Increase Happiness: Can Happiness be Trained like a Muscle?

happiness exerciseWhat if instead of working out in the gym we dedicated 10-15 minutes a day to increase our happiness? Would it not be great to train your mind and notice yourself becoming more positive, more satisfied with your life and eventually more successful?

It actually works in this exact order. Only now have the bright minds of positive psychology like Shawn Achor started to burst the bubble of “I need to work harder to be more successful, so that I can become happier.”

Many of us still live by this formula waiting for happiness to come. “I need to work harder on my relationships, to become a better parent, a better spouse, a better friend and, eventually, everyone will love and appreciate me”, “I need to work harder to get promoted and then I will be happy with my career”, “I need to work harder to make more money and then I will be able to retire, buy a beautiful beach home and live the life of my dreams”.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not saying that we should not work harder. I am saying that we should change the formula to

I need to work harder to increase my happiness right now”.

Because while we continue to think that our happiness depends on our achievements, we are doomed. Capital ‘D’.

Every time we achieve one goal, our brain simply raises the bar higher and re-frames our expectations. So this state of absolute bliss, unexplainable joy and overpowering positivity never lasts long enough for us to consider our life truly “happy”.

Psychologists, however, noticed that being happier actually makes us more successful. When we enter a positive state of mind our productivity and creativity automatically get a boost, we are more fun to be around, we learn faster and perform better.

Another thing they proved is that by doing a number of “exercises” for only 21 days, we can actually become happier and even create long-lasting positive changes in our lives.

5 Exercises That Increase Happiness and Positivity

When I first found out about Positive Psychology, I realized that I have been intuitively doing many of these exercises for years now. Maybe you are already doing some of them too.

But in any case, I suggest that you check the list and add some of these happiness exercises to your daily routine, because they really work

3 Gratitudes.

Make it a habit to write down 3 NEW things that you are grateful for very day. In the beginning it may be a little challenging, but practicing this exercise will help your mind to scan every situation for the positive information first and not dwell on the negative.

I started doing this a long time ago and I would say that it took me longer than 21 days to fully re-wire my thinking pattern, but it was well worth the effort. One interesting change I’ve noticed is that I’ve become less sensitive to negativity and critique. I no longer take it personally.

Journaling.

Write down every positive emotion, everyday achievements or kindness that people have demonstrated to you. This is a great way to re-live positive experiences and keep your mind focused on your blessings. I personally don’t do it, but I do write for the blog. So I guess, it counts.

Exercise.

Who would imagine that by exercising our body we can actually raise our happiness level? But regular workouts do affect our sense of happiness on several levels.

On the physical level it triggers the release of the feel-good hormone – dopamine. On the energy level regular exercise helps to combat fatigue and apathy. And on the mental level exercise teaches our brain that our behavior matters. By pushing your body a little further, you are actually boosting your self-confidence, sense of achievement.

Meditation.

There are many benefits of meditation and an increased sense of happiness is one of them. Meditation helps to calm anxiety, stop the flow of negative thinking and learn the one skill indispensable for staying happy – being able to stay focused on the present moment and savor it.

Random acts of kindness.

Acts of kindness not only create ripples of positivity, they also contribute to our own happiness. You have probably noticed how giving a gift is often a lot more satisfying than receiving it or how making a person laugh feels better than just reading the joke.

Neurologists have noticed that when we engage in activities that help others, our brain releases endorphins, which induce a feeling of well-being. It has also been suggested that the regular release of endorphins is linked to increased longevity.

It seems that doing random acts of kindness not only helps us to stay happier, but to live longer… so that we could help even more people. Makes sense, doesn’t it?

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  • narendra

    Thank you Arina for your very useful write up on real happiness.