You Can Practice Your Way to Happiness

There are very few people who would say no to feeling happier. It can be easy to feel down! But there are “happiness hacks” devised by scientists that can train you to be happier.

Research from the Univ. of Bristol showed that you can follow practices to be happier. The only catch is that you have to stick with them. They aren’t a simple case of “one and done.” It’s like exercise: you must keep doing it to stay healthy.

Being kind to others and conversing with strangers can boost your mood. Keeping a happiness journal, writing down three positive things at the end of the day and writing letters of gratitude to the people in your life can make you feel great. Getting enough sleep and movement into your day helps you live life to the fullest.

A 10-week study taught people the skills. They had better levels of happiness by the end of the 10 weeks. People who kept doing the ones that made them feel best maintained their well-being two years later.

Study co-author Dr. Sarah Jelbert said that people didn’t necessarily need to use every hack. They needed to find the ones that worked for them and use them consistently. “But we didn’t need to be prescriptive about exactly what to do and when,” she explained.

Some people found seven hours of sleep worked for them, others needed as much as nine. Some participants wrote in their happiness journals daily; others used it in stressful situations. Some people found meditation alone worked better than being friendly with strangers. Others found that chatting with new people made their days better. As long as they still used the skills they learned in some capacity, they were still thriving two years later.

It’s like going to the gym,” said senior author Prof. Bruce Hood, “we can’t expect to do one class and be fit forever. Just as with physical health, we have to continuously work on our mental health, otherwise the improvements are temporary.”

Much of what we teach revolves around positive psychology interventions that divert your attention away from yourself, by helping others, being with friends, gratitude or meditating,” he explained. “This is the opposite of the current ‘selfcare’ doctrine, but countless studies have shown that getting out of our own heads helps gets us away from negative ruminations which can be the basis of so many mental health problems.”

The main takeaways from the course can be applied to everyone’s lives. Talking to strangers makes us happier. Being kind correlates to being happier. Social media isn’t always bad for mental health, but it is if you focus on how others view you or allow it to change how you view yourself. Loneliness can damage your immune system. Being an optimist correlates to living longer. Giving gifts triggers the reward centers of the brain. Sleep deprivation not only harms health; it makes you less likable. Walking in nature can lower depression by deactivating the parts of the brain that think negative, repetitive thoughts. Using that information, you can form your own practices and build a routine that helps you feel happier!

Banner image: Wellness Gallery Catalyst Foundation via Pexels

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