Teaching Happiness is POWERFUL medicine


We’ve been posting about the benefits of developing “Happiness Habits”.  We all say sure, sure and then let those “habits” slide.  This recent research from Northwestern University study got our attention:

Teaching happiness to men with HIV boosts their health

“This is believed to be the first test of a positive emotion intervention in people newly diagnosed with HIV. Based on the study results, the intervention is promising for people in the initial stages of adjustment to any serious chronic illness.”

Learning skills for positive emotions result in less HIV in blood and less anti-depressant use.

Summary:
“When individuals recently diagnosed with HIV were coached to practice skills to help them experience positive emotions, the result was less HIV in their blood and lower antidepressant use, reports a new study. Men using positive emotion skills learned to cope with their stress, while men in the control group increased their use of anti-depressants.”

The findings extend to dementia caregivers and women with metastatic breast cancer.”

Here are the “Happiness Habits”  taught.  We’ll give you how-to in posts to follow.

1) Recognizing a positive event each day

2) Savoring that positive event and logging it in a journal or telling someone about it

3) Starting a daily gratitude journal

Cat journaling

Cat ‘n Mouse journaling by Peggy

4) Listing a personal strength each day and noting how you used this strength recently

5) Setting an attainable goal each day and noting your progress

6) Reporting a relatively minor stressor each day, then listing ways in which the event can be positively reappraised. This can lead to increased positive affect in the face of stress

7) Understanding small acts of kindness can have a big impact on positive emotion and practicing a small act of kindness each day

Mouse rewarding cat

Acts of Kindness by Peggy

8) Practicing mindfulness with a daily 10-minute breathing exercise, concentrating on the breath

If you want to read the research study here’s the link:

Materials provided by Northwestern University. Original written by Marla Paul

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Research shows you will be happier for 3 months – Music to my ears

I played violin in the high school orchestra. It was enjoyable and got me out of physical education class. Practicing was another matter.  Practicing the violin was excruciating for me. It was solely focused on doing weird, complicated, boring scales over and over and over . . . no melody, NO FUN.   I would set a timer for 1 hour: polish my violin for 10 minutes; resin the bow for 5; tune the strings for 15 and; laboriously do scales for the rest of the time. I did get better.

If only I had known that I could have practiced being in a good mood while I was practicing scales.

Yup, research now shows the more you practice being in a good mood the better you get at keeping a good mood.

Our brains seek out familiar patterns. The more we consciously focus on positive thoughts the easier it is for our brain to access those thoughts and find positive patterns in other areas.  (Of course, there is a corollary  – focus on the negative and your brain will look for more negative connections).  So the more you think about the positive things in your life, the easier it is to think of good things in your life. 

Start at any time.  Like now. Think about something “positive/good” . . . a time you had fun or laughed at a joke or a childhood celebration.  It doesn’t even have to be about you or your life . . .  something “positive” you’ve witnessed, read about or even imagined.  Share it with someone and notice feeling happier.

The more you practice the easier it will be for your brain to access the positive and lift your mood.  

Here’s an easy practice session.

   Maui Practicing, not judy, by Peggy

Pawsitive Exercise

Each day for a week, at the end of the day, write down 3 good or positive things that have happened to you that day and why they happened. 

They can be:

  • BIG things (became a grandma, bought a Maserati, won the lottery)
  • Small things (took a nice shower, ate breakfast, paid the water bill on time).
  • The same things repeated each day or different things/events listed.

When you write down why they happened give yourself credit:

  • I won the lottery because I bought a ticket
  • I took a nice hot shower because I paid the water bill on time
  • I became a grandma because I became a mother because I have kept a good relationship with my daughter because I called her and had a positive conversation.

You don’t need a fancy journal –

a notebook, post-it-notes, napkins will work.

Just do this for one week.

Research shows you will be happier for 3 months!

My violin “practice” list would have looked like this:

  • I managed to get through another violin practice session without dying of boredom.
  • I played in tune, 75% of the time
  • I polished my violin and it’s shiny.

(jw)

Reference:  Seligman, M. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive Psychology Progress. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410-421. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.60.5.410

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