Choosing To Be Happy
Strategies for Happiness: 7 Steps to Becoming a Happier Person
Happiness Strategy # 1: Don't Worry, Choose Happy continued...
Jon Haidt, author of The Happiness Hypothesis, teaches positive
psychology. He actually assigns his students to make themselves happier during
"They have to say exactly what technique they will use," says Haidt, a
professor at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville. "They may choose
to be more forgiving or more grateful. They may learn to identify negative
thoughts so they can challenge them. For example, when someone crosses you, in
your mind you build a case against that person, but that's very damaging to
relationships. So they may learn to shut up their inner lawyer and stop
building these cases against people."
Once you've decided to be happier, you can choose strategies for achieving
happiness. Psychologists who study happiness tend to agree on ones like
Happiness Strategy #2: Cultivate Gratitude
In his book, Authentic Happiness, University of Pennsylvania
psychologist Martin Seligman encourages readers to perform a daily "gratitude
exercise." It involves listing a few things that make
them grateful. This shifts people away from bitterness and despair, he says,
and promotes happiness.
Happiness Strategy #3: Foster Forgiveness
Holding a grudge and nursing grievances can affect physical as well as mental
health, according to a rapidly growing body of research. One way to curtail
these kinds of feelings is to foster forgiveness. This reduces the power of bad
events to create bitterness and resentment, say Michael McCullough and Robert
Emmons, happiness researchers who edited The Psychology of
In his book, Five Steps to Forgiveness, clinical psychologist Everett
Worthington Jr. offers a 5-step process he calls REACH. First, recall
the hurt. Then empathize and try to understand the act from the
perpetrator's point of view. Be altruistic by recalling a time in your
life when you were forgiven. Commit to putting your forgiveness into
words. You can do this either in a letter to the person you're forgiving or in
your journal. Finally, try to hold on to the forgiveness. Don't dwell on
your anger, hurt, and desire for vengeance.
The alternative to forgiveness is mulling over a transgression. This is a
form of chronic stress, says Worthington.
"Rumination is the mental health bad boy," Worthington tells WebMD. "It's
associated with almost everything bad in the mental health field --
obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety -- probably hives, too."