I’ve been coaching from the science of Positive Psychology for a number of years now and I get to witness the significant benefits that those interventions bring towards feeling happier and creating more wellness. All of these interventions are free and accessible to anyone, so I wanted to share the tools that I see having powerful positive impacts in the hope they may help you too.
Our brains are wired to notice what is wrong. This was an important evolutionary tool for the survival of our species, however, it doesn’t serve us such a useful purpose today. Having this natural bias towards noticing the bad things is not good for our overall feelings of happiness and wellbeing. To counter-balance this it helps to do intentional activities that create new wiring in our brains to also notice what is good. Over time you will start to ‘accidentally’ notice more good, which helps boost your mood and happiness.
With that background, these interventions help to build new wiring in your brain that notices the good and also builds positive emotions to fuel your brain for good. Here’s my top 6 free interventions to achieve that:
At the end of every day, pause to reflect on what’s gone well and what you have to be grateful for. Then write down your three things that you’re most grateful for in the day. On a really tough day, when you may feel that you’ve got nothing to be grateful for, you could consider things like being grateful for clean water. However, the more specific you can be, the better. You might consider the lovely conversation you had with a co-worker or that your children were ready for school without being asked or the shop assistant who complimented your new shirt. If you are not much of a writer then you may prefer to use a free online journal, called ‘Oh Life’ (www.ohlife.com). Every night you will receive an email from Oh Life asking you about your day, I simply write what I’m grateful for in the day and email it back. My replies are stored on my secure online diary which I can look back on at any time.
2. Discover a greater meaning and purpose in life
What is it that gives you meaning in your life? Todd Kashdan, an expert on meaning and curiosity, says meaning is about gaining insight into what to do and what not to do when you’re faced with life decisions, big and small. Todd suggests creating a future that is in sync with your deepest values and interests, and intentionally using curiosity as the ultimate tool that will help you knit together the future you desire. Purpose is a special type of meaning – a philosophy of life – a compass that sets the direction for your life’s journey. People with a greater sense of purpose live longer, so it’s worth understanding your purpose. You don’t have to simply ‘find’ it, you can create it. Think about what gets you out of bed in the morning. What goal would you love to accomplish? Define it, write a goal and set about achieving it – it’s likely that you will feel better and live longer because of it.
3. Friendships and belonging
We are social creatures, we thrive being around others and feeling like we belong. Nurturing friendships and investing in them is very worthwhile. Belonging to a group is very good for our happiness and wellbeing – you could join a sporting club, a church, book reading club or bird watching group. Whatever you enjoy, find a group of likeminded people and belong.
4. Good food and exercise
I know you’ve heard this many times before but it can’t be left out if we are talking about overall wellbeing and happiness. It’s so important we fuel our brains with good nutrition to allow it to function properly. We’ve known for a long time the importance of exercise for our hearts but it also greatly benefits our brain. During exercise we release endorphins that are a good-feel fuel for our brains. Getting active has so many mental and physical benefits – I can’t stress enough the benefits of getting moving.
5. Use your strengths
Know what your greatest strengths are, then intentionally use them more often. The research supports we have increased wellbeing when we play to our strengths. If you’re not clear what yours are, take this free survey to understand your character strengths and your preference for using them. If you use your top strengths in a new way you will increase your happiness and decrease depression for six months. It’s such an empowering way to approach your work and your life by playing to your top strengths.
6. Be playful
No matter how old you are, you’re never too old to be playful. Having fun with friends or watching a funny movie will boost your mood, help you have greater health and happiness and even help you to live longer. It’s really important to get more playful, have more fun and laugh more often.
There you go, try these things and see how you feel. Some may resonate more with you more than others, that’s OK, we are all different. Use the ones that feel best and you will reap the benefits. I wish for you to live a happier life – and I hope my wish comes true.