I was reminded of this incident while reading a recent article by Lyubomkirsky and Layous in Current Directions in Psychological Science. These researchers wrote:
Happiness not only feels good, it is good. Happier people have more stable marriages, stronger immune systems, higher incomes, and more creative ideas than their less happy peers . . . happiness is not merely a correlate or consequence of success but a cause of it . . . (p. 57)
Lyubomkirsky and Layous reviewed research that indicates that we can increase our happiness “through simple intentional positive activities,” that there are activities, strategies that can effectively increase personal happiness. Here are some of the activities that have been demonstrated empirically to increase happiness:
-- writing letters expressing gratitude to someone
-- performing acts of kindness
-- counting your blessings, express in writing
-- build on your strengths, become even better at things you are good at
-- visualize a positive ideal of yourself in the future
Lyubomkirsky and Layous comment that “all of these practices are brief, self-administered, and cost-effective” (p. 57). They theorize a positive-activity model to guide further research. Here are some suggestions based on the research literature so far:
-- The best frequency for additional positive activities appears to be once a week. Don't overdo. Optimal frequencies, however, can vary.
-- Writing letters of gratitude appears to be a good “starter” activity.
-- People who receive support from others while doing positive activities, “that’s nice of you to be doing that”, have more gains in happiness than those who do not.
-- Positive activities work best if you are committed and motivated to improving your happiness.
-- Extraverts and people open to new experiences seem to benefit the most by engaging in positive activities.
--“To avoid adaptation, happiness seekers should vary their positive practices (which activities, how many, how often, and with whom)." (p. 61)
Researchers established years ago that happiness and personality were correlated. However this recent research clearly indicates we can choose to increase our level of happiness, regardless of where we start. Approach life positively. Do favors. Be appreciative. Be kind. Help others. Choose to be happy.
Lyubomirsky, S., & Layous, K. (2013) How do simple positive activities increase well-being? Current Directions in Psychological Science, 22 (1), 57-62.
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