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Health & Happiness is difficult to define and even harder to

measure. We experience it as a combination of
elements, in the same way that one wheel or spring

Happiness inside a watch doesn't keep time — it is a result of
the synchronicity of the whole. As a relative state,
happiness is what psychologists call our "subjective
well-being" and, fortunately for us, it is a state that
we can actively change for the better. Here are 18
ways to start.
aqil luthfan | www.time.com

Count Your Blessings
Count your blessings — but not everyday. Sonja Lyubomirsky, an
experimental psychologist at UC Riverside, found that people who
once a week wrote down five things they were grateful for were
happier than those who did it three times a week. "It's an issue of
timing or frequency," says Lyubomirsky, "When people do anything
too often it loses the freshness and meaning. You need to have optimal timing."
Lyubomirsky added that it has to feel right. She tried to count her blessings and
hated it. "I found it hokey. It didn't work for me. Just like a diet program, what you
do has to fit your lifestyle, personality and goals." In essence, gratitude might not be
for everyone. But if it is, another exercise is to think of a person who has been kind
to you that you've wanted to thank — a teacher, mentor or parent — and write a
letter, once a week to different individuals over two months. You don't even have to
send it to feel happier.

Hear the Music
Whether regarded as an evolutionary accident that piggybacked on
language or as the gateway to our emotions, music activates parts of
the brain that can trigger happiness, releasing endorphins similar to
the ways that sex and food do. Music can also relax the body,
sometimes into sleep as it stimulates the brain's release of melatonin.
A study of older adults who listened to their choice of music during
outpatient eye surgery showed that they had significantly lower heart
rates and blood pressure, and their hearts did not work as hard as
those who underwent surgery without music. A second study, of
patients undergoing colonoscopy, showed that listening to their
selection of music reduced their anxiety levels and lessened the dosage
required for sedation.

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helps to reduce certain stress hormones and. a sense of purpose and a reason to focus beyond the self. Move Your Body We've all heard about a "runner's high. David Myers. social bonding and more laughter. not surprisingly. That seems reason enough to get more involved at the local church. 2 . laughter is associated with helping to develop person-to-person connections through a feedback loop characterized by laughter. Moving your body releases endorphins. all of which help root people in their communities. Take a walk so your stress will take a hike. For the more inwardly focused. it strengthens your immune system rather than weakening it. physical motion can provide a rush of good energy that can lift a mood." but there are plenty of other ways to achieve that feeling. deep breathing during meditation and prayer can slow down the body and reduce stress. Laugh Big Be it a slew of good jokes. temple or mosque. like so many other endorphin-triggers. People are 30 times more likely to laugh in groups than alone and. a social psychologist at Michigan's Hope College. Work out as hard as you can. be it anxiety or mild depression. says that faith provides social support. Dance. Nurture Your Spirituality Survey after survey shows that people with strong religious faith — of any religion or denomination — are happier than those who are irreligious. and it's a good way to keep healthy. the quintessential feel-good chemicals found in your brain. How endorphin release is triggered by exercise is somewhat of a controversial science because researchers don't know if it is caused by the positive emotion felt upon meeting a physical challenge or from the exertion itself. Laughter. anxiety and physical tension to allow better emotions and energy to come forward. while it might be contagious. a slapstick comedy or laughing yoga. Play a sport. find something to give you a good hearty laugh that brings tears to the eyes or a giggle fit that makes the sides of your body ache. Either way.

directed at friends or strangers. it seems to please us more when we're more conscious of it. Lyubomirsky explains that because we all perform acts of kindness naturally. Doing a considerate thing for another person five times in one day made the doer happier than if they had spread out those five acts over one week. In other research. Identify With Your Heritage Whether it's getting comfy with a Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel. After reviewing data of 225 studies gathered from more than 275. including physical health. too. random acts of kindness make the person performing the kind act happier when they're grouped together. intelligence. Success is the result of many factors. according to Sonja Lyubomirsky. happiness is often a result of positive emotions. Appreciating one's culture creates and strengthens bonds with others who share that culture and also allows one to identify and appreciate cultural difference. There are social rewards. embrace your culture.000 individuals. A recent study showed that adolescents of Mexican and Chinese ethnicity maintained feelings of happiness despite daily stress when they had a strong sense of cultural identity. a team of psychologists concluded that while previous research assumed that happiness stemmed from success and accomplishment. an experimental psychologist at UC Riverside. Happy individuals are predisposed to seek out new opportunities and set new goals. Do Something Nice for Someone Else Hold a door open for someone at the bank. rather than just the other way around. Small or big. psychologists found an association between stable cultural identity and overall positive emotion in African American and Native American communities. when people respond positively. Seek Positive Emotion as a Path to Success Happiness can lead to success. dancing at a Japanese Obon festival or scarfing down a hot dog at Coney Island. 3 . give someone directions if they look lost or make a point to compliment three people on your way to work. family and expertise.

Troiani has come up with three things that you can do to enhance your sense of optimism." Troiani reminds us: it takes about 4 to 6 weeks to really change a habit. says psychologist Mary Ann Troiani. Play the Part of an Optimist Optimism is a learned skill and there are a variety of ways to acquire it. says Barbara Becker-Holstein." or think of "opportunities" rather than "losses. use upbeat or happier words. But they might remember that as a child they enjoyed collecting soda bottles and giving the money to the local fire station where they knew the firefighters. Third." she says. Your brain will catch up to you. tastes and interests as we look for ways to be happy today is very important." says Becker- Holstein. "[They] boost your serotonin levels and signal that you're happy. practical coping skills. "Looking at one's personal style. Scanning this memory bank and gleaning material that can be used to reinvent yourself to be happier is key. "People who are pessimistic walk slowly with small steps and their head down. That crosses off being a PTA mother. Second." "Positive thoughts and behavior have a positive impact on the brain's biochemistry. such as "challenge" rather than "problem. and earlier potential — whether it's actualized or not. interests. For example. First. co-author of Spontaneous Optimism. passions. That person might consider giving money and time to a local group where they can socialize with people rather than mailing in a check to a distant organization. talents. Through her research. 4 ." she says. change your tone of voice so that it is cheerful and full of energy. Use a Happy Memory as a Guide Learn to scan your memory bank for your strengths. someone who would like to be more altruistic can scan their past and know that they didn't like Girl Scouts in elementary school. psychologist and author of Enchanted Self: A Positive Therapy. straighten out your body before your emotions by keeping a straight body posture. taking big steps and walking quickly with your shoulders back and your head up.

then try another. Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson. In a controlled lab experiment. ranging from durations of 3 months to 4 years. such as anxiety and depression. 5 . talking about a negative experience made the emotional intensity of that memory fade faster than if the event had not been recounted. If you often do one thing that makes you happy. Her research suggests that the optimal ratio of positive to negative emotion in humans is above 3 to 1 and below 11 to 1. and the process of storytelling can affect how one feels about what happened even up to a week later. warming up in the hot springs of Greenland or learning a new instrument — just do it. studies her broaden-and-build hypothesis of positive emotion. since memory's natural bias is to keep tabs on the good stuff and gradually lose the emotional intensity of a bad event. it opens the door to potential disorders. Walker says that storytelling works best when there is a lot of audience diversity — it helps to tell the story many times to a variety of people. Tell Your Story to Someone Talking about the good and bad things that happen can lead to happiness — even if it is from opposite ends of the phone line. psychologist Rich Walker of Winston-Salem State University found that the reasons are two-fold: people tend to emphasize positive emotions and mitigate negative ones when telling a story. and says that people who engage in a variety of experiences are more likely to retain positive emotions and minimize negative ones than people who have fewer experiences. In other words.000 event memories and over 500 diaries. at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. Try New Things Stop putting off seeing the aurora lights. Walker has observed that once the ratio of positive to negative events hit 1 to 1. Psychologist Rich Walker of Winston-Salem State University looked at 30.

we are tethered to technology unlike any previous generation. Be Like the Danes: Keep Expectations Realistic Last year. In 2003. unlike the Greeks and the Italians who rank low on satisfaction. who share similar aspects of culture. the first world map of happiness was produced. With BlackBerrys and corporate email at home. has shown low expectations for the coming year. the further they fall. and came up with two plausible explanations: the lasting impact of the Danes' victory in the 1992 European Football Championship has kept them in a state of euphoria since. while satisfied.Balance Work and Home The grin of our society is blue-toothed. Michigan State University researchers found that those who establish boundaries between work and home are more connected to their families and have less conflict than those who integrate the two. While there were other reasons that contributed to the satisfaction of the Danes. Researchers in the British Medical Journal tried to understand why the Danes felt more satisfied than the Swedes or Finns. and Denmark came out on top. and the nation. 6 . The researchers divided people into what they call integrators and separators and suggested that knowing the appropriate boundaries between work and home can have an impact and improve happiness. For more than 30 years. the nation has ranked first in European satisfaction surveys. one thing is clear: the higher one's expectations. This newfound flexibility between our work and private lives works for some people but is problematic for others.

Maybe set aside two nights in your calendar to focus on those things that you'd like to spend more time on. It makes them more confident about it. co-author of Spontaneous Optimism. Or as she puts it: cut the chase. discard habits or situations that waste time and avoid emotional vampires. Visualize Happiness We are unique creatures in that we can mentally simulate situations by remembering the past and visualizing the future. "It's like house-cleaning at that point." Psychologists will say prioritize. your mind doesn't know if it's real or unreal. co-author of Spontaneous Optimism." she says. "Neuropsychological ways makes them feel as though they have it and tricks the mind into thinking they have [what they are visualizing] now. creating a mental state that makes the person think that it is achievable. Make Time Society is plagued by time bankruptcy. It's a valuable tool and one that can lead to happiness when applied to specific goals." says Mary Ann Troiani." 7 . We can also play a hand at perhaps creating the future — at least in terms of preparing our emotional state for what may come." says Mary Ann Troiani. Troiani usually asks one pointed question to shock her clients out of their rut: How would you feel in two or three years if you still feel this way? "People sit there like a deer in headlights. But what if people asserted more control over their time to optimize their use of it? "Maybe you need to burn bridges. There is much research behind visualization and emotional changes. set realistic daily goals that fit into the bigger picture and some time might be recovered. Many psychologists ask people to imagine or picture what they would like in their life. as it has been shown that positive thoughts have an impact on the brain's biochemistry. Her response: picture and imagine what you want to feel like. "If you experience that visualization with your eyes closed.

is shared... And. To avoid what is called cognitive dissonance. congratulations: people in committed relationships have been shown to be happier than those who aren't. It might actually make you happier. If you smile. despite how satisfying their marriages actually are. in which our thoughts and actions don't match up. you will probably feel better if you smile. first of all. Smile Go ahead. Research shows that depressed singles receive greater psychological benefit — from things such as intimacy and emotional closeness — from getting married than those who are not depressed. then you are happy as well. Based on the psychology that a person feels whatever emotion they are acting at the moment. And for the married population. too. The research concludes that happiness. then marry happy. It won't hurt you. like material things in a marriage. 8 . Research done by an economist at the University of Warwick suggests that if you're married to someone who is happy. Awww. like laughter. chances are that those around you will too. Marry Happy Since there may be no point in marrying rich (see previous). it's contagious. our minds react to the change in our facial expression to bring our beliefs in line with our behavior.