The Five Happiness “Hows.” Anyone can be happy temporarily. The trick is to maintain this happiness throughout your life. Use the five happiness “hows” to understand happiness better:
#1 Stay positive – Would you feel positive if a game show host knocked on your door to give you a check for a million dollars? You know you would. Unfortunately, the likelihood of this happening is remote in the extreme.
To Do – Use the little actions in life – smiling, thinking about good things, purposely feeling joyful – to manufacture similarly positive feelings. Your life can be positive or negative. Choose positivity. Permanent happiness will be your reward. Research shows that positive feelings “foil” negative feelings, so be positive.
#2 Pay attention to timing and variety of experience – The 12 positive actions can greatly boost your happiness. Put all or a portion of them to work daily. Most importantly, use them when you need them most. For example, you may feel great stress when speaking with your supervisor or your in-laws. Almost certainly, you will feel such stress when speaking to a judge in traffic court.
To Do – Time your happiness activities to take place when you need them. Surprise yourself with happy variations when engaging in positive activities. Adding variety to your “happiness regimen” works wonders.
#3 Build your support system – Try hard to be happy daily.
To DO – You will be better able to achieve your happiness goals when you have the support of your close friends, family members or mentors. Such social support validates your efforts to be happy. This makes all the difference to your long-term happiness goals. Research shows that people achieve their extended goals more often if they have active support from others.
#4 Commit to your goals – Swimmers cannot be great at their sport without regular practice. This is equally true for all those – artists, writers, football players, dancers – who want to achieve something. It also applies to people who want to be happy. If you do, commit to your happiness-enhancement plan and work hard on your individual happiness activities on a daily basis.
To Do – Make the time – happiness is about getting the most from your life. Make the effort. Commit to a happy life.
#5 Habits – To be happy, do your happiness activities habitually. Habits depend on regular repetition and constant practice. This is as true for doing things that will make you happy as it is for dieting properly or exercising daily.
To Do – Work hard to instigate new habits that directly involve your happiness activities. Eventually, like any other habit, they will become subconscious and automatic. When they do, you will be much happier.
Psychology professor at the University of California, Riverside, and winner of the Templeton Positive Psychology Prize.
SONJA LYUBOMIRSKY is professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside. She received her B.A. from Harvard University and her Ph.D. in social psychology from Stanford University. Lyubomirsky and her research have been the recipients of many honors, including the 2002 Templeton Positive Psychology Prize and a multiyear grant from the National Institute of Mental Health. She lives in Santa Monica, California, with her family. Her next book, The Myths of Happiness, will be published by The Penguin Press in January 2013.