Here's an interesting article I came across in the news today. A study by a group of scientists from the University of California, Riverside, say that a person's happiness can improve by doing the following things:
1. Be grateful
2. Be optimistic
3. Count your blessings
4. Use your strengths
5. Commit acts of kindness
A lot of these practices include visualization and writing them down. For example, study participants were asked to write gratitude letters to people who helped them in one way or another --- and making it a habit. Studies show that even if the letter was not sent, the participants feel better afterwards.
With visualization, participants were asked to think of their ideal future: how it looks like, who are they with, what are they doing --- then write it all down. After a few weeks of doing this, the subjects also say that they feel better. This is a practice of optimistic thinking.
Proven without the study
Personally, I believe that even without this study, the things that they listed really does make one happy. There are just times when we forget. Often, it's easier to wallow in what makes us miserable than remember what makes us happy.
Years ago, I would write down my blessings in a journal. I wasn't religious about it, writing them only when I feel like doing so, or worse, when I remember (which wasn't very often), to the point that I never really did it anymore. However, when I found that journal again and browsed through it all (I'm thankful that I'm such a pack rat and that I have such nice handwriting), I'm glad that I did. I've moved to blogging but true to form, I haven't been able to keep it up to date.
A friend suggested that I join the site Gratitude Log. It's like Twitter, only you are encouraged to post things that you are thankful and grateful for. It's a great idea because your posts can be as short as 140 characters, or longer if you wish. People can show their appreciation by giving gifts, and you can do the same back. The site is integrated with Twitter so what you post can show up in your Twitter feed.
Best of all, if you miss a day or two of posting, you'll be reminded with an email. I just received one (yeah, I'm a slacker at posting things I'm thankful for) and it wasn't a generic "Dear User, you forgot to post" reminder, but a rather cheerful and chatty letter from the site's creator, Mike Reining.
Make it a habit
The study also says that the results are always optimized if these practices were done habitually. Doing them once is fine, doing them repeatedly makes you feel better in the long run.
One habit I had from childhood was to hold conversations with God before drifting off to sleep. I start off with saying the things I'm grateful for, then move on to my wishes, then to the rants. Granted, the ranting part was much longer, but it was a good way to let off steam, and I feel better.
What makes you feel happier?