What exactly is happiness and how can it be achieved? Apparently, it's as easy as this five step plan (and anyone can be taught how to do it).
What is happiness? This was a question asked by psychologists at the recent British Psychological Society’s Annual Conference. Professor Martin Seligman, a pioneer in positive psychology, believes people can be taught happiness. He even has a model with associated activities freely available to those interested in learning how to be happy – PERMA. Can the key to happiness be as simple as a five point plan? Apparently, the answer is yes and actioning them are even easier than you think. Grab a pen and paper; it's time to start jotting your future happy plan.
Positive emotions such as love and connectedness are necessary for us to experience wellbeing and happiness. These emotions help us persevere in the face of challenges and find alternative solutions to problems. To cultivate your own positive emotions, complete the following activity. Name three things that have gone well for you:
- What did you do last week that was good?
- What is good in your life today?
- What are you looking forward to next week?
- Why do you think they went well?
Engagement or ‘flow’ refers to a time when we are so engaged in a situation that we lose track of time, lose our sense of self, and are present only in that
moment. Take some time to engage with your strengths:
- Name five of your strengths.
- Close your eyes and think of something you must do but dislike doing, either at work or in your personal life.
- Next time you need to do that task, re-craft it by completing it using your biggest strength.
Good relationships are core to our wellbeing and happiness. Try this activity to help nurture an important relationship in your life:
- Engage in what is known as an ‘active constructive interaction’ with a friend or loved one by talking to them about one of your positive experiences.
- Relive the experience while narrating it. Where were you? What did you do? How did it feel?
Our life attains meaning when we focus on something bigger than ourselves:
- What gets you out of bed in the morning?
- What holds deep meaning for you and why?
- What have others done that inspires you?
Accomplishments make us feel good about ourselves. They activate the reward centres in our brain, releasing endogenous opioids and flooding the brain with dopamine (the neurotransmitter in our brain responsible for pleasure). Try the following to activate the pleasure centre in your brain:
- Set yourself a goal. Break it down into small, actionable tasks and set yourself a date to achieve that goal.
- Create a list of ‘nice things to do for others’ and engage in random acts of kindness.
- Celebrate something you have achieved.
According to Seligman, following this simple plan is key to fostering a true sense of happiness and dismisses the idea that happiness and wellbeing are not simply the absence of misery. They are about flourishing and having meaning in our lives. We just need to make a point of remembering the good times.