Happiness For Dummies
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Daily confessions can be a good start toward being happy. Psychology in general concerns itself with how and what human beings think, how they feel, and how and why they behave the way they do. Positive psychology does the same thing — only it focuses on positive thoughts, positive emotions, and positive ways of acting toward others.

In making your daily confession — it needs to be daily to get the real benefit — you need to pay attention to the good stuff. Think about what went right rather than what went wrong. Look at that part of the glass that’s half full, rather than the half that’s empty.

Get in touch with positive feelings — love, compassion, gratitude — not feelings like anger, dissatisfaction, and despair. Ask yourself, “What have I done today that’s positive, that made someone else’s life easier or better, or that made me a healthier and happier person?”

By simply paying more attention to the positive things you say and do each day, you’ll become a much more positive person — and, thus, happier.

Positive thoughts and happiness

Over the years, a lot has been written and said about the power of positive thinking. All of it is based on the premise that what’s in your head — positive thoughts — inevitably influence what’s in your heart as well as how you behave.

Here are some examples of the kind of positive thoughts that can lead to happiness:

  • What a lovely day this is.

  • There really are nice people in the world — like the driver who let me pull in front of him so that I could turn at the light.

  • My partner is such a thoughtful person.

  • I’m not rich, but I’m thankful that I have enough to pay my bills.

  • I’m a very healthy person for my age.

  • I’d rather have my friends than a million bucks!

  • I am so much better off than a lot of people I see every day.

  • I love the smile on that woman’s face at the checkout counter.

  • I love it when I hear the birds start to sing — it means spring is on the way.

  • That massage felt wonderful!

  • It’s always great to hear from my kids — even when they have a problem.

  • I’m glad I found that nail in my tire before it went completely flat!

  • If I could live my life all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Take a piece of paper and write down 15 positive thoughts that would help someone understand what’s in your half-full glass. If this exercise seems difficult and you have a hard time coming up with 15 happy thoughts, you’re probably spending too much time focusing on the negative. Don’t worry — if you keep up this exercise regularly, eventually you’ll be able to come up with 15 positives.

Positive feelings and happiness

Happiness is not just about feeling joyful. It comes from other positive feelings that you experience in the course of everyday life as well. In essence, one good feeling leads to another. If you have enough of these other positive emotions, you can’t help but be happy.

What positive feelings have you experienced lately? Here are some examples:

  • Awed

  • Content

  • Comfortable

  • Compassionate

  • Connected (as opposed to lonely)

  • Generous

  • Grateful

  • Excited

  • Humble

  • Optimistic

  • Relieved

  • Righteous (for example, for having done a good deed)

  • Satisfied

  • Serene

  • Upbeat

Use this list as a starting point, and write down any positive feelings you’ve had in the past 24 hours. If you have trouble identifying very many positive feelings, that’s a heads-up that you may be paying too much attention to the negative emotions or, in fact, that you simply aren’t feeling anything positive.

Doing this exercise daily will help you become more aware of positive feelings that are there — just unnoticed. If you aren’t having any positive feelings at all, day after day, then you probably need to get some professional help in figuring out why not — even mildly depressed people can feel upbeat and excited.

Positive actions

It’s not always what you think and feel that makes you happy as much as it is what you actually do in the course of a given day. When you’re making your daily confession, try to think of all the positive things you did in the past 24 hours.

Here are some examples of positive actions:

  • Held the door open for an elderly person at the post office.

  • Slammed on the brakes to keep from running over a dog in the road.

  • Picked up litter along the roadside.

  • Returned a wallet I found in parking lot to its rightful owner.

  • Sent a get-well card to an ailing friend.

  • Took my dogs for a walk.

  • Did the dishes so that my partner wouldn’t have to do them after work.

  • Took a day off from work to sit with a friend who was undergoing chemotherapy.

  • Said “thank you” to everyone who helped me throughout the day.

  • Took time to go to the gym to exercise.

  • Stopped to talk to a neighbor I knew was having a hard time with depression.

  • Treated a friend to lunch.

  • Went to bed early and got a good night’s sleep for a change.

  • Smiled at everyone I came into contact with.

  • Bought my partner some flowers.

Try to come up with 10 examples of positive actions you took that made you feel good in the past 24 hours. If you can’t come up with 10 things you did in the past 24 hours, make a list of 15 things you’ll do in the next 24 hours, and carry the list with you so you can make sure to do them.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

W. Doyle Gentry, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, a distinguished Fellow in the American Psychological Association, and the Founding Editor of the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

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