A bright outlook is linked to everything from sharper focus to healthier longevity. Our experts share easy ways feel more positivity and spark a joyful upward spiral!
Feel Better Fast:
Start your day this way.
Just 3 minutes of negative news in the morning increases your chances of having a bad day by 27 percent, reveals happiness researcher Michelle Gielan. “Reading a positive story about solutions to problems, on the other hand, not only boosts your mood, it improves problem-solving by 20 percent. That’s because thinking about possibilities helps you see solutions.” That doesn’t mean avoiding news altogether: “Instead of checking your phone first thing, catch up later in the day, after you’ve bolstered your ‘positivity resources’ with uplifting stories —it’s like an inoculation against negativity.”
Try mini journaling.
While exploring difficult emotions in-depth helps you problem-solve, it’s actually better to be brief when journaling about pleasurable experiences. That allows happy memories to linger in the emotional part of your brain, instead of triggering the analytical region, explains expert Tal Ben-Shahar, PhD. In other words, you don’t want to overthink positive emotions. That’s why writing just one or two sentences about what’s bringing you joy today is so powerful. “Instead of dissecting it, this lets you reflect on it.”
Window-shop a ‘trip’.
Though the pandemic has upended many travel plans, that doesn’t mean you can’t “window shop” for a future itinerary. After all, so much about positive thinking is anticipatory. “In our study, 97 percent of respondents said planning a trip made them happier, while 71 percent reported greater levels of energy when they had a trip planned in the next six months,” reveals Gielan. No need to even book it — just picturing a fantasy trip dials up happiness fast to feel more positivity.
Ditch ‘positivity guilt’.
“During the pandemic, it can feel like it’s not good to have a positive mindset — that it makes us out of touch with reality,” says Gielan. “When you feel bad about feeling good, tell yourself, I know the world is going through a huge challenge, but my family and I are okay right now — it’s all right to recognize that.” Indeed, an upbeat mindset better prepares you to help others. “The best way to contribute to the world is to charge your happiness battery, because research shows you’re more effective when thinking positively.”
A landmark Harvard study that followed folks for an incredible 75 years found the number one predictor of happiness is relationships, says Ben-Shahar. “It doesn’t matter if they’re romantic or friendships, the best predictor of well-being is the connections you make. Even if it’s just on a Zoom call, the key is to let yourself go deeper.”
Let yourself feel it ALL.
It’s a misconception that we should be happy all the time. “Being angry, for example, can help you be persuasive in an argument, while worrying about an outcome can help you focus on what you can control,” notes expert Marc A. Brackett, PhD. “The goal isn’t always to feel positive — it’s to manage emotions.” When you give yourself permission to feel everything, you’ll find a balance between the painful feelings you can learn from and ones that’ll lead you forward with more positivity.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.