Posted by: Edward | November 4, 2015

Rituals for Increasing Happiness

There are things you can do that science has found can increase your happiness. Give yourself the gift of making habits or, even better, daily personal rituals of those things.

The first is gratitude. Making a habit of feeling and expressing gratitude has a measurable effect on people’s happiness. Start by making a daily ritual of reviewing your day and finding one to three things that happened to feel grateful for. Try to find different things each day. If you have trouble doing this, imagine subtracting something from your life and how much that would diminish your enjoyment of life and then feel grateful that you experience that thing or person.

Next is when someone does something for which you can feel grateful, thank them. A general habit of thanking people when they help you or treat you kindly is good, but you can take it up a notch. Once a day find someone who has helped you and deliver a complete thank you. You thank them, tell them specifically what for, and how it impacted or benefited you. This practice has two benefits. First, focusing on gratitude and how people are kind to you will make you happier. and second, thanking people will make them feel appreciated and will improve your connection to them, and that will make you happier.

The next thing is kindness and compassion. Neuroscience found the people with the happiest brains were meditators. And when their brains lit up as happiest? When they were thinking compassionately. Practice thinking of others as just like you, people on this earth for a limited time with hopes and fears, joys and sorrows, doing their best to navigate uncertain challenges. Remind yourself of people who upset you that they are doing the best they can and you behave poorly at times as well. At least once a day, do something kind for someone else. Don’t look for anything in return or even for thanks, just help someone else out. Science has found it will make you feel better.

Once a day give yourself a gift. It can be as simple as having a cup of coffee or listening to a song you enjoy  or a five-minute conversation with someone you love. But treat it as special. Take a break from your worries and distractions and focus your attention on the gift you are giving yourself. Let yourself really experience and enjoy it. Practice savouring these positive experiences.

Make another daily ritual of finding one to three small things to feel proud of. How small? Single choices. A moment where you could have chosen the easier, the unhealthier, the meaner way to act but instead you chose the harder, the healthier, the kinder. When you choose the salad over the fries. When you do something towards your goals instead of watching TV. When you forgive someone who disappointed you rather than holding a grudge. These are the moments to remember and appreciate yourself for.

Keep the moments small so you can feel pride and be humble at the same time. Focusing on these moments when you’ve done well, by your own standards, will make you feel better and will make you more likely to make better choices more often, which will make you feel better. Over the long-term it’s those small choices that matter most.



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