Want to lift your level of happiness? Here are some practical suggestions from University of California psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky (1), based on research findings by her and others. Satisfaction (at least a temporary boost) guaranteed.
1) COUNT YOUR BLESSING: One way to do this is with a “gratitude journal” in which you write down three to five things for which you are currently thankful. Do this once a week.
2) PRACTICE ACTS OF KINDNESS: Being kind to others, whether friends or strangers, triggers a cascade of positive effects.
3) SAVOR LIFE’S JOY: Pay close attention to momentary pleasures and wonders. Focus on the sweetness of a ripe strawberry or the warmth of the sun when you step out from shade.
4) THANK A MENTOR: If there’s someone whom you owe a debt of gratitude for guiding you at one of life’s crossroads, don’t wait to express your appreciation.
5) LEARN TO FORGIVE: Let go of anger and resentment by writing a letter of forgiveness to a person who has hurt or wronged you. Inability to forgive is associated with persistent rumination or dwelling on revenge, while forgiving allows you to move on.
6) INVEST TIME AND ENERGY IN FRIENDS AND FAMILY: Where you live, how much money you make, your job title and even your health have surprisingly small effects on your satisfaction with life. The biggest factor appears to be strong personal relationships.
7) TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY: Getting plenty of sleep, exercising, stretching, smiling and laughing can all enhance your mood in the short term. Practiced regularly, they can help make your daily life more satisfying.
8) DEVELOP STRATEGIES FOR COPING WITH STRESS AND HARDSHIPS: There is no avoiding hard time. Religious faith has been shown to help people cope, but so do the secular belief enshrined in axioms like “that which doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” The trick is that you have to believe them.
(1)= Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky (look her picture here) arrived from Russia at age 10 and was fascinated by all the smiles that greeted her in the U.S. “It was so weird,” she recalls. It was also an inspiration for her research career (TIME, 2005)