Happiness can be hard to define, but researchers have made significant strides in understanding its components. Pleasure and engagement-meaning seem integral components of happiness.
Strategies for cultivating happiness vary; what works for one Georgetown psychology major may not work as effectively for someone with bipolar disorder or posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
1. Focus on the positive
Since the dawn of psychology as a science, psychologists have focused more on pathology — what could go wrong — rather than Positive Psychology, an emerging branch. Recently however, Positive Psychology has seen exponential growth.
Focusing on positive emotions, signature strengths, and creating an experience filled with meaning is at the core of Positive Psychology. Martin Seligman and Mihaly Czikszentmihalyi have contributed much in this area of research.
Negative thoughts can be very debilitating. When you dwell too long on problems, they gain strength. To get happier, try this: For every negative thought that crosses your mind, think of one positive thought to replace it.
2. Take a break
Preserving healthy living involves taking time for yourself – to recharge and rest – every now and again. Unfortunately, however, many don’t take enough breaks – what begins as an unscheduled short break may end up turning into an hour or more of mindless TV watching or Facebook surfing.
These activities may not be harmful, but they’re unlikely to help you unwind and focus. Research indicates that effective breaks require intrinsic motivation – for instance, doing something creative or engaging in an interesting hobby can make you feel great after taking your break and lead to improved performance at work.
3. Give yourself a pat on the back
Acknowledging your worth helps build both self-worth and confidence, which in turn motivates you to keep pushing through when things become challenging, pushing beyond your comfort zone and challenging yourself further.
If you had an argument with someone and managed it calmly and peacefully, then you deserve praise for displaying strong character and perseverance under pressure. This shows your great leadership ability.
Psychology was traditionally thought of as a field concerned with pathology and dire outcomes. Now researchers are shifting their attention toward something we can control: happiness – which you can learn how to cultivate in this free course. You will be introduced to the science of happiness along with several strategies for tapping into its benefits.
4. Say thank you
Integrating gratitude into your daily routine can help foster a positive mindset. From writing in a journal to sharing it with others, focusing on what we are grateful for can only bring benefits.
If you find yourself engaging in negative self-talk or worrying too much about the future, try finding ways to channel these thoughts into productive actions. Affirmations could help reframe negative thinking patterns while positive psychology games could promote positivity and boost positivity levels.
This free online course from UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center examines happiness and well-being using cutting-edge scientific discoveries. Join instructors Emiliana Simon-Thomas and Dacher Keltner to discover research-backed strategies that will make a positive difference in your life.
5. Be grateful
Cultivating gratitude is an effective way to refocus your life on what really matters. Additionally, gratitude helps reduce materialism and envy by making us appreciate the things we already possess – such as shelter or trustworthy companions.
Practice gratitude as part of a daily practice by either thinking positive thoughts before sleep or writing thank-you notes to those who have done something kind for us. According to research conducted on participants who wrote such letters of appreciation and delivered them personally, their levels of happiness instantly rose significantly.
Emiliana Simon-Thomas and Dacher Keltner are two psychologists from UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center who teach this popular edX course.
6. Don’t be afraid to fail
Fear of failure can be debilitating. It prevents people from taking the steps needed to pursue their dreams – such as applying for that dream job or starting their own business – or from learning from mistakes made along the way, leading ultimately to greater success.
Psychology for decades had primarily focused on pathology and what can go wrong in life. Now there is a new focus on positive psychology – with emphasis placed on happiness, well-being, social connection, gratitude, mindfulness, self-compassion and other key concepts like Martin Seligman’s and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s research behind them. This course offers this new focus and will examine its science.