After reading an article in Nursing Spectrum, on the evidence behind happiness, I wanted to share parts of it with you. This is part two in a series; the first one was published before this one. Here are the strategies to happiness. From an article by Cynthia Saver, RN, MS
1–Connect socially; spend time with family and friends
Connecting also provides you with the opportunity for kindness and compassion. Performing five random acts of kindness boosted happiness according to one study, and another showed that happiness and self-esteem improved six months after practicing compassion for five to fifteen minutes a day over one week. One psychologist recommended picking one day to do a large act of kindness or three to five small ones. She addressed the feeling of making the act of being kind becoming like a chore and recommended variety as useful interventions.
2–Keep a positive attitude.
In one research example people who spent twenty minutes writing a description of their “best possible future selves” were more positive and happier and had fewer physical problems.
The strategy of looking for the positive in life doesn’t work well for everyone. Pessimism can motivate people to get things done as well as optimism. The good news is that humans are resilient and for example disabled people often end up with levels of happiness comparable to those of regular non-disabled people.
3–Be Grateful. Another component of a positive attitude is gratitude. In studies where journals were kept of times a person was grateful, they showed people getting better if there was disease or depression.
4–Leave baggage behind. Seligman, building on the work of Albert Ellis, developed the ABCDE approach to reducing negative thoughts that contribute to unhappiness.
A—Adversity: What is the problem? Describe it.
B—Beliefs: How do you feel about the situation? Do you feel silly, embarrassed, something else?
C—Consequences: What are you likely to do because of what happened?
D—Disputation: Are your beliefs true? Argue with yourself as to whether your beliefs are valid and dispute those that aren’t. On further consideration, you’ll likely find that your beliefs are not correct.
E—Energy: Do you notice how when you change negative thoughts and feelings, you have more energy?
Being able to forgive is also beneficial to our happiness. Studies show that adults who participated in a six-week forgiveness training program reduced their negative thoughts and feelings about the transgression two or three times more effectively than those who weren’t part of the program. Forgiveness is the feeling of peace that comes when you take your hurt less personally. When you take responsibility for how you feel instead of being a victim.
6–Be kind to your mind.
Another way to be kind to your mind is to meditate. Researchers have found there is an antibody response in those that participated in an eight week training program. Also they found higher levels of prefrontal cortex activation, which is associated with positive affect. Even if you don’t meditate, if you try to live in the moment by trying to enjoy the simple pleasures of life by focusing on what we take for granted, like sunshine after days of rain, you will be practicing mindfulness.
8–Live a meaningful life.
Finally live a meaningful life. One way to do this is to focus on your strengths rather than on your weaknesses.
The path to happiness
Although everyone has a happiness “set point”, research based strategies can create an environment in which happiness can flourish. Following some of the practices outlined here can be a help.
One way to start is to track your time for a week or two, creating a table that lists your activities, the meaning and pleasure (on a scale of 1-5) you assign to the activity, how much time you spent on it and whether you want to spend more time or less.
An eight month-long study showed positive effects of expressing optimism and gratitude. The effects work best when the participants were committed. It takes a long time to make positive changes. And as many people point out: “happiness is in the journey not the destination.”
- 10 Ways To Raise Your Vibration (studiowithoutwalls.org)
- Follow a Threshold Ritual (psychologytoday.com)
- Practicing Happiness? Really? (rjwh617dotcom.wordpress.com)