Updated: Jun 13, 2019
Many of my clients want to figure out HOW to be happier.
But, what does happy mean anyway?
There are as many variations of happiness as there are recipes on the internet.
However, the definition I've been using comes from the field of Positive Psychology.
A happy person is defined as someone who experiences a higher frequency of positive emotions to negative emotions. A happy person still experiences anger, disappointment, grief, sadness, and fear. We can't suppress these emotions or get rid of them. And who would want to? We wouldn't be human without them. But overall a happy person experiences emotions like love, gratitude, interest, awe, serenity, contentment, pride, silly, inspired, amusement, hope and confidence more often.
And the experience of positive emotions doesn't have to be intense. You don't have to be the type of person who drops down on one knee in front of a double rainbow singing hallelujah to be considered happy. A slight smile at the sight of someone doing something cute on the subway counts too.
But, wow. Those double rainbows.
Researchers in the field of Positive Psychology suggest that rather than pursue happiness, as if it was an object to chase or to discover, we can actively construct our happiness by engaging in intentional activities that impact our thoughts and behaviours.
Dr. Sonya Lyubomirsky, a leading researcher in the field, identified 12 activities that when engaged in regularly may boost an individual’s sense of happiness and wellbeing.
And the good news is, the activities that boost our happiness apply to all aspects of our lives- home and work. So practice them whenever you can.
The 12 activities listed below are most effective when the pursuit of them feels natural, enjoyable and in line with your personal values. Pursuing them out of guilt or a feeling of obligation will not likely lead to a boost in your wellbeing.
Which of the activities below resonate most with you? What are some ways that you can increase these activities in your life?
If you see one below that you really want to work on, send me an email and I’ll share with you a complimentary exercise to boost that activity in your life.
12 Intentional Activities to Boost your Happiness and Well-Being
Expressing gratitude: Counting your blessings for what you have (either to another person or privately, through contemplation or a journal) or conveying your gratitude and appreciation to one or more individuals whom you've never properly thanked.
Cultivating optimism: Keeping a journal in which you imagine and write about the best possible future for yourself or practicing to look at the bright side of every situation.
Avoiding over-thinking and social comparison: Using strategies to cut down on how often you dwell on your problems and compare yourself with others.
Practicing acts of kindness: Doing good things for others, whether friends or strangers, either directly or anonymously, either spontaneously or planned.
Nurturing relationships: Picking a relationship in need of strengthening and investing time and energy in healing, cultivating, affirming and enjoying it.
Developing strategies for coping: Practicing ways to reduce or surmount a recent stress, hardship or trauma.
Learning to forgive: Keeping a journal or writing a letter in which you work on letting go of anger and resentment toward one or more individuals who have hurt or wronged you.
Engaging in flow experiences: Increasing the amount of experiences at home and work in which you “lose” yourself, which are challenging and absorbing. To the extent that you can, take on more projects that really challenge and engage you and allow you to build mastery over a set of skills.
Savoring life's joys: Paying close attention, taking delight, and replaying life's momentary pleasures and wonders, through thinking, writing, drawing, or sharing with another.
Committing to your goals: Picking one, two or three significant goals that are meaningful to you and devoting time and effort to pursuing them.
Practicing religion and spirituality: Becoming more involved in your church, temple, or mosque or reading and pondering spiritually themed books or podcasts.This one may seem less relevant at work, but I’d argue against that. Engaging in meditation practices or other spiritual activities can help restore our sense of calm when work life is stressful. One of my favourite ways to embrace this practice is by listening to the CBC Radio show Tapestry.
Taking care of your body: Engaging in physical activity, meditating, and smiling and laughing. Go for a walk and leave your phone behind. Stand up. Move. Take a gym class at lunch. If you can do this outside it's even better.
Curious about how to do the hows? Send me a note to firstname.lastname@example.org with an activity you're interested in and I'll send you a complimentary exercise to help kick start your practice.