Science is beginning to truly value happiness as more studies suggests that our physical health is closely tied to our emotional well-being. In light of recent research, the Globe and Mail launched an ongoing series in 2016 to help employees live happier and more fulfilled lives, including this piece focused on increasing daily happiness.
The piece is based on happiness research that has been conducted in the last few decades at places like Harvard University and the University of Pennsylvania. A Harvard study cited in the piece found that happier people actually live longer and that certain positive emotions, like enthusiasm, hopefulness, and engagement, could lower the risk of diseases like heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, and depression.
Promising research in the growing field of positive psychology also suggests that happiness is more in your control than originally thought. Focusing on your strengths and capacity to hone in on positive thoughts and emotions can actually boost your happiness and health substantially.
The first step in cultivating healthy happiness, according to Bill Howatt, the author of the Globe and Mail piece and the chief research and development officer of workforce productivity with Morneau Shepell in Toronto, is becoming aware of your happiness baseline. This lets you better understand how happy you are in your day-to-day life, which can give you a jumping off point and maybe even a wakeup call. The second step is where the positive psychology comes in: you have to make the conscious decision to focus your energy on positive experiences.
The last step is to take action. Awareness itself makes taking action much easier. For example, if you realize that too much time on social media or watching a certain TV show is negatively impacting your happiness, you can slowly make changes to reduce the time you spend doing those things. Or if you notice that you spend a lot of time thinking that you’re doing things wrong, then you can actively spend time thinking about the things you’re doing right.
Howatt recommends two positive psychology-inspired exercises to focus on what’s good in life. First, you can write down your three greatest strengths and leave them somewhere that you’ll see them often to encourage positive thinking and emotional strength. He also recommends spending time each Sunday planning happy events that you can enjoy throughout the week.
By practicing gratitude and making positivity our intention each day, you can live happier and more passionate lives, filled with a deeper sense of meaning. You just have to keep in mind that happiness is something that has to be cultivated, not found or reached.
“Like a small plant, happiness requires attention, feeding and nurturing to grow. Happiness isn’t a destination as much as a process of what you choose to focus on and do daily,” Howatt writes in the piece.
Read more about cultivating happiness here.