Positive Psychology: How To Construct a Happier Life – PART 1



Surprise. Many of the things that you are working towards right now will not increase your happiness in a lasting way. Getting that promotion, looking younger,  living in a nicer climate, finishing that degree, relief from your bad back, more flexibility at work, or your child excelling at school will not increase your happiness in a lasting way. Turns out human beings are terrible at predicting what will increase their happiness. Psychological scientists have amassed persuasive evidence that we are routinely off base about what will bring us pleasure and fulfillment, and as a result, we sometimes work to make things happen that don’t actually make us happy. Why is this so hard for us to believe?

Because the truth is that these things do make us happy. Our misunderstanding is that we mistakenly believe these things will bring lots of happiness for a long time. When they actually bring a little happiness for a short time.[2]

The first step to becoming more happy is to realize that you do not already know how to make yourself happier. Here is the really awesome news!!! You can learn how to increase your happiness. Once you accept this, you can begin the process of deliberately doing things to increase your personal happiness.

Have you ever thought “I just want to be happy.” Well listen up. This is for really. Positive psychology is a relatively new branch of psychology that began in 1998. Its focus is the study of happiness and fulfillment. [3]

Harvard University’s most popular course is on happiness[4]. The following three videos are a presentation done by one of the professors at Harvard that have taught students about happiness. These videos are wonderful. I recommend watching all three:

Shawn Achor, Part 1: The Science of Happiness and Potential

Shawn Achor, Part 2: The Science of Happiness and Potential

Shawn Achor, Part 3: The Science of Happiness and Potential

A few times I have started looking at my photo album on Facebook and I end up spending longer than I intended to looking at pictures. It has been sort of a surprise to me. I do not take a lot of pictures and I rarely post pictures on Facebook, but I have some pictures of my wedding, some pictures of my trip to Australia, and Facebook friends have tagged me in some of their pictures. What draws me in is reliving some of my favorite experiences with some of my favorite people. Every time after looking at the pictures I was left feeling very fortunate.

Until I stated reading about increasing happiness, I did not connect this activity with increasing my personal happiness. However, I now realize that this is an example of a happiness boosting activity. Activities that increase your sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life are a metastrategy for achieving happiness. Research clearly demonstrates that you would be happier is you cultivated an “attitude of gratitude”. People who are consistently grateful are happier, more energetic, are more hopeful, and report experiencing more frequent positive emotions. Furthermore, grateful people are less likely to be depressed, anxious, lonely, envious, or neurotic.

How to cultivate gratitude in your life is a question that only you can answer. In order to be effective, it has to be a method that is meaningful and heartfelt for you. I want to stress that this is absolutely a worthwhile use of your time. I think that it is easy to read something like this and think “oh that is interesting…I bet there is some truth to that”…and then do nothing. Do yourself and everyone around you a favor.  Do something. Try something to cultivate gratitude in your heart.

Here are a couple of methods of cultivating gratitude that may work for you. This first one I saw on the wildly popular film ‘The Secret’. A man in the film had a rock that he carried in his pocket. Every morning he would pick up the rock and put it in his pocket. Every evening he would empty his pockets. He made a habit of thinking of all of the things he is grateful for every time he touched the rock. Another idea is to find a gratitude partner with whom you share your blessings list and who prompts and encourages you if you lose motivation or simply forget. What I do is mark a date on the calendar every week and on that day I sit down and write down ten things I am grateful for.[5]

I challenge you to choose a strategy for increasing your awareness of all of the good things in your life.

It is a truism that how you think -about yourself, your world, and other people – is more important to your happiness than the objective circumstances of your life.[6]


~ by happydeviant on May 15, 2011.

4 Responses to “Positive Psychology: How To Construct a Happier Life – PART 1”

  1. Great blog Laura, this entry is congruent with all the studies I have seen about happiness in my Psych courses.

  2. You know I love this! Have you had a chance to read any of Martin Seligman’s work yet? I have Authentic Happiness and Learned Optimism on the bookshelf… and hear that his new book Flourish is fantastic. Looking forward to digging in more on this topic. Look forward to Part II of your post as well. 🙂

    • Oh…I am so glad you like it. Yeah I have one of his books out from the library. I have been picking through it. I am enjoying learning about happiness. I want to give a kiss on the cheek to all authors of these books. Thanks for the encouragement. 🙂

  3. Great blog! Be sure to listen to all three videos. The third one gives ideas to increase your happiness.

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