Looking through the self-help section in any bookstore, it becomes obvious that there is no shortage of opinions on how we can increase our happiness levels. Where can we turn to for reliable information?
The field of positive psychology has used a scientific approach to explore and research many different ways we can increase our sense of well being. Through this research, it was found that optimism and gratitude were associated with increased levels of happiness. Therefore, by learning how we can nurture our optimism and gratitude, we can achieve positive gains in our quest for the good life.
There are two simple techniques that I often use in my coaching practise to successfully cultivate these habits. One is done in the morning, the other in the evening. The best thing about these techniques is that they each take less than five minutes to do!
Being hopeful and confident about the future not only builds resilience but is part of a healthy outlook on life. Many people who suffer depression temporarily lose this healthy disposition. Luckily, there are ways of restoring/building on our hopefulness about the future.
Increasing optimism can be as simple as asking yourself the same question every morning. What do I have to look forward to today? By asking this question, we are training ourselves to look forward to something that will happen during the day. It creates a positive outlook that can put us in a good mood and therefore contributes to our overall well being. Doing this everyday first thing in the morning might just be more important than your first cup of coffee.
An easy way to increase gratitude is through a gratitude journal. Nothing fancy or complicated. You can use a simple sheet of paper if you like. At the end of everyday write down three to five simple things you are grateful for that happened to you during the day. It can be as simple as a smile you received from a stranger, a phone call from a friend, a raise or anything at all that made you smile during the day. Once you have written it down, spend a few minutes reliving the events in your head and savouring the feelings associated with them. Doing this can help bring on feelings of calmness, joy and satisfaction. A great sensation to have right before going to bed.
Just like an athlete must continually work on his routine to excel at what they do, we must find ways to increase our exposure to positive emotions in order to increase our sense of well being.
Ron Forte is a Positive Psychology Life Coach who lives and works in Montreal. He teaches people about emotions management and zen living. One subset of his many clients is an interesting group: people on parole, learning proven methods to change their outcomes.
He is currently writing a book about how positive psychology can make a life-changing difference in the lives of formerly violent offenders.