Disclaimer: I’m not a happiness guru, but have spent time researching positive psychology and try to incorporate it into my daily life. Happy reading! (See what I did there?)
Phew! It’s definitely that time of the semester. Midterm exams are wrapping up, spring break will soon be upon us, and we’re ready to take a hiatus from our daily routines. Whether you’re heading home, venturing to a tropical destination, or staying on campus, I encourage you to take some time to recharge and refuel. One way to accomplish this is by focusing on your happiness. Often times we rely on the external environment to bring us joy. This implies happiness just happens to us; it fails to take into account the vital role we play in creating our own experiences that contribute to our sense of fulfillment and purpose. One of my favorite quotes is: “Happiness is a skill. It requires effort and time” (Dr. Andrew Weil). This suggests we are the owners of our happiness. It’s OUR choice. Wondering how you can be happier? Don’t fret – research has identified various ways you can build life-changing habits. Three strategies are shared below.
Being mindful is “consciously bringing awareness to your here-and-now experience, with openness, interest, and receptiveness.” The act of savoring, or living in the moment and being mindful of all the wonderful things happening around you, has been shown to boost optimism and positive feelings. Have you ever been at a meal and notice everybody is on their cellphones not paying attention to one another? The answer is likely “yes.” This is the opposite of savoring. Instead, make an effort to be fully present, physically and emotionally, in your experiences. Savoring can be categorized into three stages: savoring the past (by recalling pleasant memories), savoring the future (through positive anticipation), and savoring the present (by being mindful). The bottom line is to reflect and discover activities you enjoy and to be ALL IN. Soak it up.
Research has shown that those who participate in daily gratitude exercises have reported higher levels of optimism, determination, and energy. Being grateful is two-fold: (1) being aware of the many blessings in your life, and (2) finding ways to show your appreciation. Reflection is key. Take time to think about all that you have to be thankful for in your life (i.e. being a member of the your various communities, your abilities, your talents, your relationships, etc.). One way to do this is to create a gratitude journal. Each night record what you are grateful for from that day. Maybe it was a thoughtful conversation with a friend, a phone call with a family member, an academic accomplishment, an athletic victory, or something as simple as a delicious dessert. End your day on a positive note and realize there is ALWAYS something to appreciate. One way to demonstrate your gratitude is to write (handwritten) ‘thank you’ notes to people who have impacted your life. This act of thanking others has been shown to increase happiness for both parties.
It’s no surprise that when you give someone something, you make them happier. What you may not know is studies have shown the giver, not the receiver, gains more benefits. Being kind helps us feel less isolated and more connected to the world and those around us. Think about ways that you can give – not only financially, but also with your time and presence. Have you participated in a service trip or a volunteer opportunity? Take advantage of all the wonderful offerings in the community. More informally, think about ways you can give to your friends and family. What can you do to help someone else?
Nothing mentioned above is groundbreaking. It’s all fairly straightforward. My hope is it sparked your interest and invited you to reflect on ways you can incorporate these skills into your life. Go out there and choose happiness 🙂
Want more information? Check out Happify online at: http://www.happify.com