Can You Learn How to Be Happy?
Positive Psychology has often been dubbed ‘the science of happiness’. At its heart, Positive Psychology is about understanding the elements of happiness, and how we can all incorporate more of these in to our day to day lives.
At the core of this principle is the belief that as individuals we are able to exert some control over our happiness. It’s true that genetics and elements of our environment affect both our capacity for happiness and our happiness itself (research suggests that around 60% of our happiness is determined by these factors*). But that leaves plenty of room for our conscious actions, behaviours and choices to have a significant impact on how happy we are.
The Science of Happiness
Far from being unable to grow and develop, your brain is malleable; a concept called neuroplasticity.
Each of your neural pathways is surrounded by a myelin sheath. The more that neural pathway is used, the thicker that sheath becomes, which in turn increases the strength and speed of that neural pathway. This means that the more we practice a skill or habit, the better we get at it. So, by regularly practicing the skills, habits or behaviors that improve happiness, you can in fact, learn to be happy.
10 Habits that Increase Happiness
According to Action for Happiness, practicing these 10 habits is the key to feeling happier.
Caring for and helping others improves happiness, more than doing things for yourself. Showing compassion or kindness and giving your time or attention are all ways you can give to the people around you.
Action: Pay a friend or colleague a compliment today. How did it make them feel? How did it make you feel?
Meaningful relationships are one of the most important contributors to happiness. Strong connections give you a sense of belonging and are your support network if things get tough. Studies also suggest that people with strong relationships tend to be healthier and live longer than those who don’t.
Action: Make a date to catch up with a friend over coffee.
It’s common knowledge that when we exercise, we feel good. Not to mention it’s positive impact on your physical health and sleep quality.
Action: Go for a short evening stroll (invite a loved one to join you for a double shot of happiness)
#4 LIVING MINDFULLY
How can we find happiness in a moment if we’re too busy worrying about the future or re-playing the past? Mindfulness teaches us to pay attention to each moment as it is, so you can get the most out of your every day.
Action: Switch the telly and phones off at meal times and instead focus on the smells, flavours and textures of each delicious mouthful of food.
#5 KEEP LEARNING
Learning new skills gives your confidence a boost and encourages you to stay open and curious about the world around you.
Action: What skill would you like to learn? A new language? A musical instrument? A new sport? Begin by doing some research into how you can get started.
#6 GOAL SETTING
Setting ourselves ambitious but achievable goals keeps us motivated, excited about the future and gives us a sense of purpose. Not to mention the confidence boost that comes with achieving them.
Action: Find out more about smart goal setting and start thinking about your next goal.
#7 BE RESILIENT
How we choose to respond to setbacks or failures is an indication of our resilience and has a big impact on our happiness. Life is full of ups and downs, but it’s how we react to these changes that influences our wellbeing.
Action: Resilience can be developed, it just takes practice. Here are a few tips to get you started.
#8 FOCUS ON THE POSITIVES
Paying attention to the things or people that make us happy, make us laugh or make us feel loved, expands your capacity for happiness and helps you to enjoy life.
Action: Start a gratitude journal. Each morning or evening, write down 3 things that you’re grateful for or that put a smile on your face.
We all seem to have a terrible habit of comparing ourselves to other people and finding fault with ourselves. Show yourself a little kindness. No-one’s perfect. Accept yourself as you accept your friends and family.
Action: Celebrate your success. At the end of each day note down one thing that went well.
#10 FIND MEANING
Being part of or working towards something bigger gives us meaning, purpose and a sense of belonging. It could be a hobby, your career, your family or a spiritual belief, but having this focus is essential for your overall happiness.
Action: Start by identifying what’s important to you with these questions.
Like any skill, the more you practice the easier it becomes to feel happy. Pick one of these habits and get started today.
What are your happiness habits? Share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments below.