Effective Strategies to Increase Your Happiness


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by Jayaram V

Although human beings differ in their ability to experience happiness due to their psychology and circumstances, studies show that happiness is possible and attainable in life. Studies in positive psychology suggest that through simple strategies, we can learn to feel better about ourselves and increase our levels of happiness.

Martin Seligman and others who have done research in this field found that three factors were key to happiness, a pleasant mind, virtuous character, and purposeful and meaningful life. While they may not lead to everlasting happiness, they are proven to be effective to improve happiness and general wellbeing.

Certain strategies are found to be effective in increasing your potential for happiness. Some of them are listed below. They contribute to your happiness by boosting your morale, wellbeing and positive state of mind.

1. Focus on the positive. Your happiness increases to the extent you focus on the brighter side of your life and fill your mind with pleasant memories and feelings. In short you have to find your own happiness, making use of the opportunities that come your way.

2. Make happiness your main goal. If you want something badly you will go for it and do everything necessary to achieve it. Make happiness the chief aim of your life. Whether you are spiritual or not, subordinate all other goals to it, even your spiritual and religious ones. If you are really serious about feeling good and doing good, you will come to it eventually, finding your own way.

3. Bear the burden of happiness. Like all good things in life, happiness demands its own price in the form of discipline, self-control and austerities. For the sake of happiness you may have to bear with pain and suffering as a necessary preparation to change yourself. Take for example your health. You cannot have good health unless you do regular exercise and eat a balanced diet. It means you have to undergo pain and discomfort and lead disciplined life to overcome your initial inertia and reluctance.

4. Manage expectations. There are limits to what you can do. No technique is perfect and no method will ensure 100% guaranteed results. We have also noted that there is a set level of happiness to which everyone returns eventually after experiencing some emotional highs and lows. It means beyond a point there is nothing much one can do about happiness. Therefore temper your expectations without losing hope.

5. Use your strengths. You are happy to the extent you are in harmony with yourself and make the best use of your talents, strengths and interests. Martin Seligman, who championed positive psychology, called them signature strengths. Using your signature strengths gives you the sense of control, opportunities to experience fulfilling relationships, greater job satisfaction and even self-actualization.

6. Build on virtue and character. True happiness is built on a firm foundation of virtue and character. They provide meaning and purpose to your life and a valid reason to rejoice in your actions and accomplishments, besides boosting your morale and making you feel good about yourself, without negativity, shame and guilt. Knowledge, wisdom, justice, honesty, kindness, gratitude, fairness, forgiveness, self-control, courage are some of the universally recognized components of an ideally positive and virtuous life, which you can pursue to experience overall satisfaction with your life and increased happiness.

7. Let go of your past. Everything looks different in retrospect. Your past can be a hindrance to your happiness if you do not let it go. Mentally it is difficult to do because a part of our thinking becomes frozen in time. The best and the most conventional way to deal with it is by cultivating detachment. With detachment you can move forward in your mental timeline and make peace with yourself. Detachment is the highest virtue and key to peace and happiness.

8. Cultivate meaning and purpose. Meaning and purpose is a key component of your happiness. I have already suggested that happiness should be the chief aim of human life. You can expand this goal to include the happiness of others. With that, you can increase your potential for happiness substantially. You also gain the trust and support of others as you transcend your selfishness and show genuine concern for others. It leads to a greater sense of fulfillment and better opportunities to live for a greater purpose as you engage in satisfying relationships and noble causes.

Your happiness depends upon you. You are the one who makes yourself happy or unhappy. If you are determined, you can minimize the role of external factors and circumstances in your emotional wellbeing and remain happy irrespective of what goes on in your life. By disputing your irrational beliefs and habitual responses and refusing to drown yourself in sorrow and self-pity you can gain control over your thoughts and emotions and remain undisturbed. Except in exceptionally adverse situations, happiness is largely a matter of choice. If happiness is the most precious thing in your life, you can choose to be happy. Whatever strategy or approach you may use, the decision to be happy or unhappy is ultimately yours.

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