Your Happiest Day Dver: Begin Your Smiling Streak with These 12 Proven Methods from Positive Psychology
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Don't go chasing waterfalls. You shouldn't have to win the lottery, skydive or move to Hawaii to live your happiest life, either. You'll find excitement in those adventures, for sure, but lasting joy comes from the habits you practice every day.
If you've got a bucket list, by all means, go ahead and leap out of that plane and ride an elephant in Nepal. But you can make any regular old workaday Wednesday pretty awesome, too. How? Fill it with "positive intentional activities," says Sonja Lyubomirsky, Ph.D., a California-Riverside professor who wrote the book on increasing joy through small measures, The How of Hu ppiness: A New Approach to Getting the Lift Thu. Want. These are "simple, intentional, and regular practices meant to mimic the myriad healthy thoughts and behaviors associated with naturally happy people." Translation: Do stuff every day that makes you feel fulfilled, optimistic and grateful.
In honor of the United Nations-recognized International Day of Happiness on March 20, we're bringing you the quintessential step-by-step guide.
You will see immediate results, but keep at it. Just as you wouldn't expect to lose all your excess weight by exercising for one day, you can't expect everlasting bliss by following the routine on the next three pages for just 24 hours. "Happiness takes practice," says Todd B. Kashdan, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va., and author of Curiaus? Discover the Missing ingreclient to a Fulfilling Lift.
Don't feel compelled to try each of these strategies at once. Even just one of the activities that follow can make a difference by sparking what positive psychologists call an upward spiral. "A burst of positivity this morning may lead me to have a creative thought at work, for example, which will make me happier and more approachable, which will lead me to become closer to a friend or colleague, which will strengthen my immune system, and so on," explains Lyubomirsky.
Launch your upward spiral today!
6 a.m.: Slap the snooze button.
In one study, Daniel Kahneman, Ph.D., a Nobel Prize-winning psychologist at Princeton University, and his colleagues asked 909 working women to reconstruct every aspect of their previous day and assess how they felt throughout their activities. The two factors that had the most potential to wreck their moods for the day? A poor night's sleep and tight work deadlines. You may not be able to control your deadlines, but you can try to catch more ZZZs. Everyone is different, but many studies show that negative health and mood consequences become noticeable once sleep duration dips below seven hours for several nights in a row. If you're feeling sleepy for much of the day, try going to bed just 30 minutes earlier or waking up 30 minutes later--it won't hurt to cheat for a few minutes in the morning, if you must.
6:30 a.m.: Get sweaty.
Exercise releases feel-good chemicals in your body, most notably endorphins, morphinelike neurotransmitters that block your perception of pain and promote feelings of well-being. Exercise also warms up your body's core temperature, which relaxes muscles and gives you that feeling of Zen that comes after a hot shower. And its effects aren't just temporary. In a famous 1999 study, subjects with depression were divided into three groups: One group took the antidepressant Zoloft, another group followed an exercise program, and the third group did both. After 16 weeks, depression had eased for the majority of participants in each group. But a follow-up six months later found that the exercise-alone group was the least likely to relapse. (Always talk to your health care provider about depression treatments that will work best for you.)
8 a.m.: Ommmm.
You don't have to sit in the lotus position on a straw mat in a silent room to meditate. …