In July we had the honor of hearing Shawn Achor, renowned happiness researcher and author of The Happiness Advantage, speak about happiness and particularly how it relates to success. He’d like happiness practices like the ones given below to become an integral part of the global population’s daily health routines – on the same level as brushing your teeth! Follow these simple steps for a month and see how much happier you feel:
1. Three Gratitudes: Every day, write down three things for which you are grateful and the reasons why. Be very specific and don’t use the same thing twice! You may have tried a variety of gratitude practices in the past without seeing any major changes in your perspective. What makes this different is the specificity. It’s easy to write down that you’re grateful for your friends, your family, and your health each day, but after a while that becomes routine. Replace those general words with descriptive phrases or full sentences, such as “I’m grateful that my friend showed me that funny cat video yesterday because it made me laugh and broke up my hectic workday,” “I’m grateful for opportunity to talk to my kids about their upcoming field trip because their excitement brings me joy,” and “I’m grateful that my morning yoga class made me feel strong and empowered to take on the rest of my day.” If you already do this in your thoughts or even out loud, great! Writing involves muscle movement, different thought processes, and a degree of permanence that the spoken word doesn’t, though, so still consider buying a notebook to keep as a gratitude journal.
2. The Doubler: Write down one positive event that happened each day and make bullet points with three details about it. The brain will double the visualization. The subconscious mind doesn’t always know the difference between what has actually happened and what you have imagined happening. Reliving a happy event by picturing the smells, sounds, sights, and feelings involved in it actually “tricks” the brain into thinking it happened twice, doubling all of the positive physiological changes that occur in the body. Most of us know how this works in reverse: Have you ever gotten yourself completely stressed over something that hasn’t happened? A common example might be worrying about a big presentation at work and thinking of all the ways it might go wrong. After replaying the imagined negative event in your head over and over, you probably noticed that you had physical signs of stress like sweating or heart-racing even though you had no reason to be stressed in real life! Similarly fixating on a negative event from the past will make the mind think that it’s happened again, so whenever you catch yourself falling down the rabbit hole of negative overthinking, throw yourself into a positive memory instead. Over time these positive visualizations will let the mind know that everything really isn’t as bad as it might think.
3. Fun 15: Do some form of cardiovascular exercise for 15 minutes every day. Shawn says, “Exercise is a gateway drug,” meaning adding the habit of exercising daily often leads to adding in other healthy habits as well. Choose an activity you enjoy – as simple as walking or as exhilarating as a Zumba or spin class – and look forward to getting your body movement each day.
4. Meditate for two minutes each day. Have you ever had an issue with your cell phone and found that the only way to fix it was to turn it off for a while and then turn it back on again? All the overworked phone needed was a reset to fix the glitch. The brain is much more complicated and has a lot more going on inside of it than that phone, but often we don’t give it the chance to reset. Adequate sleep is obviously important here, but so is making the conscious effort to clear out thoughts through meditation. Finding just two minutes to unwind is doable for almost everyone, but if you have more time than that, work your way up to meditating for even longer.
5. Conscious Act of Kindness: For 21 days, take two minutes to write an email or text praising or thanking someone in your life…and then send it. Thinking of the positive ways another person has impacted you and knowing that your kind words will brighten their day will make you feel warm inside, and there’s a chance that you’ll hear affirming words about you in reply! Openly receive any of the compliments given back to you, but don’t be upset if the other person doesn’t engage in the same way or doesn’t reply at all. This practice is all about giving positive energy without expecting anything back. Whatever happens as a result of your message is just a bonus!
Photo credit: Sarah Anna Hansen Photography
Kathleen Ellerie is a Licensed Acupuncturist and the owner of Beachside Community Acupuncture. She loves providing affordable acupuncture to the residents of Addison, Dallas, and Farmers Branch, Texas, and educating the general public on how acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine can treat everything from pain to infertility to stress and beyond. Click "Book Now" at the top of this page to book an appointment or feel free to contact her at (214) 417-2260.