Here’s the lowdown behind the newest research on how to get more happy -- right now.
1. Walk like you're in a shampoo commercial.
The gist: What you do affects how you feel, says author Richard Wiseman, Ph.D. in his latest book, The As If Principle. In other words, behave as if you’re happy and you’ll be so, scientifically.
One weird thing to do that may actually work: Change your walk. Researchers found that people who strode down the street (long steps, arms bouncing) for three minutes felt "significantly happier" than those who shuffled (small steps, slumped shoulders, looking down).
2. Pretend it never happened.
The gist: Most of us have certain ideas about when or how we’ll enjoy life more ("After I get that job!" or "If I get married!") which actually keep us unhappy, says Sonja Lyubomirsky in The Myths of Happiness. Not all of these misconceptions are about the future, either. Thinking that if we had behaved differently in the past, we’d be more content now is equally damaging.
One weird thing to do that may actually work: Create a "new possible self."
The first step: Look back on the thing or things you so badly wanted but you didn’t get (e.g., "I wanted to ice skate in the Olympics!" or "I wanted to have a child"). Next, examine the specific reasons why that dream didn’t come to life: Which people and events influenced you; what big and small choices did you make? Once that painful task is done -- a task that most people avoid -- you’ll be better equipped to imagine a "new possible self." That is, you can start working towards who you want to be now, instead of comparing yourself or trying to catch up to the person you wanted to be then.
3. Give 'til it helps.
The gist: Give until you succeed, says Adam Grant, Ph.D., author of the upcoming book Give and Take, which explains how generosity encourages you to flourish, not fail -- even in the toughest environments.
One weird thing to do that may actually work: Buy mom some cashmere socks. Researchers at the Harvard Business School, the University of British Columbia and the University of Liège found that purchasing anything for someone else -- as long as it’s within the very affordable price range of $5 to $20 -- makes you happier than buying the same item for yourself.
4. Whisper in the dark.
The gist: The recession has left more Americans dissatisfied with their professional lives than ever before, says Lyubomirsky. Yes, this may be the result of lower pay and longer hours. But it might also be that we get used to the positive parts of our jobs and very quickly take them for granted.
One weird thing to do that may actually work: Create a work-specific gratitude list that keeps track of what you like -- and maybe even love -- about your job: the open attitude about bringing up new ideas, say, or a take-home laptop. If you’re one of those people who lists the things you're grateful for right before bed, please be aware that your spouse may be slightly alarmed should he hear you whispering in the dark: "All-you-can-drink gourmet hazelnut creamer. Kind boss. Free Post-its."
5. Give up on smiley-faced thinking.
The gist: Some people play to win. Others play not to lose, says the new book Focus: Use Different Ways of Seeing the World for Success and Influence. Discovering which type you are helps you motivate yourself, succeed faster and just plain feel better.
One weird thing to do that may actually work: Refuse to be optimistic (if you’re just not a positive person). In an experiment run by the two authors, Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., and E. Tory Higgins, Ph.D., "play-not-to-lose" people (who also tend to be pessimists) were given a word game. Halfway through the game, they were told that they were succeeding -- and promptly lost their motivation and stopped performing. On the other hand, when they were told they weren’t doing so well at the same halfway point, they got inspired to do better, solved more puzzles and had a more enjoyable time. All of which leads us back to the old happy-ism: Be yourself. Even the positively negative you.
Related On HuffPost: Happiness Tips From Experts
"Choose love over being right." -- Deepak Chopra, author of Spiritual Solutions: Answers to Life's Greatest Challenges
"Happiness is a choice you make. Every thought you have is a decision and in any given moment you can decide to be fearful or you can decide to be happy. Through gratitude, forgiveness and a commitment to peace you can choose to be happy." -- Gabrielle Bernstein, author of May Cause Miracles
"Accept yourself, and expect more from yourself." -- Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project
"Count your blessings ... pray every day ... honor God by taking care of your body and mind ... remove all negative people from your life ... learn to forgive yourself and others ... watch as many sun rises and sunsets as you can." -- Richard Simmons, American fitness personality and motivator
"The constant pursuit of happiness will lead to disappointment because happiness is not sustainable. BUT gratitude, acceptance, peace and loving are. Pursue those qualities and you will discover that you are happy a lot more often!!" -- Christine Hassler, author of 20-Something, 20-Everything: A Quarter-life Woman's Guide to Balance and Direction
"Trust yourself. If you don't learn to trust yourself, you will never be happy. You'll always be deferring your authority to someone or something outside of you." --Paul Selig, author of I Am the Word: A Guide to the Consciousness of Man's Self in a Transitioning Time
"Nothing has meaning besides the meaning we give it! It's not about 'positive thinking,' it's about 'powerful thinking' -- realize that in any given moment, you can choose to find an empowering meaning in every situation -- one that puts you in a space of love, hope and happiness." -- Marie Forleo, marketing and lifestyle expert, founder of Rich, Happy & Hot
"My one piece of advice to anyone who is on the pursuit of happiness is to know that you have a choice -- we can always choose to be happy. No, I am not talking about some saccharine, superficial ignoring of what is hurting attitude. In every situation we can decide how we regard the circumstances and our perspective then determines how we move forward or not." -- Marilyn Tam, author of The Happiness Choice: The Five Decisions That Will Take You From Where You Are to Where You Want to Be
"Happiness, or fulfillment, comes when we step outside ourselves and serve. Short term happiness comes from chasing “stuff” -- food, drugs, material items, realtionships, etc. But we all know that doesn’t last. Contribution, service, connection and love -- when we learn how to cultivate these things within ourselves and then give them away to others in whatever form inspires us most, we have stepped into a larger world. If you are seeking joy, realize that joy is service. No matter what the economy, government or other people are doing, there is always an opportunity to serve others. When we realize this and act on it, happiness is sure to follow." -- Mastin Kipp, CEO/Founder of @TheDailyLove.
"If we want happiness, I think we should follow classic Greek wisdom and live with areté. The word directly translates as 'excellence' or 'virtue,' but has a deeper meaning -- something closer to 'expressing the highest version of ourselves.' When we're showing up fully moment to moment, there's no room for regret/anxiety/disillusionment, just a whole lot of happiness. Here's to getting our areté on!" -- Brian Johnson, CEO of en*theos
"Let's see: When it comes to seeking happiness, the kiss of death is feeling entitled to happiness or believing that some other person is essential for you to be happy. People need to lower the bar in terms of what brings them happiness in life. Never tell yourself that you are an extraordinary person, as that will ensure your unhappiness. Rather, discover how liberating being ordinary is and begin your journey to happiness with your feet firmly planted on the ground." - Caroline Myss, author of Anatomy of the Spirit: The Seven Stages of Power and Healing
"Happiness comes through finding peace and freedom within ourselves and bringing happiness to others." -- Matthieu Ricard, author of Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life's Most Important Skill
"Realize that we are in charge of our inner emotions. We control how we feel from the inside out and we can decide how we respond to what goes on around us. Once we realize we are at the control desk of our inner world, then the responsibility is with us to steer our emotions. We can choose happiness -- wherever we are on the journey of life. Positive emotions breed increased health, wellbeing and success. The happier we allow ourselves to feel, the more we create positive outcomes. Happiness is a choice. That's the secret." -- Susie Pearl, author of Instructions for Happiness and Success
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