In a recent article, I shared research from Dr. Shaun Achor’s masterclass podcast on “Discovering Happiness,” including one of five scientifically-proven happiness strategies: the Gratitude Happiness Habit. In this article, I’ll briefly summarize the four other happiness strategies, three of which take just two minutes per day!
But first, I want to share with you why I’m more and more convinced that happiness strategies work!
Measuring Happiness Strategies
I’m a firm believer that if something is worth doing, it’s worth measuring. As stated by a prominent management thinker:
You can’t manage what you can’t measure. – Peter Drucker
Thirty days ago, I wrote that I had been practicing a daily Gratitude happiness strategy for just two weeks and had already noticed that I was feeling better. I was curious about how I could learn more about how “happy” I was in comparison to other people. So, that same day, I took a couple of brief surveys at the University of Pennsylvania’s Authentic Happiness website to measure my happiness level.
Since I took the surveys, I’ve continued to practice the Gratitude happiness strategy almost every day for the last month. Today I re-tested my “happiness set-point” on two Authentic Happiness Inventory surveys. Here are the results:
- Authentic Happiness Survey (24 questions) – In the last 30 days, my score increased from 3.71 out of 5.00 total points to 4.17 out of 5.00 total points. That’s a total increase of .46 points on a 5-point scale! On the test measure, “Scored as high or higher than other web users,” my percentage score increased from 83%to 97%!
- Gratitude Survey (6 questions) – In the last 30 days, my score increased from 41 out of 42 points to 42 out of 42 points. That’s an increase from 84% to 94% on “Scored as high or higher than other web users.”
Why did my happiness scores improve? Well, according to positive psychology research, the more you practice scientifically-proven happiness strategies, the happier you are! That’s because 40% of happiness is based on habits, and I’ve definitely been into a daily gratitude habit for almost six weeks now. It seems to be working!
Logging Your Happiness Strategies
I also learned over the past month that keeping a daily log of the three NEW things for which I am grateful each day helped deepen and reinforce a feeling of happiness. It also helped me review and remember things that I had already logged and to get creative about finding three NEW things per day.
To log my gratitude thoughts, I used a great, free positive psychology app – Bliss – that has a Gratitude Exercise feature. The exercise prompts you to log three things per day for which you are grateful, as well as WHY you are grateful for each thing. The more you practice, the quicker it is to complete your daily Gratitude Exercise. After practicing for a couple of weeks, I could complete the exercise in about two minutes per day.
I’m looking forward to trying and logging other Bliss app exercises, such as Best Possible Future, Could Be Worse, Honoring People, Three Good Things – and more. Many of these exercises help support other happiness strategies that Shaun Achor describes in his podcast.
Four Other Happiness Strategies
There are four happiness strategies other than the gratitude strategy that Shaun Achor promotes in his “Discovering Happiness” podcast:
1. Positive Expressive Writing
For 2 minutes per day, think and write about one positive experience you had in the last 24 hours. On a blank piece of paper (or Bliss or another app), bullet three details you remember about that experience. These can be any details at all – like where you were, what you were wearing, who you were with, etc. Essentially, you are “scanning” or visualizing the experience.
Your brain does not know the difference in remembering the experience and the actual experience. So, in effect, you are doubling a meaningful experience that you had in the last 24 hours.
The more you do positive expressive writing, the greater level of meaning you will experience in simple, daily activities: a daily commute, lunch with friends, discussions with co-workers, etc. It takes literally one “moment of meaning” each day for your brain to judge the entire day as a meaningful day! When you connect the days over a period of time, you find greater levels of meaning all throughout your life.
2. Fun, Mindful, Cardio Activity
For 15 minutes per day (at least three times per week) do fun, mindful, cardio activity. Researchers found that this happiness strategy was the equivalent of taking an anti-depressant. They also found that you have 30% less chance of a relapse into depression if you exercise when you are already on an anti-depressant.
Exercise is a gateway drug. People who exercise regularly find out that they start changing their behaviors and making positive choices all across the board. Getting regular exercise is NOT an option if you want to achieve and maintain good physical, mental, and emotional health!
3. Observing Your Breath
For 2 minutes per day, stop your work and watch your breath go in and back out. When you stop and pay attention to your breath, you let go of worries, stress, and intrusive thoughts. You clear the way for your hopes, dreams, and aspirations to surface. You re-center and create a greater level of meaning in your life.
Observing your breath is a fundamental practice of attention training for meditation. Amazingly, this simple strategy helps you become less stressed, calmer, more relaxed, and happier.
4. Giving Positive Messages
For 2 minutes per day, write out a positive email or text message, praising or thanking one person in your life. Tell your son or co-worker about one of their strengths. Or tell someone how important they are to you. Or let your spouse or co-worker know how grateful you are that they are in your life. You might even tell a co-worker that they are a big reason that you come to work –because they are your best friend!
Achor says that “small potential” is the happiness that you can achieve alone. But what you want is an interconnected approach to happiness, where you are doing it with other people, as well.
Big Potential (the title of Achor’s new book) is achieving happiness with other people. This is the most important happiness strategy.
Your happiness is impacted by the people around you – at home, at school, and at work. A great outcome of giving daily positive messages to others is that you will often receive positive messages back from the same people! Then, of course, everyone becomes happier!
Social connection, in positive psychology, is the breadth, the depth, and the meaning of your relationships. – Shaun Achor
Trying Happiness Strategies in “Chunks”
Achor doesn’t suggest that you necessarily try to do all five of these happiness strategies at one time. In fact, he cites evidence that if you do JUST ONE of the strategies, your happiness set-point can rise dramatically.
We encourage our ADHD coaching clients to “chunk” their daily activities by focusing and acting on just ONE activity at a time. Practicing happiness strategies in “chunks” is the same principle.
If you haven’t started Developing the Happiness Habit yet, here’s what we suggest that you do:
1. Start by measuring your current happiness level through a brief survey. The surveys at the following websites can help you get more insight into your specific “happiness set-point:”
2. Begin with just ONE 2-minute daily happiness strategy per day. Keep it up for at least 21 days! If that happiness strategy does not resonate with you, try another one!
3. If you’re not already exercising regularly, start doing at least 15 minutes of cardio activity per day as soon as possible.
4. After 21 – 30 days, re-take the happiness survey(s) that you initially took. Reflect upon the meaning of your new score(s).
Everyone Deserves Happiness!
Achieving at least a moderate level of happiness is important for everyone. If needed, reach out to a friend, family member, therapist, coach, or other helping professional for support. Please Contact Us for a free 30-minute consultation if you would like our assistance with“the coaching approach” to happiness!
And, speaking of happiness – a very happy and peaceful Holiday Season to one and all!