Week 1: Keep a Daily Diary
Can you easily identify the daily activities, interactions and occurrences that make you happiest? Keeping a daily diary will help you identify the situations and people that make you happiest. Take note of these occurrences, which can be as small as listening to music while working, talking to a good friend, or spending time with your family - and slowly begin to increase the frequency of those tasks which make you happiest.
This step is about self-awareness and thinking critically about your daily reactions and emotions. Only by understanding why we feel the way we do can we expect to make lasting meaningful change.
Week 2: Fake It Till You Make It
This week, you are going to put a smile on your face even if you're feeling blue, grumpy or burdened. A response called facial feedback indicates that when you smile, you send a signal to your brain that says, "I am happy." Additionally, if you're smiling, you're likely to seem more approachable and happy to others - and people are more likely to smile back. We experience positive emotions more frequently than negative ones, but negative emotions are unfortunately stronger.
It's important to remember that you aren't attempting to eliminate all your negative emotions - such a task would overwhelm anyone. Instead, try to increase the instances of positive emotions (remember your daily dairy!).
Week 3: Create a Diversion
When you find yourself drowning in a sea of negative thoughts - "I'm overweight," "I'm unlikeable," "Why am I even at this party?" - you need to find a strategy to stop ruminating. This applies to social situations and when you are spending time alone. It may seem like an overwhelming task to divert your attention from issues swirling in your own mind - but all you need are 1 or 2 escape mechanisms.
If alone, put on your favorite song and sing along or go for a long walk. When in a social setting, try to concentrate on what others are saying in the conversation rather than what's going on in your own mind.
Week 4: Random Acts of Kindness
During the fourth week of your happiness action plan, you are going to commit 1 random act of kindness a day. By feeding a stranger's parking meter, sending someone a thank you note, or paying someone a compliment, you give yourself a burst of positive emotion. By practicing small acts of kindness, you will perceive yourself and others more positively. You'll also appreciate your good fortune in comparison. Give yourself a self-worth, self-esteem boost by helping others.
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