When was the last time you stopped to consider your happiness?
What did you conclude? and what even is happiness? These are the types of questions that many of us fail to ask ourselves. Maybe we are too busy and don’t take the time, or maybe are going through tremendous stress and sorrow from the loss of a family member to the ongoing pandemic. Whatever the reason may be, it is important to take a moment and consider our own happiness and subjective well-being as this will improve our ability to cope with stress and live a meaningful life.
While definitions for happiness can vary from person to person, Cohn, et al. (2009), describes happiness as a combination of positive emotions (like joy, love, and contentment), coping resources, and life satisfaction. In recent years, happiness studies have boomed and have provided us with useful tools and practices to boost our happiness and subjective sense of well-being. Here are three ways to do so-
Acts of kindness
Research seems to favor acts of kindness as a powerful tool to improve our own happiness. A systematic review and meta-analysis carried out by Curry, et al. (2018) on studies where “acts of kindness” (like holding the door for someone or greeting a stranger) were used as an intervention, showed that “performing acts of kindness improves the well-being of the actor.” It is mentioned that happiness can be seen as a built-in psychological reward for action that promotes our ability to survive and reproduce. After all, acting kindly towards others may meet adaptive goals by caring for family members, impressing potential mates, and showing loyalty to a group. A follow-up study by Rowland and Curry (2019) on the effects the type of recipient of kindness (friend versus stranger) had on happiness experienced by the actor showed equal positive effects. They concluded that acts of kindness are beneficial to happiness whether these acts are directed to someone close, to a stranger, to one’s self, or even just watching acts of kindness. So, try it out and hold the door for someone, greet them “good morning,” or just observe people being kind to one another- it may improve your happiness.
Gratitude is well recognized in the field of positive psychology as a strategy to boost mood and subjective sense of well-being. Dr. Martin E.P. Seligman, from the University of Pennsylvania, and colleagues carried out many experiments over the internet testing the effectiveness of gratitude-based interventions on the subjective well-being of individuals (2005). Such interventions included writing gratitude letters to people one is thankful for and writing down three good things that went well at the end of each day. All interventions were correlated with an increase in self-perceived happiness and a sense of well-being.
Experiments carried out by Dr. Joshua Brown and Dr. Joel Wong from Indiana University showed similar results. They asked one group of participating college students seeking mental health counseling to write gratitude letters each week for three weeks (Brown and Wong, 2017). The second group of students was asked to write about negative experiences and the third group did not write about anything. Brown and Wong report that students that wrote gratitude letters reported better mental health than those who did not and that this positive effect lasted up to 12 weeks after the experiment.
Exercise offers countless benefits to our bodies and our mental health, and yes, it can make us happier. Exercise helps the body release much of its wound-up tension and leads to the release of “feel-good” chemicals like dopamine, norepinephrine, endorphins, and endocannabinoids. Exercise can be especially helpful to individuals suffering from clinical depression and have positive long-lasting effects (Craft and Perna, 2004). According to a 2020 Delphi study (a study where only a panel of experts are asked) from the Journal of Happiness Studies, regular exercise was among the top three recommendations experts gave to individuals to “raise their own happiness” (Buettner et al., 2020). The most success comes with personal training where you can be guided on how to work out properly and safely with maximum results, check out our personal trainers to help you get started today!
Cohn, M. A., Fredrickson, B. L., Brown, S. L., Mikels, J. A., & Conway, A. M. (2009, June 9). (PDF) Happiness Unpacked: Positive Emotions Increase Life Satisfaction by Building Resilience. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/26256424_Happiness_Unpacked_Positive_Emotions_Increase_Life_Satisfaction_by_Building_Resilience
Curry, O. S., Rowland, L. A., Lissa, C. J., Zlotowitz, S., McAlaney, J., & Whitehouse, H. (2018, March 21). Happy to help? A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of performing acts of kindness on the well-being of the actor. Retrieved from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022103117303451
Rowland, L., & Curry, O. S. (2019). A range of kindness activities boost happiness. Retrieved from https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00224545.2018.1469461
Seligman, M. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005, July & aug.). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16045394/
Brown, J., & Wong, J. (2017, June 6). How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain. Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain
Craft, L. L., & Perna, F. M. (2004). The Benefits of Exercise for the Clinically Depressed. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15361924/
Buettner, D., Toben, T., & Ruut, V. (2020, February 05). Ways to Greater Happiness: A Delphi Study. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10902-019-00199-3