The Practice of Happiness

Some people may debate this, but when you do good things it elevates your mood. Kinda like saying Happiness is a choice. I know with Depression it’s can be difficult to see the bright side all the time…even half the time. But I started to think a few years ago that maybe if I did something to help others it would make me feel better. So I volunteered a couple hours every month or so and ya know what…it helped.

My therapist just gave me this handout. I’m not going to write it word-for-word, just the hilights.

The definition of Happiness: Emotion composing 3 components – positive emotions, engagement and meaning. (Researching Psychologist Martin Seligman) Mahatma Gandhi believed we achieved happiness when “what we think, what we say and what we do are in harmony.” Research also shows that happiness is created and maintained (not just happens) via the following practices:

  • Attitude of Gratitude
  • Practicing kindness and altruism
  • Living in the present moment
  • Practicing forgiveness
  • Developing self-compassion
  • Optimism
  • Seeking Connection

Here are a list of activities that cultivate the habit of happiness:

  1. Three good things – at the end of each day, write 3 things that happened that had a positive affect on you, made you smile, etc. Try to grab unique events, not the same one every day
  2. What if (or as I call it – It’s a Wonderful Life) – Think of a positive relationship or event and journal about how your life would be different of you never would have met that person or experienced that event.
  3. Gratitude notes – Each week or so, send a note to someone who has impacted your life in a positive way to say thank you. You’ll make their day too.
  4. Acts of kindness – every week, plan out 5 acts of kindness and then journal how acting in kindness made you feel.
  5. Volunteer – volunteer your time and talents to an activity that helps others – food pantry, make lap blankets for Hospice, cuddle drug-addicted babies, pack meals, etc.
  6. Remember forgiveness – think about and journal a time you required and received forgiveness. Write about why you needed forgiveness, how it was given to you, how it seemed to impact the relationship, and what you learned from the experience.
  7. Gifts of Adversity – Sounds counterproductive but it isn’t. It’s a learning experience. Journal about a time someone hurt you. Think about what you learned about yourself, the other person/people, about life, what skills you developed as a result, what positives happened for you as a result of the negative event and how you live your life as a result.
  8. Evaluation of critical self-talk – List a habit or trait you struggle with. List the critical things you say to yourself, how does that self-talk make you feel, what is a self-compassionate alternative to the critical language, How does this make you feel, and how can this change your behavior.
  9. Shift from pessimism to optimism – Try for a week listing negative thoughts you have. At the end of the week, sit and figure out how you could think of the same situation positively. Ask yourself, is this a thought or a fact? What would you say about this to someone you cared about? What would a kind/positive person say about this? What is a more balanced way to think about this?
  10. Seeing a positive future – Spend 20 minutes a day, for 1 week, journaling about what a positive, dream fulfilled future would look like for you.
  11. Media-free time – Plan to do one activity a day be totally media free. No TV, phones, internet, gaming. Turn off the TV while you play a board game, turn off phones while eating a meal with a friend or family, take a walk without bringing phones.

These are just a few of the suggestions. But if you notice, most of these ideas involve journaling. This way you can look back if you need a little pick-me-up.

Reading Resources:

Real Happiness, by Jonah Paquette

Happy People, by J. Freeman

The How of Happiness, by MEP Seligman

In Pursuit of Peace, by Joyce Meyer

Lies the Women Believe, by Nancy L. DeMoss

Bonds of Iron-Forging Lasting Male Relationships, by J. Osterhaus, PhD

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