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Why Happiness is Healthy

Follow CNN’s Project Happy to explore what happiness means today, dive deep into the different ways we pursue it and find some tools to help make your life better. Come join us and #gethappy!

(CNN)Happiness – you know it when you see it, but it’s hard to define.

You might call it a sense of well-being, of optimism or of meaningfulness in life, although those could also be treated as separate entities. But whatever happiness is, we know that we want it, and that is just somehow good.

We also know that we don’t always have control over our happiness. Research suggests that genetics may play a big role in our normal level of subjective well-being, so some of us may start out at a disadvantage. On top of that, between unexpected tragedies and daily habitual stress, environmental factors can bring down mood and dry up our thirst for living.

Being able to manage the emotional ups and downs is important for both body and mind, said Laura Kubzansky, professor of social and behavioral sciences at Harvard School of Public Health.

“For physical health, it’s not so much happiness per se, but this ability to regulate and have a sense of purpose and meaning,” Kubzansky said.

Why be happy?

Many scientific studies, including some by Kubzansky, have found a connection between psychological and physical well-being.

A 2012 review of more than 200 studies found a connection between positive psychological attributes, such as happiness, optimism and life satisfaction, and a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease. Kubzansky and other Harvard School of Public Health researchers published these findings in the journal Psychological Bulletin.

It’s not as simple as “you must be happy to prevent heart attacks,” of course. If you have a good sense of well-being, it’s easier to maintain good habits: Exercising, eating a balanced diet and getting enough sleep, researchers said. People who have an optimistic mindset may be more likely to engage in healthy behaviors because they perceive them as helpful in achieving their goals, Kubzansky said.
Lower blood pressure, normal body weight and healthier blood fat profiles were also associated with a better sense of well-being in this study.

For now these studies can only show associations; they do not provide hard evidence of cause and effect. But some researchers speculate that positive mental states do have a direct effect on the body, perhaps by reducing damaging physical processes. For instance, another of Kubzansky’s studies found that optimism is associated with lower levels of inflammation.

If what you mean by happiness is specifically “enjoyment of life,” there’s newer evidence to support that, too. A study in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that people ages 60 and older who said they enjoyed life less were more likely to develop disability over an eight-year period. Mobility was also related to enjoyment of life. This study does not prove that physical problems are caused by less enjoyment of life, but suggests a relationship.

Where happiness comes from: genes + environment

There is substantial evidence that genetics play a big role in happiness, according to Nancy Segal, psychologist at California State University, Fullerton, and author of “Born Together — Reared Apart.”
Research has shown that identical twins tend to have a similar level of happiness, more so than fraternal twins. And in identical twins, one twin’s happiness is a better predictor of the other twin’s current or future happiness than educational achievement or income, Segal said.

“If you have happy parents and happy children, I think that people usually assume it’s because the children are modeling the parents,” she said. “But that’s not really so. You need to make the point that parents pass on both genes and environments.”

What’s more, there seems to be a certain level of happiness that individuals have generally, to which they usually gravitate, Segal said. That level depends on the person, and the situations he or she is in.
Even if genetics has a big influence, though, that doesn’t mean anyone is biologically stuck being unhappy, she said. It might take more work if your baseline mood is low, but certain therapies have proven useful for elevating psychological well-being.

The environment is still quite important for psychological well-being, too, Kubzansky said.
“To say to someone, ‘Don’t worry, be happy,’ is kind of not looking at the whole picture of, what are the environmental constraints on things they can do?” Kubzansky said.

 

Money and time

You might be thinking: “Maybe I would be happier if I had more money.” There’s that old cliché “money doesn’t buy happiness” – but is it true? A 2010 study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that emotional well-being rises with income up to a point, which seems to be a household income of $75,000. Day-to-day happiness did not increase with higher incomes.

But when participants were asked about overall satisfaction with their lives, that did continue to rise in conjunction with income, even after $75,000, Princeton University researchers Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton found. Their results show a sharp distinction between how people see themselves in terms of happiness “today” vs. life satisfaction.

“More money does not necessarily buy more happiness, but less money is associated with emotional pain,” Kahneman and Deaton wrote. “Perhaps $75,000 is a threshold beyond which further increases in income no longer improve individuals’ ability to do what matters most to their emotional well-being, such as spending time with people they like, avoiding pain and disease, and enjoying leisure.”

Would you be happier if you bought the car you always wanted? Several studies suggest experiences make us happier than possessions. That’s partly because once you have purchased something, such as a new car, you get used to seeing it every day and the initial joy fades, experts say. But you can continue to derive happiness from memories of experiences over time.

Experiences form “powerful and important memories that I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world,” Thomas Gilovich, professor of psychology at Cornell University, told CNN in 2009.

But if you’re in the market for a birthday present for your sweetheart, a material object can still be meaningful, becoming a keepsake with sentimental value that increases over time, Gilovich said.

Or maybe you’ll be happier once you’ve lived longer. Research has also found that some sense of happiness may come with age.

Older adults may be able to better regulate their emotions than younger people, expose themselves to less stress and experience less negative emotion, Susan Turk Charles, a psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, told CNN in 2009. More science needs to be done on whether the diminished negative response is also associated with a feeling of happiness.

Happiness: Living in the moment

But what about right now – what can we do to make ourselves feel more positive?

If you’re seeking to increase your own sense of happiness, try mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness means being present and in the moment, and observing in a nonjudgmental way, Susan Albers, psychologist at the Cleveland Clinic, told CNN in 2010.

Can mindfulness help manage pain and mental illness?

Mindfulness comes from Buddhism and is key to meditation in that tradition. Therapies for a wide variety of conditions, including eating disorders, depression and PTSD, incorporate mindfulness. Focusing on the here and now is a counterbalance to findings that mind-wandering is associated with unhappiness.

Activities such as keeping a gratitude diary and helping other people are also associated with feelings of well-being, Kubzansky said.

A variety of smartphone apps are also available that claim to help you monitor and enhance your moods. But don’t feel you have to face emotional challenges alone; a professional therapist can help you get to where you want to be.

If a sense of well-being makes a healthier person, then policy-makers should also promote large-scale initiatives to encourage that, Kubzansky said. Creating parks to encourage exercise and insituting flexible work-family initiatives are just some of the ways that communities can become healthier as a whole.

So remember: A glass half full might be healthier than a glass half empty.

Want to find out more ways to get happy? Visit our Project Happy page at cnn.com/happy.
By Elizabeth Landau, CNN      Fri April 3, 2015
 
source: www.cnn.com


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How To Get Happier Now With Almost No Effort

You can lift your spirits without a gym membership, wearing Lycra or even leaving the house.

For sedentary people, getting out of the chair is enough to improve happiness, new research finds.

It turns out that very light activity is surprisingly effective in raising people’s level of well-being.

Mr Gregory Panza, the study’s first author, said:

“…simply going from doing no physical activity to performing some physical activity can improve their subjective well-being.
What is even more promising for the physically inactive person is that they do not need to exercise vigorously to see these improvements.
Instead, our results indicate you will get the best ‘bang for your buck’ with light or moderate intensity physical activity.”

Light physical activity is equivalent to a leisurely walk.

The kind of walk that doesn’t make you sweat, breathe faster or even change your heart rate.

Moderate activity is walking fast enough to nudge up your vital signs for around 15 minutes.

It’s amazing how little
you have to do
to make yourself happier right now.

Vigorous exercise is equivalent to going for a jog.

The study looked at 419 healthy, middle-aged adults.

The biggest gains in happiness were seen among those who were the most sedentary and then did some light or moderate physical activity.

People who sat around a lot had the most to gain.

Mr Panza said:

“The ‘more is better’ mindset may not be true when it comes to physical activity intensity and subjective well-being.
In fact, an ‘anything is better’ attitude may be more appropriate if your goal is a higher level of subjective well-being.”
People doing vigorous activity did not see increases in their happiness.
This is the reverse of a recent study that found vigorous activity can actually decrease mental well-being.
Dr Beth Taylor, a study author, said:
“Recent studies had suggested a slightly unsettling link between vigorous activity and subjective well-being.

We did not find this in the current study, which is reassuring to individuals who enjoy vigorous activity and may be worried about negative effects.”

The study was published in the Journal of Health Psychology (Panza et al., 2017).

source: PsyBlog


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Why the Grass is Never Greener and How to Be Happy Today

Lifestyle. Opportunities. Wealth. Just think how far we’ve come in the past 100 years—especially when you look at what we have today compared with our great grandmothers’ generation.

My great grandmother married very young, lived in the same place her whole life, and had 11 children. She never had a “career” and never got a chance to go on a vacation. Her life was hard, poor, and lacking in any real opportunity.

I wonder if she ever dreamed about moving to another city, or transforming her life, or about seeing the world with just a backpack. I bet she did, but back then there weren’t as many opportunities as we have today.

Thanks to technology, the Internet, and an improved society, our lifestyles are completely transformed. We have choices. We can live pretty much anywhere we want. We can travel and see the world.

We can secure jobs on the other side of the planet. We can start our own businesses and serve clients thousands of miles away. It’s definitely an exciting time.

But when there is a wealth of opportunities, choices, and places where we could choose to live, you’d think we’d all be happy, right? Wrong.

You see, the problem with having choices is that we become restless. We can’t settle on what we already have or be satisfied with what we’ve got because we’ll always be wondering about the next big thing.

It’s called “the grass is always greener” syndrome. We think someone else is having a better time elsewhere. We make ourselves miserable by constantly thinking about the unknown in an endless quest to find happiness.

We lie awake at night torturing ourselves over what we should do next, wondering if we’re missing out on something big. We feel we’re wasting our lives if we’re not doing something more important.

There’s also this sense of time pressure, particularly with my generation who had the saying “The World is your Oyster” drilled into us from a young age.

This means there can be a sense of urgency, because we feel like we’re running out of time and should be doing something greater or somehow we’ll fail.

Photo by Hello Turkey Toe
“If you worry about what might be,
and wonder what might have been, you will ignore what is.”
~Unknown

We also think we’re special and that our lives are destined to be adventurous, thrilling, and hugely successful. And when they’re not turning out that way? We become depressed. We want more. We get “grass is greener” syndrome.

That’s when we become unhappy and spend all of our time and energy on focusing on what we don’t have rather than counting our blessings.

Some of us might start to move around a lot—often to find the “perfect” city or town, somewhere we can call “home,” somewhere we’ll be happy. Others might jump from one job or relationship to the next, never fully committing to anything.

But once we’ve made that leap to the other side—once we’ve moved to where we thought the grass would be greener and where we’d be happy—we discover that it is no different. We start to wonder about the grass being greener elsewhere.

We are never truly happy when we have “grass is greener” syndrome. It’s a fact.

Focusing on things we don’t have is a recipe for disaster. It only leads to a miserable existence and causes us to forget what’s most important—and that’s what’s happening right now.

As John Lennon once said: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” And that’s certainly true.

We all seem to be victims of ignoring what’s actually happening right at this very moment, which is only natural when we have so many choices and opportunities available to us.

We can all forget the whole point of happiness, and that’s peace of mind, acceptance, and mindfulness. Essentially, it’s being happy no matter where you are in the world, or what you’re doing, or whom you’re with.

Being mindful quiets the mind and brings us a sense of peace that no other quest for a “perfect life” could ever bring.

Mindfulness helps you to appreciate life as it happens. It stops us from agonizing over what might’ve been or what could be. It just brings us back to the present.

Don’t get me wrong—opportunity is a marvelous thing and I only wish my great grandmother had the choices I enjoy today. But I’m slowly coming to realize that my great grandmother might’ve been just fine with her lifestyle.

She was quite possibly happier than me. Her life was simple and perhaps there’s a clue in that. Maybe the simple life is where we can all find peace.

Yes—embrace everything that comes along. Yes—go out and see the world and enjoy everything this life has to offer.

But whenever you feel yourself losing focus and wondering about where you’ll be happy next, bring yourself back to the present, look at what you already have, look around you and enjoy the moments that are happening right now.

Find peace in reading a good book, doing some gardening, going for a walk in the countryside. Take in the sights, smells, and sounds and breathe deeply. Start to notice what is happening right now, and I guarantee you’ll find peace.

Because happiness isn’t about where you live or the things you do. It isn’t about being on an impossible mission to do everything, see everywhere, and accomplish everything you ever dreamed.

Happiness is a state of mind.

How you achieve it is by building a life around your current location. Making new friends, settling into a routine, finding ways in which to enjoy “the moment” rather than dwelling on all the things you could be doing or the places you could be visiting.

Remember that all we ever have is right now. Forget about the past. Don’t worry about the future. Take each day as it comes, and most of all, stop thinking that the grass is greener, because it never really is.

By Katy Cowan


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10 Ways to Find More Happiness

Happiness can be hard to feel at times

Sometimes the quest for happiness can be as confounding as Indiana Jones looking for lost treasure. Just when you think you have a clue, some giant boulder comes rolling toward you. Here are some tips to help you find some joy.

  1. Reach out to others. You may have good people in your life but have been out of touch. Picking up the phone and giving old friends a call can brighten both of your days and perhaps your lives as well.
  2. Remember that happiness is an inside job. That means that no one but you can really make you happy, even though it may not feel that way. When I see a smile on the face of someone I care about, it makes me happy, especially if I helped put it there. Maybe it is an inside job after all.
  3. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. If you are relying on one set of circumstances or person to make you happy, it probably won’t happen. You need to broaden your scope of friends and activities. Also, know that engaging in new adventures creates brain chemicals that add to your happiness.
  4. Trust your gut. When we go against our instincts, and it backfires, we usually feel sad. Follow your intuition and let it guide you toward people and things that will make your life just a tiny bit better. Day by day, your happiness will grow.
  5. Is meditation for you? Most books on happiness say that meditation is key, but most people don’t know even how to get started. There are classes all over the place, CDs, downloads, and websites—and you can also try just being nature. The idea is to allow you to calm yourself, so you can feel the good things that your fear and sadness are pushing away.
  6. Organize your thoughts. Many people push away happiness when they are overwhelmed. When you keep everything in your head, it can be difficult to get the perspective you need. Try making lists of the things that seem too big to manage on your own. You may find that you can do most of these things on your own and that the list isn’t as long as you thought, but if you need help, ask for it.
  7. Stay away from people who bring you down. This may sound simple, but if you are living with those people, it can be very complicated. In that case, a family therapy session could be very helpful. Many people don’t recognize that they are making life difficult for others, and in a group setting with a trained professional, they can learn to behave differently without feeling attacked.
  8. Look at the big picture. Most of the things that prevent us from feeling happy are day-to-day life issues. Once in a while, you go through something that makes the little things seem inconsequential, and this is when you need to remember that life is still going on, and whatever the issue is, it will end. Look at your life as a whole—not just the bad parts.
  9. Value your values. We all have a value system, a way we have decided to go through life, which makes us feel like a good person. When you know what works and what doesn’t, it can make your life a whole lot easier. The important thing to remember is to not lose sight of your values when life becomes a roller coaster. Keeping your values strong will help create happiness.
  10. Play more. Sometimes we get so involved in doing our lives and problem-solving that we forget to take time to have some fun. You may have to block out a day for fun in your calendar. But the important thing is to have a little joy every day to keep you going and growing.

Happiness can be hard to feel at times, so don’t think there is something wrong with you if you don’t feel it. We all go through phases, and some people are just naturally happier than others, so try to avoid comparing yourself with them. The truth is that happiness is here for you, and using the techniques above will allow you to feel more of it.

Barton Goldsmith Ph.D.        Emotional Fitness        Mar 20, 2017


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Our Genes Respond Positively to The Right Kind of Happiness

New research suggests the right kind of happiness can change the code that defines our very being: our genes.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, examined the pattern of gene expression within the cells responsible for fighting off infectious diseases and defending the body against foreign materials (Fredrickson et al., 2013).

The 80 participants in the study also reported their levels of two different types of happiness:

  1. Feeling good or hedonic happiness: the kind you get from straightforward self-gratification, like having a good meal, or buying yourself a new car.
  2. Doing good or eudemonic happiness: the kind you get from working towards a noble goal and searching for meaning in life.

 

happy
The right kind of happiness doesn’t just feel great,
it also benefits the body, right down to its instructional code.

Stronger expression of antibody genes

What the researchers found was that people experiencing different mixtures of both types of happiness felt equally happy. For conscious experience, neither type of happiness beat the other.

A difference emerged, though, at the genetic level. In those with higher levels of ‘doing good’ happiness, there was a stronger expression of antibody and antiviral genes.

In contrast, people with higher levels of feeling good happiness had weaker expression of antibody and antiviral genes.

Steven Cole, one of the authors of the study explained:

“What this study tells us is that doing good and feeling good have very different effects on the human genome, even though they generate similar levels of positive emotion. Apparently, the human genome is much more sensitive to different ways of achieving happiness than are conscious minds.”

So, while doing good and feeling good both make us feel happy, it’s doing good that benefits us at the genetic level.

The lead author, Professor Barbara L. Fredrickson, suggests that:

“We can make ourselves happy through simple pleasures, but those ’empty calories’ don’t help us broaden our awareness or build our capacity in ways that benefit us physically. At the cellular level, our bodies appear to respond better to a different kind of well-being, one based on a sense of connectedness and purpose.”

 

source: PsyBlog


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Pursue Meaning Instead of Happiness

What would you rather have: a happy life or a meaningful life?

You can both be happy and lead a meaningful life, of course. But most of us, consciously or not, choose the pursuit of happiness over the pursuit of meaning. “Happy holidays,” we wish each other; “Happy New Year,” we say. If you’re like 45 percent of Americans, you are setting New Year’s resolutions with the aim of leading a happier life: One of the most popular, according to Nielsen, is to “enjoy life to the fullest.” In surveys, most people list happiness as their top value, and self-help books and life coaches make up part of a multibillion-dollar industry.

But should happiness really be the only goal that motivates us?

Research by the two of us shows that the happy life and the meaningful life differ — and that the surest path to true happiness lies in chasing not just happiness but also a meaningful life. Psychologists have started to look more closely at how seeking happiness affects people, and unearthed some unsettling trends. The pursuit of happiness, it turns out, negatively affects our well-being.

In one study by the behavioral scientists Jonathan Schooler, Dan Ariely, and George Loewenstein, participants listened to a piece of emotionally ambiguous music, Igor Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring.” The researchers told some participants to try to feel as happy as possible while listening; the others were simply asked to listen. The people who tried to feel happy ended up unhappier after the experiment than those who listened without trying to boost their mood. In another recent study, Iris Mauss of Berkeley and her colleagues found that people who highly value happiness — as measured by their endorsement of statements like “Feeling happy is very important to me” — reported feeling lonelier on a daily basis, as assessed in diary entries over two weeks. By contrast, the pursuit of meaning leads to a deeper and more lasting form of well-being.

The distinction between happiness and meaningfulness has a long history in philosophy, which for thousands of years has recognized two forms of well-being — hedonia, or the ancient Greek word for what behavioral scientists often call happiness, and eudaimonia, or what they call meaningfulness. The happy life is defined by seeking pleasure and enjoyment, whereas the meaningful life is bigger. In a new book that will be published next month, one of us (Emily) reviewed hundreds of empirical papers from the growing body of research on meaningfulness — as well as the writings of great thinkers from Aristotle to Tolstoy to Camus — and found that the defining features of a meaningful life are connecting and contributing to something beyond the self, which could be your family, your work, nature, or God.

But because meaning involves investing in something bigger, the meaningful life is often characterized by stress, effort, and struggle. In a survey of over 2 million people in more than 500 jobs by the organization PayScale, those who reported finding the most meaning in their careers were clergy, teachers, and surgeons — difficult jobs that don’t always cultivate happiness in the moment, but that contribute to society and bring those doing them satisfaction.

When people say their lives are meaningful, it’s because they feel their lives have purpose, coherence, and worth.

Of course, you can have both happiness and meaningfulness. In one analysis of five data sets comprising nearly 3,000 people, Veronika Huta of the University of Ottawa found that 20 percent of respondents reported being happy and leading meaningful lives — while another 20 percent were low on both. Among those remaining, 33 percent were high on happiness and low on meaning and 26 percent were high on meaning and low on happiness.

In two studies tracking over 400 Americans and published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, one of us (Jennifer) and her colleagues studied the type of people who fell into the last two groups — high on happiness but low on meaningfulness, and high on meaning but low on happiness —and found important differences in how they led their lives. Those in the happy group tended to avoid difficult or taxing entanglements, described themselves as relatively self-oriented, and spent more time thinking about how they felt in the moment. In contrast, those high in meaning spent more time helping others, being with friends or taking care of children, and thinking about the past, present and future.

purpose_quote

Though different people have different wellsprings of meaning, meaningful lives share three features, according to a paper published this year in the Review of General Psychology. After conducting an extensive review of the literature, the psychologists Login George and Crystal Park of the University of Connecticut identified the three features as purpose — the degree to which you feel directed and motivated by valued life goals; comprehension — the ability to understand and make sense of your life experiences and weave them into a coherent whole; and mattering — the belief that your existence is significant and valued. When people say their lives are meaningful, in other words, it’s because they feel their lives have purpose, coherence, and worth.

But meaning isn’t something you either have or don’t have. It’s an approach to life — a mind-set. People can choose to pursue meaning as well as happiness. In a recent paper, Veronika Huta and Richard Ryan discovered that people behave very differently depending on which they emphasize, and that in turn affects their well-being. In one study, college students were asked to pursue either meaning or happiness over ten days by doing at least one thing each day to increase meaning or happiness, respectively. Some of the most popular activities reported by people in the meaning group included forgiving a friend, studying, and helping or cheering up another person. Those in the happiness group listed activities like sleeping in, playing games, and eating candy.

Although the students in the happiness group experienced more positive feelings and fewer negative ones immediately after the study, three months later their mood boost had faded. The students focused on meaning, meanwhile, did not feel as happy right after the experiment, which makes sense: meaningful pursuits, like helping a friend, require sacrifice and effort, and can even be painful in the moment. Yet three months later, the picture was different. The students who had pursued meaning said they felt more “enriched,” “inspired,” and “part of something greater than myself.” They also reported fewer negative moods. Over the long term, it seemed, pursuing meaning was more deeply satisfying than chasing happiness.

Viktor Frankl, the Holocaust survivor and author of Man’s Search for Meaning, would not have been surprised. “To the European it is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to ‘be happy.’ But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to ‘be happy.’”

Our goal this coming year shouldn’t just be happiness. Our goal should be meaningfulness. Instead of picking projects, hobbies, and relationships based on how happy they will make us, let’s focus on those things that make our lives more significant and worthwhile. If happiness ensues, great. But if it doesn’t, we can still take comfort in knowing that our lives matter and are contributing to the world in some way.

By Emily Esfahani Smith and Jennifer Aaker

Emily Esfahani Smith is the author of The Power of Meaning: Crafting a Life That Matters, to be published in January by Crown. Jennifer Aaker is the General Atlantic Professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

source: nymag.com


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Do This One Thing for Increased Happiness in the New Year

A specific and simple mindset shift can make a big difference.

As we look toward the new year, many of us make resolutions. I’ve talked at length about ways to make these resolutions more likely to stick (hint: “Lose weight” is just not likely to happen!) A great many of them fail because the goals are not formulated in a way that is conducive to achieving them, or because we lose steam once the year gets underway, as Haagen-Dazs wins out over kale. Plenty of people have decided that this makes the whole notion of resolutions silly. And plenty of others are just not interested in the resolution game, are not particularly prone to making lists, or are resistant thinking of a new year as a clean slate.

But lots of us are more consistently on the hunt for simple shifts that can make meaningful differences in our lives, no matter what month it is. Maybe you are looking to adopt a healthier mindset. Perhaps you are in a rut, struggling with depression or anxiety. Or maybe you’ve noticed that jealousy, loneliness, or a lack of motivation are getting the better of you lately. It may feel that inspiration is a world away. Looking to ignite a spark?

Express gratitude.

gratitude

Chances are you’ve heard this before, or you’ve skimmed this article, gotten to the previous sentence, and are disappointed that I haven’t given you some secret to the psychological universe that involves magical formulas or an app to end all apps. But just because you’ve heard it before doesn’t mean that enacting it doesn’t work. And just because it’s a simple and almost common-sense concept doesn’t mean that, once enacted, it can’t make a difference. In fact, all kinds of interesting research has shown that putting yourself in a frame of mind that focuses on gratitude for what you have is associated with improved emotional well-being.

If the mental health boosts aren’t enough for you, consider this: gratitude likely improves physical health as well. It may also improve your relationships, in terms of openness, communication and positive perceptions of your partner or friend.

Whether it’s keeping a notebook or jar full of moments big and small that you appreciate, doing a daily gratitude meditation, making what you’re thankful for a daily dinner-conversation opener or occasionally writing letters to people expressing appreciation for what they’ve meant to you, incorporating gratitude into your life as a consistent practice may very well make this coming year better than before. And best of all, it involves neither a treadmill nor an inordinate amount of kale.

Andrea Bonior Ph.D.    Dec 29, 2015 

Andrea Bonior, Ph.D, is a speaker and licensed clinical psychologist. She is the author of The Friendship Fix and serves on the faculty of Georgetown University. Her mental health advice column, Baggage Check, has appeared in the Washington Post Express for more than 10 years. She speaks to audiences large and small about relationships, work-life balance, and goal-setting, and she is a TV commentator about psychological issues.