I have blogged about happiness several times in the past.
One of my more recent mental wanderings led to me and several others to wonder whether one can consciously and conscientiously choose to do things that will make you happier. Shawn Achor argues that we can with these six exercises (I have no evidence other than my own experiences and those of others around me to know how valid these are). My own comments and reactions follow each item.
1. Gratitude Exercises. Write down three things you're grateful for that occurred over the last 24 hours. They don't have to be profound. It could be a really good cup of coffee or the warmth of a sunny day.
I don't actually write these things down, but I probably do something like this most days in my mind. Gratitude has played a major role in my own sense of happiness. And those who knew the late Greg Mate will recall his daily posts of gratitude on Facebook that he began writing upon learning he had terminal cancer; they were terrifically inspiring.
2. The Doubler. Take one positive experience from the past 24 hours and spend two minutes writing down every detail about that experience. As you remember it, your brain labels it as meaningful and deepens the imprint.
This suggestion intrigues me. I don't know that I've done it consciously, and I will now be trying, once again in my mind but not on paper, to do this more overtly. In many respects, many of my postings to Facebook and here on this blog fall into these first two categories.
3. The Fun Fifteen. Do 15 minutes of a fun cardio activity, like gardening or walking the dog, every day. The effects of daily cardio can be as effective as taking an antidepressant.
Back in a dark period of my life, people kept suggesting things like this. I'm not convinced they worked, but I do try to have some kind of fun physical action nearly every day. And sometimes it's less fun, e.g. doing the stairs instead of taking the elevator to check the mail.
4. Meditation. Every day take two minutes to stop whatever you're doing and concentrate on breathing. Even a short mindful break can result in a calmer, happier you.
I really struggle with this one. I try to stop, but my mind quickly wanders. I guess it takes more work/effort than I'm willing to put out.
5. Conscious act of kindness. At the start of every day, send a short email or text praising someone you know. Our brains become addicted to feeling good by making others feel good.
Please don't include me if you do this. It sounds fake, and if it comes off as an exercise you're doing for yourself, it won't seem all that sincere to the others.
However, a couple of decades ago, I realized that the people who seemed happier were the ones who said nice things to and about others. I realized the causation could go in either direction, but I started doing things like this and stopped being as grouchy and as critical as I had been. It seems to help. Yes, there are still plenty of times when I grouse and criticize, but I keep more of them to myself more often and work through them more effectively.
6. Deepen Social Connections. Spend time with family and friends. Our social connections are one of the best predictors for success and health, and even life expectancy.
Does Facebook count? Does theatre count? Do musical groups count? Those connections are rarely very deep, but they do lead to other connections that are deeper.