Scientific studies show that you can become happier by performing the following exercises to increase happiness. I have been sharing these exercises with my clients and they really work! The exercises come from the work of Martin Seligman, Ph.D.www.authentichappiness.com.
- Three Things You Are Grateful For: List three things you are grateful for every day. Don’t forget the little things like the sun shining on the water, having time to sit quietly, or the smile on your spouse’s face. Also, write down what causes these wonderful things to exist. This exercise has been shown to lift happiness for six months.
- Appreciating Yourself: Write down at least five things that you appreciate about yourself. Also write about the positive changes you have been able to make to overcome difficulties or weaknesses.
- Gratitude Letter: Write a Gratitude letter to someone that impacted your life in a positive way. Describe concretely how this person impacted your life. Then schedule an appointment to read it to them. This exercise has been shown to increase happiness for a month. Do this every month and you could be happier all year.
- Story of You At Your Best: Write a story about a time when you were at your best. Identify the strengths you used in the incident. Review the story once a day every day for a week. Reflect on the strength you used.
- Savor a Beautiful Day: set aside a day or ½ day to do something you love to do. Sharpen the pleasure you experience in this day by savoring the moment, being mindful of the experience, sharpening your sense (what does it smell like, taste like, feel like, look like), focus fully and be absorbed by the experience, take a mental picture as a memory or keep a physical souvenir of the experience. Later, think about the experience when you are feeling depressed, anxious, or stressed out.
- Let go of Grudges: Choose one person who has done something hurtful. On a piece of paper write the person’s name in the middle and capture in a few words what the person did. Make 15 circles on the page and fill each one in with a phrase describing something the same person did that was generous and for which you are grateful. Hold the page at arm’s length, and find the balance between the way they helped and the way they hurt. It’s ok if the situation is complex.
- Build Optimism: Make a list of times when you met with failure, loss, or disappointment. Search for what good thing happened as a result of the first door closing. Practice throughout the week. When you are disappointed, look for what happened next or what happened that couldn’t have happened if the disappointment had not occurred.
- Dispute Negative Thoughts: When you have a negative thought, look for the evidence that concretely challenges the thought. Then search for alternate explanations for the challenges you face (things that are out of your control).
- Do something for someone else: “Numerous studies show that the happiest people are those who devote their lives to caring for others, rather than focusing on themselves . . .” Discover Magazine, August 2006 “Shiney Happy People.” Here are some ideas:
- Talk to the homeless
- Write letters to soldiers
- Do volunteer work
- Do an errand for a disabled neighbor
- Man a volunteer hotline
If You Have Taken the “VIA Strengths Inventory” (Values in Action) on thewww.authentichappiness.com website, here are some additional exercises to increase happiness:
- Signature Strengths Exercise: Find new ways to use your signature strengths.
- Strengths Date: Set up an outing with a friend that uses some of your signature strengths. Share how you feel about using your strength with your friend. Then set up another date where they can utilize their strengths.
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