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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 #3: Foster Forgiveness continued...

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."

Happiness Strategy #4: Counteract Negative Thoughts and Feelings

As Jon Haidt puts it, improve your mental hygiene. In The Happiness Hypothesis, Haidt compares the mind to a man riding an elephant. The elephant represents the powerful thoughts and feelings -- mostly unconscious -- that drive your behavior. The man, although much weaker, can exert control over the elephant, just as you can exert control over negative thoughts and feelings.

"The key is a commitment to doing the things necessary to retrain the elephant," Haidt says. "And the evidence suggests there's a lot you can do. It just takes work."

For example, you can practice meditation, rhythmic breathing, yoga, or relaxation techniques to quell anxiety and promote serenity. You can learn to recognize and challenge thoughts you have about being inadequate and helpless.

"If you learn techniques for identifying negative thoughts, then it's easier to challenge them," Haidt said. "Sometimes just reading David Burns' book, Feeling Good, can have a positive effect."

Happiness Strategy #5: Remember, Money Can't Buy Happiness

Research shows that once income climbs above the poverty level, more money brings very little extra happiness. Yet, "we keep assuming that because things aren't bringing us happiness, they're the wrong things, rather than recognizing that the pursuit itself is futile," writes Daniel Gilbert in his book, Stumbling on Happiness. "Regardless of what we achieve in the pursuit of stuff, it's never going to bring about an enduring state of happiness."

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