For years, the area of psychology focused on treating neurosis and depression. It wasn't until more recent times the field starting researching and concentrating on happiness.
Although there isn't a perfect formula that guarantees happiness, there are many things we can do to increase our happiness levels. Following is a list that you can incorporate into your own life to facilitate more happiness, compassion and joy.
• Doing what you love is important in cultivating happiness. So often we get caught up in the race for making money or completing daily tasks that we forget what really makes us feel alive and exhilarated. Take time to paint, dance, play or whatever it is that makes you feel the most like your true self. This joy will spill over into other areas of your life.
• Having a gratitude journal and writing in it regularly is a simple way to increase happiness. Taking five minutes to write down all the things that you are grateful for or brought you happiness during the day is a great way to notice all the good things in your life. By simply focusing on the positive, you will see more of it and create more space in your life for happiness.
• Service is another great way to maximize happiness. People who volunteer at food banks, schools, or animal shelters not only get a sense of purpose, but they also tend to have a more optimistic outlook on life. If you don't have time to volunteer, try doing something simple for a neighbor or friend.
• Changing negative thought patterns takes effort but will make a huge difference in happiness levels. Wayne Dyer wrote a book called, “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Life.” It discusses how important our thoughts are in creating our choices and ultimately our lives. Listen to the words in your head and change them to empower you toward happiness and compassion for yourself and others.
• Do something new. Show yourself you are still brave. Go on a new adventure, walk a different route to the office, or push yourself to do something you have always wanted to do but never found the time. A small change in our day can bring more appreciation for our routine as well as raise our overall level of consciousness.
• Live in the present moment. Depression is often the result of focusing on the past and wishing it different. Anxiety is often the result of thinking about a future that might never happen. By connecting with what is going on right now we can let go of unnecessary negative emotions and become more positive. Sometimes taking a deep breath is all that is needed to reconnect with the present moment and remind ourselves that happiness is a choice we have decided to make.
Melissa Gibson Behunin is a professor of psychology and family studies at Arizona Western College. She can be reached at Melissa.Behunin@azwestern.edu.