How to Be Happier: Six Ways to Improve Your Outlook

Happiness: it’s everyone’s goal, isn’t it? Whether you try to achieve it through your relationships, family, work or hobbies, the pursuit of happiness makes up a large part – if not all – of your emotional health and wellbeing. Some people seem to radiate sunshine wherever they go, but the rest of us can struggle to look on the bright side. Still, wellness experts assert that even if a positive disposition doesn’t come naturally to you, you can learn to be a little bit happier in your daily life. Here are six ways to do it!

1. Have a reason to get up in the morning, not a to-do list
According to professor of positive psychology Todd Kashdan, author of Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life, ‘We need to move away from the concept of trying to fill our days with frequent pleasurable moments and fewer negative moments. What truly provides satisfaction is having a meaning and purpose in life, which is doubly important in the midst of this current economic nightmare.’

2. Spend money on experiences rather that stuff
In 2009, researchers at San Francisco State University asked 154 participants how they felt after recent purchases, and theatre tickets, holidays and nice dinners won out over designer clothes, expensive gadgets and jewellery. Study author Ryan Howell noted, ‘Wonderful experiences remind us of the thrill of being alive, whereas purchasing something inevitably leads to comparisons – You love your 27-inch plasma until you see your friend’s 60-inch one.’

3. Be open to things in the moment
Instead of letting huge financial or personal problems overwhelm you, try and look at them in a neutral way, as if you were giving advice to a stranger about it. Kashdan notes, ‘These are, of course, negative events, and you should expect to have negative thoughts when you go through them, but you should also cultivate an open and curious attitude where you direct your attention to what’s happening without making judgments on yourself or the situation.’

4. Nurture positive relationships
A British Medical Journal 2008 study found that surrounding yourself with positive individuals can make you happier, and Kashdan adds, ‘Happy people are open to the idea of sharing their experiences and emotions with others.’

5. Lean your inner strength
Sales of Man’s Search for Meaning, written by Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl more than 50 years ago, have seen a recent spike as people search for ways to draw on their inner strength after losing their jobs and homes in this financial climate. He writes, ‘We who lived in concentration camps can remember the men who walked through the huts comforting others, giving away their last piece of bread. They may have been few in number, but they offer sufficient proof that everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.’

6. Keep a journal of dreams and positive affirmations
Ok, this may not be one you show to anyone you know, but an optimism journal can give you a more positive outlook. Six months after psychology professor Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness, asked volunteers to spend 10 minutes per week writing about their dreams for the future and how to achieve them, they were still happier, even if they had given up their journaling. She says, ‘Of course, I would encourage you to journal a little every day. It’s like diet and exercise; you get out of it the effort that you put into it. Every time something bad happens, think of one positive side to it. It’s really hard at first, but then it gets easier.’

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