Want an extra dose of happiness? These four simple exercises, developed by researchers in the field of positive psychology, will help you stay on the sunny side of the street.
1. Picture your best possible self.
Most of us spend a lot of time picturing the absolute worst happening: We give our friends food poisoning when we throw a dinner party. We fail miserably at the new job. A new relationship ends in heartbreak. Now, do the reverse. Spend a few minutes visualizing a future in which everything turns out for the best. You’ve worked hard and achieved every goal you’ve set -- from success on the job to creating a happy family.
“The point is not to think of unrealistic fantasies,” says Ryan M. Niemiec, Psy.D., education director of The VIA Institute on Character in Cincinnati. “Rather, [visualize] things that are positive and attainable within reason.” A stack of research shows that this exercise boosts optimism, hope and coping skills, motivating you to take the steps to make that vision a reality.
2. Take a strength test.
No, we don’t mean seeing how long you can maintain a one-armed pushup. We’re talking about character strengths. The VIA Classification of Character Strengths is one of the building blocks of the science of positive psychology. It includes 24 strengths, such as curiosity, creativity, honesty, zest, kindness and perseverance. Take the free VIA ME! Character Strength Profile, and in just 10 minutes you’ll discover your core strengths and be reminded of just how awesome you really are!
3. Go on a strengths date.
Can’t decide what to do with your boyfriend or best friend on Saturday night? Try this experiment developed by James Pawelski, Ph.D., a senior scholar at Penn’s Positive Psychology Center. Plan a date that plays to both of your strengths. (You can use the aforementioned VIA Strength Profile as a starting point.) For example, you’re big on curiosity and teamwork, and he’s stellar when it comes to zest and love of learning. The date: a workshop in tribal drumming, followed by a group dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant.
4. Practice a virtual gratitude visit.
Are you sorry you never got to thank your great aunt, your first-grade teacher or your first love who’s fallen off the grid for all they did for you? During a virtual “visit,” you express your gratitude and then play the role of the person receiving your thanks. The practice can enhance your sense of well-being and change the way you feel about the past, says psychologist Daniel J. Tomasulo, Ph.D., of the University of Pennsylvania.
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