You may not think that science has ventured into just how we acquire the old "syrup of yahoo," but it has. You may also think that what makes people happy differs greatly from one person to the next, but we are surprisingly homogeneous in our tastes. If you're not making the most out of every day, here's some proven ways to motivate more mirth.
Mind your Mellon
What you dwell on grows. Happiness isn't a sustained state of affairs, it's a series of moments that you have to carve out for yourself. Think how much time you spend rehashing arguments, reinforcing resentments for colleagues and clients, casting curses on bad drivers and bemoaning your life in general.
Imagine what would happen if you spent an equal (or greater) amount of time reinforcing the happy thoughts. What if you dwell on all the things you like about the people in your life, about all the times you see someone drive well, on all the things you did right this week.
One way to ditch those negative thoughts comes to us from a study by the University of Madrid which found that writing your negative thoughts on a piece of paper and then tearing it up or burning it helps to set those negative feelings aside.
Try to be mindful of your thoughts and, when you catch yourself being a Grinch, don't admonish yourself, simply replace the negative thought with a happy one.
Studies show that meditation can increase the efficacy of our brains by creating more cortical passageways and by combating the cortical thinning that occurs with age. People who meditate showed more activation in those areas of the brain that detect emotional cues, which gave them a heightened sense of empathetic awareness. They were also more prone to having meaningful relationships with friends and family members.
Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is able to help people to reduce the stress in their lives so that they are happier, healthier and able to focus. MBSR means practitioners are better able to regulate their behavior so they are able to bounce back from disappointments or a bad mood.
Mindful meditation can be difficult for beginners, but guided meditations are helpful and you can download free guided meditations for beginners here.
It's hard to feel like you're lucky when you are having a bad day. One of the reasons for this is because we tend to spend time with people of our own socio-economic status. When you volunteer or travel to developing countries, you get a better idea of just how lucky you are.
Reminding yourself of this fact by practicing gratitude is shown to have a positive influence on our lives. Start and end each day by thinking about the things you are grateful for and put that out into the world too. Before you start your work day, email someone to compliment them or thank them for something they did. Work colleagues, friends and family members will all be grateful for your appreciation.
Gather your Squad
Studies show that money improves happiness until you are earning about $75,000 a year. After that, money actually reduces your sense of contentment. So if winning the lottery isn't the answer to your problems... what is?
A supportive network of family and friends with whom you have strong connections is the best way to ensure happiness. Of course you don't need a study to tell you this, but it does take effort. Being there in a meaningful way for friends and family members, attending important events, being thoughtful and generous and keeping in touch are essential if you want to create a really strong support network.
One of the most important gifts to give is attention which is a very rare commodity in an age where we are constantly distracted by the busyness of our lives, by technology and by our desire to be the center of attention.
But of course you already know all of these points, because when you practice gratitude, mindfulness, kindness, generosity and positive thinking, you feel happy. So make real changes to your thinking and to the way you speak to others and to yourself and you'll soon be the happiest of all the campers.
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