I recently read a book about positive pyschology, which explored the concept of success following happiness rather than the other way around. The author defined happiness as Aristotle’s definition of “human flourishing,” or a feeling of purpose, connection, and general sense of contentment. Positivity is certainly part of reaching this desired state, but many people interpret being positivite as deluding oneself and tell yourself you’re happy even when you feel terrible. That’s not authentic or sustainable; true positivity is a habit of cultivating a point of view or pattern of thinking that emphasizes gratitude and mindfulness. The book offerred concrete steps to take daily to reach such a state, which I’ll share below!
- Meditate 5+ mins daily. Check out the Headspace app to get started, and find a time that works best for you. I like to meditate right after I stretch in the morning and before I eat breakfast with my family, so I’m already in a good mood when I see them.
- Commit one conscious act of kindness. Maybe put something along these lines as your phonebackground to remind yourself to do one nice thing a day, making the conscious decision to spread kindness while doing it. It can be as small as holding the door open for somone to as meaningful as calling an old friend with whom you’ve lost touch to catch up.
- Spend more time outside! An easy way to do this is taking up an outdoor exercise, like walking, running, or swimming. Being outside = vitamin D = better health and wellbeing!
- Exercise-especially when stressed. On the note above, try some kind of movement that gets you excited, it doesn’t have to be P90X! Even if just walking around your street is all you can muster, great! If you love zumba but someone is telling you to lift weights, ignore them and do what you love! This is a great de-stresser, not to mention great for your health.
- Journal! I journaled almost everyday while abroad and man it is cathartic! Writing down what you’re grateful for each day, and letting and frustrations or angers go into the pages, can make you a more content person. Try out Penzu, a free online journal, so you can still be eco-friendly while writing.
- Emphasize prosocial spending. Ok, you know I’m a frugal vegan and don’t want to spend money unecessarily, but going to a concert with friends or a beach weekend with the family is a good investment. Minimize expenses on material items, which are less rewarding, to maximize prosocial spending! Of course, if you can go for a walk in the park with friends rather than spending $10 at a smoothie place with them, I would recommend the former.
- Re-frame seemingly negative events in your mind as opportunities to overcome obstacles, or important lessons. No, this does not mean deluding yourself by telling yourself that getting laid off is a blessing in disguise, or that an illness is just an obstacles. Your feelings of sadness, anxiety, disappointment, etc. are valid! Simply, it means after you allow yourself to embrace the terrible feelings, choosing to re-frame the issue rather than wallow. Wallowing is the opposite of happiness, so to avoid it take whatever situation may arise and create a different story. If you have a falling out with a friend, take a day to mourn that friendship by looking over old photos and memories, but once the tears have dried it’s time to re-frame. The more you think about it, they had been dragging you down for the past year or two and had been putting negative energy into your life. So rather than saying to yourself “I lost a friend” you can say “I opened up room in my life for more positive people!’