How to Have a Happier, More Positive Year!

By Nancy F. Clark—

Here’s what you need to do first: Decide that you want to be happier now. Then you’ll be more open to the other things I’m about to tell you. Do it – that was easy, right? You’re off to a good start.

Where should you pin this decision to be happier?

Since most of our daily actions are habits on autopilot, let’s add one more. Research by Stanford professor BJ Fogg shows us that three things have to come together to make a change: motivation, ability, and a prompt. My choice for a daily prompt is when I put toothpaste on my toothbrush every morning. I pin my decision to be happier in that moment in my head. You can choose a different prompt if you want. To make it business related, what about when you take your first step into your office that day? Or you could choose to do what Christine Carter of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Center says: “After I put my head on the pillow, I’ll think of one good thing about my day.”

What about anxiety?

If a negative thought enters your mind, don’t try to suppress it. That’s not good for your body. Instead, acknowledge the thought and quickly decide if it’s a warning to protect you. I recently discovered that I love country music, and so these Walker Hayes lyrics came to mind in those moments: “Danger is real, but fear is a choice.” If I decide it’s a worthless fear, then I peacefully send it on its way. If it’s a warning of danger, I thank my intuition with a positive pat on the back.

Does Relieving Stress Make You Happier?

According to the Mayo Clinic, “Laughter is a great form of stress relief, and that’s no joke.” Laughter improves your oxygen intake, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases the happy endorphins released by your brain. It also lowers your stress cortisol level. I bet that will make you happier. Now find something to get your laughter going.

Spread kindness

Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky of the University of California has done extensive research on happiness. One thing she recommends is getting into the habit of doing small acts of kindness. This helps the recipient feel happier and it makes you happier too.

If you do a small act of kindness to a stranger, it can affect that person and anyone who witnesses it – and yourself, too. There’s a term for the warm, uplifting high we get from witnessing kindness: moral upliftment, according to UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. We experience this moral elevation because when we see an act of kindness, we remember past acts of kindness that we observed, as well as our own experiences of giving and receiving kindness. Dr. Pragya Agarwal says that acts of kindness within a work environment create a positive wave that influences the whole work culture.

Nancy F. Clark is the bestselling author of The positive diary: 5 minutes a day to a happier life and curator of Women’s Media.