Five Tips to a Happier You

by

Psychologist Martin Seligman, 2004, suggests five exercises to make your life happier.

GRATITUDE VISIT

Gratitude can make your life happier and more satisfying. When we feel gratitude, we benefit from the pleasant memory of a positive event in our life. Also, when we express our gratitude to others, we strengthen our relationship with them.

Almost everyone enjoys receiving thanks for a job well done or a favour done for a friend, and most of us remember to say thank-you to others. But sometimes our thank-you is said so casually or quickly that it is nearly meaningless. Perhaps this is because our society does not encourage a deeper expression of thanks. People may learn to feel embarrassed if someone goes on and on about how grateful he or she is. But when no one says thank-you in a meaningful way, no one receives the very positive benefits of gratitude.

In this exercise, you will have the opportunity to experience what it is like to express your gratitude in a thoughtful, purposeful manner. Think of the people – parents, friends, teachers, coaches, team-mates, employers, and so on – who have been especially kind to you but whom you have never properly thanked. Choose someone you could meet for a face-to-face meeting in the next week. Your task is to write a gratitude letter to this individual and deliver it in person.

The letter should be concrete: be specific about what he or she did for you and how it affected your life. Let the person know what you are doing now, and mention how you often remember their efforts. Make it sing!

It is important that you arrange a face-to-face meeting so you can read the letter in the presence of the person whom you appreciate. Call the person in advance to schedule a time to get together this week. Try to be vague about the purpose of the meeting This exercise is much more fun when it is a surprise to the recipient!

Take your time reading your letter of gratitude. Notice the reactions of the other person and yourself. If the other person tries to interrupt you as you read, say you really want him or her to listen until you are done. After you have read the letter (every word), discuss the content of the letter and your feelings for each other.

THREE GOOD THINGS IN LIFE

We think too much about what goes wrong and not enough about what goes right in our lives. Of course, sometimes it makes sense for us to analyse bad events so we can learn from them and avoid them in the future. However, people tend to spend more time thinking about what is bad in life than is helpful. Worse, this tendency to focus on bad events sets us up for anxiety and depression.

One way to keep this from happening is to develop our ability to think about the good in life. Most of us are not nearly as good at analysing good events as we are at analysing bad events, so this skill needs practice. As you become better at focusing on the good in your life, you will likely become more grateful for what you have and more hopeful about the future.

Every night for one week, set aside 10 minutes before you go to bed. Use that time to write down three things that went really well on that day and why they went well. You may use a journal or your computer to write about the events, but it is important that you have a physical record of what you wrote. It is not enough to do this exercise in your head.

The three things you list can be relatively small in importance or relatively large. Next to each positive event in your list, answer the question, Why did this good thing happen?

Writing about “why” the positive events in your life happened may seem awkward at first, but please stick with it for one week. It will get easier.

YOU AT YOUR BEST

Everybody has a handful of signature strengths that really define who they are. If you are like most people, you may not give much thought to what your particular strengths are. But doing so is worthwhile because research shows that the more people use their signature strengths at work and at play, the happier they will be.

The first step toward using your signature strengths more often is figuring out what they are. The exercise that follows will help you to do this. Your assignment is to think about a time when you were at your best. You don’t need to come up with a grand or life-changing event. Perhaps what comes to mind is a small event that called forth the best in you. Write about this time when you were at your best. Make it in the form of a story with a clear beginning, middle, and end.

Now, using your computer, write your own story. Print out your story and post it somewhere you can see it during the week. If your computer does not have a printer, then quickly write out your story by hand. It is important that you have a physical copy to have with you during the week, and please feel free to rewrite it as the week goes on.

Your assignment during the week is to put this story in a place where you are likely to encounter it often. Make sure to revisit it once a day. Each time, ask yourself the following two questions:

What personal strength(s) did I display when I was at my best? (Did you show a lot of creativity? Did you show good judgment? Were you good with other people? Were you kind? Loyal? Loving? Brave? Passionate? Forgiving? Honest? You be the judge.)

In what other areas of my life might I use these strengths to my advantage?

USING STRENGTHS IN A NEW WAY

Honesty. Loyalty. Perseverance. Creativity. Kindness. Wisdom. Courage. Fairness. These and about 16 other character strengths are valued in almost every culture in the world. People can get more satisfaction out of life if they learn to identify which of these character strengths they possess in abundance and then use them as much as possible, whether working, loving, or playing.

Identify your five highest strengths (your signature strengths).

During the next week try to use your signature strengths more often.

IDENTIFYING SIGNATURE STRENGTHS

Identify your five highest strengths (your signature strengths).

Every day for the next seven days, use one of your top five strengths in a way that you have not done before. You might use your strength in a new setting or with a new person. It’s your choice.

 

 

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