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Instructions for Happiness
There are, at minimum, 20 techniques to make the pursuit of happiness a little easier.
At least that's the idea behind Time's Special Report on the subject. It seems that the latest science (and apparently, it is a science) is focused on ways to be happier as a whole, rather than on how to fix problems like depression, anxiety, and such. In other words, what factors enable us to thrive, flourish, and insist that the glass is half-full.
Each of the 20 ways to be happier is explored on their site. The techniques they mentioned were based on the International Conference on Happiness and Its Causes.
A lot of them are no-brainers, such as: "Move your body," (tip #5) "Smile," (tip #19) "Laugh big," (tip #6) "Do something nice for someone else," (tip #7) and "Snog. Canoodle. Get it on" (tip # 3). Oh, and money doesn't hurt either (tip #8).
But there are also a few concepts which may not be as obvious as those. For instance, "Tell your story to someone" (tip # 14).
Telling stories, it seems, does two things to boost our emotions. First, it allows our memories to filter out negative aspects of the story, while retaining and re-framing the positive points. Second, telling a negative or embarrassing story to several people lessens the sting. (Although, I can think of a few embarrassing stories that would make me very unhappy if I broadcast them.)
Another was "Identify with your heritage" (tip #10). Apparently, people are less stressed and happier when they appreciate their culture and feel a kinship towards their ethnicity.
Also new to me was "Play the part of an optimist," (tip #12) which posits that optimism is a learned skill. We can cultivate an optimistic streak in three distinct ways: Stand up straight (no kidding); speak in a cheerful, upbeat tone; and use happier words (as in, losing your job is such a great way to find time to smell the roses).
In the same vein is "Use happy memories as a guide," (tip #11) which means that we're happier when we base decisions on good memories, rather than bad ones.
Overall, if happiness experts are willing to zero in on a list of way to make me smile, I'm happy to try to it out.
I have to say, the idea that happiness is largely within our control makes me pretty happy in itself.