Here are some ideas and tips for improving happiness based on four scientifically-validated strategies that you might find useful. The research clearly shows that taking the time to do these can really significantly improve our happiness and well-being levels. The four strategies are: goals, exercise, diet and social support.
1. Set some new goals.
If you don’t like the word “goal” think of this as a personal project. Take some time to think about the different areas of your life; family, relationships; finances; health; friendships; creativity etc. Add your own life areas to this list to suit your own personal situation. Rate your satisfaction with each area on a scale of one to ten and then, based on this simple self-assessment work out which areas you need to focus on the most. Once you have done this it is quite easy to set some goals or develop a personal project that will improve this area. Don’t try to solve all your life problems in one go! Start small, and follow the four rules of goal setting;
a) be SMART about your goals (SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timeframed);
b) create goals or projects that you personally find energising and motivating;
c) write your goals and action plans down and keep a written record about your progress; and
d) take action everyday – yes, everyday do something that will move you towards your goal.
2. Get some exercise.
Exercise is one of the very best ways to improve your mood (Carek, Laibstain, & Care, 2011). Set yourself the goal of doing some exercise each day. You don’t have to go to the gym or be involved in organised sports unless you want to. Try walking around the block a few times, walk to the shops, stroll around the local park. Every little bit of movement helps. Aim to do about 10,000 steps each day. Even checking the mail box or taking the kids to and from school counts. A combination of standing up and walking around, plus a brisk 30 minute walk each day will soon make a difference both physically and emotionally too.
3. Diet is one of the key ways that we can increase our well-being and mood.
Make sure that you are getting enough of, and a variety of, fresh fruit and vegetables. Check your Wellness Score and check out the healthy eating tips on the web site. You’re sure to find some interesting ideas there.
4. The right kind of social support can be very helpful in improving our mood.
The research shows that well-being and happiness is enhanced when we meaningfully connect with other happy people (Sprecher, Felmlee, Orbuch, & Willetts, 2002). Taking time to talk to other people, taking time to really listen to them, to have meaningful conversations can make a real difference to both us and them.
In addition, you might like to try some Positive Psychology exercises. The “Three Good Things” exercise is a scientifically-validated technique for boosting your happiness levels (Sin & Lyubomirsky, 2009). The “Three Good Things” exercise is very simple – but it had been shown to be highly effective. All you have to do is to write down each evening three things that went well during the course of the day. A research study found that compared to a comparison group people who wrote three good things had increased happiness and decreased depressive symptoms one month later. It took a month to work, but the effects were still there three months and six months later (Seligman, Steen, Park, & Peterson, 2005).
You can find more on your wellbeing here.
Whatever you do, make a start today and start planning your future. Seize the day! After all, is there a better time to start to get happy than right now? Bounce back and start improving your happiness! You can do it.
If you think you might need some help, some contacts are:
- Lifeline - 0800 543 354 or (09) 522 2999 within Auckland
- Depression.org.nz (8am to midnight) – 0800 111 757
- Youth Line - 0800 37 66 33
Content adapted from: Coach Yourself, by Dr Anthony Grant and Jane Greene, and Eight Steps To Happiness: An Everyday Handbook, by Dr Anthony Grant.
Carek, P. J., Laibstain, S. E., & Care, S. M. (2011). Exercise for the treatment of depression and anxiety. International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine, 41(1), 15-28.
Seligman, M. E., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive Psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist 60(5), 410-421.
Sin, N., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2009). Enhancing well-being and alleviating depressive symptoms with positive psychology interventions: a practice-friendly meta-analysis. Jounral of Clinical Psychology: In Session, 65(5), 467-487.
Sprecher, S., Felmlee, D., Orbuch, T. L., & Willetts, M. C. (2002). Social networks and change in personal relationships Vangelisti, Anita L (Ed); Reis, Harry T (Ed); et al (2002) Stability and change in relationships Advances in personal relationships (pp. 257-284).New York,NY:CambridgeUniversity Press.