Yes! I am happy. It is a choice I have make. Do you want to be as happy as I am? There are specific things you can do to train your brain to be happy.
During the past decade or so, the theory of positive psychology has gained a strong following. Research has shown only 10% of our happiness is due to our external circumstances. And a full 90% is based on our inner "environment" with 50% of our happiness level coming from our genes and 40% coming from intentional activities like gratitude, mindfulness and self-reflection.
Here are three simple ways you can literally be happier with impressive research studies to back them up.
First, be grateful for all you have and be grateful for those around you. If you write down three things you are grateful for every night before you go to bed, you will begin to see some interesting results. Do this for one week. The more specific your gratitudes, the better. For instance, if you are grateful for your spouse, write down something specific they did that day that made you smile.
In a 2005 nationwide study, this seemingly simple exercises produced astounding results. People who completed this activity for just one week, showed increased levels of happiness and decreased symptoms of depression directly after the experiment and a full 6 months later.
Another study found that when you express your gratitude to someone and tell him or her why you are grateful, your happiness increases up to 19%. Take time to not only write down your gratitudes but to also share with others why you are grateful for them.
Another idea is to take 20 minutes to write in your journal about a recent positive experience. Again, be as specific as you can about the experience and why it made you happy. Do this 3 or 4 times per week. People who write about positive experiences at least 3 days a week report enhanced positive moods and a 50% drop in doctor's visits up to three months later.
If you have a significant other, journal about him or her. A few times in the coming week, take some time to write about your deepest thoughts and feelings about your relationship. In a study of 86 dating couples, those who completed this exercise for one week were significantly more likely to still be together 3 months later than the control group couples.
As you do any of these gratitude exercises, you will begin to notice throughout the day more things to be grateful for. You will notice things that you have not noticed before.
Mindfulness is the act of being intensely aware of what you are sensing and feeling during the present moment without interpretation or judgment. This can be very difficult at first, but it becomes easier the more time you spend developing this skill. There are several exercises that can assist you in developing your mindfulness skills.
Research shows those who practice mindfulness report higher levels of happiness and have a strengthened immune system. They also have decreased risk of heart disease and a higher tolerance for pain. Mindfulness reduces stress, anxiety, depression and negative thinking. It improves focus, mood, energy levels and social relationships with family and others.
There are two types of mindfulness: psychological mindfulness and meditative mindfulness. Psychological mindfulness is a quality in which you maintain an open, accepting, present focus on day-to-day life. Meditative mindfulness focuses on something specific like breath. Once you learn meditative mindfulness, you can then begin working the practice into your daily life.
To meditate, spend 5 minutes every day sitting quietly and feeling your breath go in and out. Try to clear your mind of other thoughts and just think about your breathing. Learn to take some deep breaths to help relieve stress and tension.
As you practice meditation, you will develop the skills to go longer than 5 minutes. Eventually, you can work up to a length of time that is comfortable for you. As you become comfortable with meditation, become aware of everything around you. Enjoy the noises of nature or simply listen when you are sitting at work or home and discover sounds you generally miss such as a school bell, a train or the furnace.
Lastly, don't dwell on the past. Leave your past in the past. The past is like the rear view mirror of a car. It is good to glance in it, but if you focus on it, you will not see what is in front of you. Happiness is not out there in the world for you to find because it is within you. So stop looking outwardly. Look inwardly to discover greater happiness.
To look forward and to develop the future you desire, take time regularly to focus on yourself. Self-reflection is a time to focus on questions about your goals, behavior and general state of mind. When doing this exercise, be 100% truthful. Here are some questions to ask yourself when self-reflecting:
1) What are my core values and am I living up to them?
2) Am I a person who others can respect?
3) What positive impact am I making on the world?
4) Am I performing at my peak performance?
5) What changes am I willing to make today to be on the path to the future I desire?
Reflection is good, but make it even more worthwhile by putting your reflections into action. Happiness is not a passive word, it is an action word. Go out and put happiness into action.