5 Things You Can Do Now to Be Happier, According to Experts

Kelly E.

We all want to be happy and we're looking in the wrong places

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Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

We try all sorts of ways to chase happiness. But we hardly ever find it. In fact, many of us are pretty unhappy most of the time. It's not weird to be depressed and anxious now. It's normal.

Good news! The experts have an answer for us.

Professor Martin Seligman and Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, founded the field of Positive Psychology.

Positive psychology is all about discovering the things that make your life great!

Here are 5 things that Positive Psychology says are worth seeking out:

1. Training your brain to be optimistic

I always thought optimism was a something you're born with, but I was wrong. We learn to have a pessimistic or optimistic outlook and can actually retrain our minds.

We tend to notice the negatives in life.

Noticing the negatives helps us grow and improve, or avoid dangers.

“I messed up at that meeting. I really need to improve my communication skills.”

“I don’t like the messages I get on that dating site — I think I’ll give up on that one.”

Noticing the negatives can be helpful, but when we start viewing our past, present, and future in mainly negative terms we risk getting depressed.

Pessimists look at hard times and say, “Nothing good will come from this.”

Optimists have hope. That’s why developing a positive outlook is so important.

Hope gives us a reason to get up every day and keep trying. It lets us feel good about our future, feel like we’ve learnt from our past, and that we are doing the best we can in the present.

How it looks in real life:

It’s not fake smiling and pretending to be happy when you’re not.

  • It’s training yourself to say, “Tomorrow will be good, I just know it.”
  • It’s looking for the good moments today and feeling grateful.
  • It’s focusing mainly on happy times from the past and how your learnt or showed strength in bad times.

There are good moments every day: the sun comes up, you breathe, you manage to put food on your plate, you keep a roof over your head. Notice them. Be grateful for them. Tomorrow will be even better.

2. Getting in The Zone

You’ve heard of engagement or flow?

Flow is that moment when you’re hyper focused on a task and time vanishes.

I feel that way when I’m writing. Many people feel it when playing a musical instrument, doing a sport they love, or when they’re really focused on a challenging task at work.

Flow happens when you become so immersed in a task that it becomes your whole world for that period of time. Everything else fades into the background. Your brain floods with hormones and positive neurotransmitters and — even if it’s difficult — you feel a sense of satisfaction and calm.

This kind of engagement is hard to get in our modern world. We know we need to turn off the distractions. We’ve read the articles! But doing it is harder than reading about it.

What if the email is urgent?

What if you have so much on that multitasking seems like the only option?

How it looks in real life:

Our lives are full of distractions that are hard to eliminate — we’re surrounded by people, noises, bleeps and pings all the time! But full engagement only comes when you’re not distracted.

Flow is worth seeking.

  • Turn off your notifications.
  • Find a quiet place.
  • Close all your extra tabs.
  • Switch off your phone.

Get that sense of being so immersed in your task that you forget about everything else for a moment.

According to positive psychology theory, flow stretches your skills and intelligence, and improves your emotional capabilities. It makes you feel great.

3. Real Connection with Others

The risk of isolation from others causes real physical pain. Neuroscience research has found an overlap between physical pain and social pain.

It sounds strange, but researchers have a few ideas about why this might be the case.

One theory is that we feel pain because being socially isolated was once dangerous from a survival point of view — the loners got eaten by wild animals.

Basically, if we feel we might be at risk of being cut off socially, our brains try to alert us to the danger by making us hurt. “Get back in with the group!” our brains scream at us.

So we arrange zoom calls, and talk online. We join clubs and scroll through Facebook.

We need social connection.

We need relationships.

How it looks in real life:

Relationships are one of the main creators of meaning in our lives. We all know we need people, but when we try to chase happiness, we’re led to believe it’s something we do alone.

“I need to find what makes ME happy.”

In reality, we’re happiest in healthy relationships with others:

  • laughing
  • bonding over a fun activity
  • being physically and emotionally close
  • supporting each other in hard times

Our friends, family, and loved ones bring us joy and makes us more resilient to the lows of life.

4. Something Bigger than Money

Let me tell you a story about money.

My mom decided after divorce that being happy would mean being rich. She put all her energy into her goal. She bought, renovated, and sold houses. She worked hard and saved hard until she had enough to invest. Eventually it paid off — she was a very wealthy woman.

She could afford as many glamorous overseas trips as she wanted. She had beautiful clothes, ate in expensive restaurants, and owned expensive things.

When I became an adult I asked her a number of times, “What amount of money would be enough?” The number kept shifting higher and higher. It was never enough. She never seemed happy.

Then she lost everything; all of it in a matter of a week. She lost her business, her job, her investments, and her house. After the initial shock, something strange happened. She became happier than I’d ever seen her.

Having given up the pursuit of happiness through money, she found it in other simpler things — painting, friends, family, gardening, hobbies. Things she hadn’t had much time for before.

My mom wouldn’t mind me telling you this because she had to learn the hard way, but you don’t.

You can learn without the tough life lesson that, past having enough for your basic needs and to live comfortably, there are more valuable things to pursue than money.

How it looks in real life:

A meaningful life has a much bigger impact on your happiness. You need to find the answer to the question, “What’s the point of all this?”

For you it might be:

  • creative expression
  • spirituality or faith
  • volunteering for a cause you’re passionate about.
  • working on projects in a business you believe in
  • building a revolutionary rocket-ship!

What gives you meaning is very unique to you, but it’s worth seeking.

5. An Area to Achieve In

You have something you’re good at. You do.

There’s a huge lie that society tells us: we’re either the best or we’re nothing; we’re either famous or we’re nobody.

It’s not real life.

In reality, we all have areas we can excel in and achievements we can feel great about. They might look small compared to others, but that’s missing the point. Our accomplishments can be small and still have a powerful impact on our overall sense of happiness.

How it looks in real life:

Your goals need to be achievable and realistic. The smaller the better.

When we set and achieve goals daily, weekly, and monthly we can feel satisfaction more frequently than if we only set huge goals.

Break your huge goals down into smaller chunks so you can feel that sense of fulfillment every time you complete a step.

Accomplishments push us to improve and help us to thrive in life.

Summing it up

We all want to be happy and positive psychology gives us a road map to get there.

  • train your brain to think more optimistically,
  • fully engage in activities,
  • build strong relationships,
  • find meaning,
  • and set goals you can realistically accomplish

Then you are setting yourself up to have a happier, more satisfying life.

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For your uplifting local news. Bringing positivity back to the media. Viral online and magazine writer, bylines in Apple News Spotlight, Mamamia, Natural Parent, Thought Catalog and more.

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