How to Be Happy
12. Pick out the Positives
"Many people say things happen for the best. I don't agree with
that," says Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D., a Harvard University psychology
professor and author of Happier. "But some people are able to make
the best of things that happen — and that's a key to happiness." One way to
do this: Reframe your thoughts. This wisdom struck me last year, when my father
was in the hospital with heart disease. Instead of dreading my visits with him,
I started to see them for what they were: my last, precious chances to connect
with him before he passed away. It also gave me the opportunity to care for him
as he had done for me when I was a child.
Once we start trying to reframe, it can quickly become a habit. In
Stumbling on Happiness, Daniel Gilbert, Ph.D., writes that humans have
"a remarkable ability to manufacture happiness. For example, when people in
experiments are randomly awarded one of two equally valuable prizes, they
quickly come to believe that the prize they won was more valuable than the
prize they lost."
Oh, Happy Day!
Schedule time for some of these joy builders, and you'll be more content in
just 24 hours
7:30 a.m. Hit the gym. Regular 30-minute aerobic workouts fight
depression and anxiety just as well as our most powerful psychiatric drugs,
says Tal Ben-Shahar, Ph.D.
8:30 a.m. Buy yourself a bouquet of flowers. A 2006 Harvard Medical
School study reported that people felt more relaxed and upbeat after having
fresh blooms around for just a few days.
12 p.m. Eat a healthy lunch and schedule a doctor's appointment. Poor
health is the strongest predictor of unhappiness, a 2006 Pew Research Center
3 p.m. Reward yourself after finishing a tough task. This works
because those final moments are crucial to how we remember our experiences. In
one study, colonoscopy patients reported less discomfort if the tip of the
scope remained in place after the procedure, even though it prolonged the exam,
because the end was less unpleasant.
5:30 p.m. Say thanks. In his extensive research, Authentic
Happiness author Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D., found that gratitude was
strongly associated with life satisfaction. Make a "gratitude visit,"
he suggests. "Write a letter to someone you want to thank and then read it
to them face-to-face."
7 p.m. Plan something special. A study from Loma Linda University in
California found that when participants just anticipated watching their
favorite funny movie, their endorphin levels increased by 27 percent. Harvard
psychologist Daniel Gilbert, Ph.D., adds, "When subjects are offered a trip
now or next month, they pick the later date to savor the anticipation. We're
the only species that does that."