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Health & Balance

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Choosing To Be Happy

Strategies for Happiness: 7 Steps to Becoming a Happier Person

Happiness Strategy # 1: Don't Worry, Choose Happy continued...

Tom G. Stevens, PhD, titled his book with the bold assertion, You Can Choose to Be Happy. "Choose to make happiness a top goal," Stevens tells WebMD. "Choose to take advantage of opportunities to learn how to be happy. For example, reprogram your beliefs and values. Learn good self-management skills, good interpersonal skills, and good career-related skills. Choose to be in environments and around people that increase your probability of happiness. The persons who become the happiest and grow the most are those who also make truth and their own personal growth primary values."

In short, we may be born with a happiness "set point," as Lykken calls it, but we are not stuck there. Happiness also depends on how we manage our emotions and our relationships with others.

Jon Haidt, author of The Happiness Hypothesis, teaches positive psychology. He actually assigns his students to make themselves happier during the semester.

"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 these.

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 Happiness.

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