Choosing To Be Happy
Strategies for Happiness: 7 Steps to Becoming a Happier Person
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
"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
"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."
Happiness Strategy #6: Foster Friendship
There are few better antidotes to unhappiness than close friendships with
people who care about you, says David G. Myers, author of The Pursuit of
Happiness. One Australian study found that people over 70 who had the
strongest network of friends lived much longer.
"Sadly, our increasingly individualistic society suffers from impoverished
social connections, which some psychologists believe is a cause of today's
epidemic levels of depression," Myers writes. "The social ties that bind also
provide support in difficult times."
Happiness Strategy #7: Engage in Meaningful Activities
People are seldom happier, says psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, than
when they're in the "flow." This is a state in which your mind becomes
thoroughly absorbed in a meaningful task that challenges your abilities. Yet,
he has found that the most common leisure time activity -- watching TV --
produces some of the lowest levels of happiness.
To get more out of life, we need to put more into it, says Csikszentmihalyi.
"Active leisure that helps a person grow does not come easily," he writes in
Finding Flow. "Each of the flow-producing activities requires an initial
investment of attention before it begins to be enjoyable."
So it turns out that happiness can be a matter of choice -- not just luck.
Some people are lucky enough to possess genes that foster happiness. However,
certain thought patterns and interpersonal skills definitely help people become
an "epicure of experience," says David Lykken, whose name, in Norwegian, means