Researchers in positive psychology are finding that happiness is a skill that can be acquired and worked on. If you look into it, there’re a few things that seem to keep popping up. Tal Ben-Shahar, a psychology lecturer at Harvard, has five observations from his studies about how to embark on learning to be happier. It turns out that happiness is a skill that can be developed through practice, and ultimately stems from inside you, rather than from the external world.
Tal’s recommendations are:
Try to acknowledge and accept painful emotions, they’re a normal part of living. Being able to accept painful emotions opens the door to being able to accept happy emotions too.
Spend quality time, giving your full attention, with people you love and want to be with. “Time affluence” is having enough unscheduled time to freely spend with friends and family, who you like and want to be with.
Regularly exercising three times a week for 45 minutes can be as effective as some of the mood altering medications being prescribed these days. Throughout our history, human daily life involved lots of movement. Apparently not moving much, as has recently become more common, has negative consequences.
Expressing gratitude helps develop a positive outlook. An easy way to do this is, every other day, jot down three to five things you’re grateful for. Whatever strikes you is ok, from grand things to some small thing; you’re the only one that’ll read this journal, it’s not for sharing.
Try to simplify your life. Over-scheduling isn’t conducive to happiness and is probably not ultimately very effective. Some of the electronic time savers often become a shorter leash. Start simplifying by turning your phone off and not checking your email for three hours when you get home.
Try them at the start of a new year or anytime.