities are right for you? Lyubomirsky offers a self-test to answer the question, but most people can use their gut feeling as to which activities seem like a good fit for them. Ask yourself if the activity is something that comes natural to you, that you enjoy and is something you value. If the activity is something you would only do out of guilt, or because someone else expected you to do it, it is probably not right for you.
Even if you discovered exactly which happiness activity is right for you, if you did it all the time, it would lose its appeal. Like eating your favorite food morning, noon and night, you would soon become sick of it. Try several differnt activities to keep your happiness fresh and vibrant.
We all want to be happy. We have moments of it but cannot seem to hold onto it. Even defining it is tricky. But you can be happier by figuring out what happiness is to you and applying the right effort in the right place with the right timing. To do this, wake up. Be mindful of what is working for you and what is not. Learn to be happy now and go after the American Dream. Here are some more ways to achieve true happiness.