Saturday, 3 August 2013

7 Steps to Becoming a Happier Person.

H1: Don't Worry, Choose Happy continued...

Jon Haidt, author of The Happiness Hypothesis, teaches positive psychology. He actually assigns his students to make themselves happier during the semester.
"They have to say exactly what technique they will use," says Haidt, a professor at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville. "They may choose to be more forgiving or more grateful. They may learn to identify negative thoughts so they can challenge them. For example, when someone crosses you, in your mind you build a case against that person, but that's very damaging to relationships. So they may learn to shut up their inner lawyer and stop building these cases against people."
Once you've decided to be happier, you can choose strategies for achieving happiness. Psychologists who
study happiness tend to agree on ones like these.

 2: Cultivate Gratitude

In his book, Authentic Happiness, University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman encourages readers to perform a daily "gratitude exercise." It involves listing a few things that make them grateful. This shifts people away from bitterness and despair, he says, and promotes happiness.

3: Foster Forgiveness

Holding a grudge and nursing grievances can affect physical as well as mental health, according to a rapidly growing body of research. One way to curtail these kinds of feelings is to foster forgiveness. This reduces the power of bad events to create bitterness and resentment, say Michael McCullough and Robert Emmons, happiness researchers who edited The Psychology of Happiness.
In his book, Five Steps to Forgiveness, clinical psychologist Everett Worthington Jr. offers a 5-step process he calls REACH. First, recall the hurt. Then empathize and try to understand the act from the perpetrator's point of view. Be altruistic by recalling a time in your life when you were forgiven. Commit to putting your forgiveness into words. You can do this either in a letter to the person you're forgiving or in your journal. Finally, try to hold on to the forgiveness. Don't dwell on your anger, hurt, and desire for vengeance.
The alternative to forgiveness is mulling over a transgression. This is a form of chronic stress, says Worthington.
"Rumination is the mental health bad boy," Worthington tells WebMD. "It's associated with almost everything bad in the mental health field -- obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety -- probably hives, too."

4: Counteract Negative Thoughts and Feelings

As Jon Haidt puts it, improve your mental hygiene. In The Happiness Hypothesis, Haidt compares the mind to a man riding an elephant. The elephant represents the powerful thoughts and feelings -- mostly unconscious -- that drive your behavior. The man, although much weaker, can exert control over the elephant, just as you can exert control over negative thoughts and feelings.
"The key is a commitment to doing the things necessary to retrain the elephant," Haidt says. "And the evidence suggests there's a lot you can do. It just takes work."
For example, you can practice meditation, rhythmic breathing, yoga, or relaxation techniques to quell anxiety and promote serenity. You can learn to recognize and challenge thoughts you have about being inadequate and helpless.
"If you learn techniques for identifying negative thoughts, then it's easier to challenge them," Haidt said. "Sometimes just reading David Burns' book, Feeling Good, can have a positive effect."

5: Remember, Money Can't Buy Happiness

Research shows that once income climbs above the poverty level, more money brings very little extra happiness. Yet, "we keep assuming that because things aren't bringing us happiness, they're the wrong things, rather than recognizing that the pursuit itself is futile," writes Daniel Gilbert in his book, Stumbling on Happiness. "Regardless of what we achieve in the pursuit of stuff, it's never going to bring about an enduring state of happiness."

6: Foster Friendship

There are few better antidotes to unhappiness than close friendships with people who care about you, says David G. Myers, author of The Pursuit of Happiness. One Australian study found that people over 70 who had the strongest network of friends lived much longer.
"Sadly, our increasingly individualistic society suffers from impoverished social connections, which some psychologists believe is a cause of today's epidemic levels of depression," Myers writes. "The social ties that bind also provide support in difficult times."

7: Engage in Meaningful Activities

People are seldom happier, says psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, than when they're in the "flow." This is a state in which your mind becomes thoroughly absorbed in a meaningful task that challenges your abilities. Yet, he has found that the most common leisure time activity -- watching TV -- produces some of the lowest levels of happiness.
To get more out of life, we need to put more into it, says Csikszentmihalyi. "Active leisure that helps a person grow does not come easily," he writes in Finding Flow. "Each of the flow-producing activities requires an initial investment of attention before it begins to be enjoyable."
So it turns out that happiness can be a matter of choice -- not just luck. Some people are lucky enough to possess genes that foster happiness. However, certain thought patterns and interpersonal skills definitely help people become an "epicure of experience," says David Lykken, whose name, in Norwegian, means "the happiness."

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