😊 5 Positive Activities to Improve Happiness and Success
Millions of people throughout the world, in all walks of life, aspire to greater happiness and success in their lives. Are you one of them?
In October 2022, I posted a blog on Psychology Today, 30 Tips for Greater Happiness, that earned over 62,000 hits during the first week. Clearly, many of us want to experience more moments of happiness and hope to learn the “secret” ingredients to bring more of it into our lives.
When we’re confronted by life’s challenges, it can be hard to experience a sense of happiness, compassion, and balance. Yet according to experts who study wellbeing, it’s possible to seek happiness even during difficult times.
What are the ingredients for happiness?
Are these ingredients so simple that sometimes we just don’t notice them?
And this may surprise you — Research shows that happiness is not simply an outcome of success, but actually is an ingredient to create success in life (Lyubomirsky, 20213; Lyubomirsky, King & Diener, 2005).
So, what is happiness? The American Psychological Association defines happiness as feelings of satisfaction, joy, and wellbeing (APA, 2022). Harvard University positive psychologist Tal Ben Shahar, PhD, writes that happiness is “the overall experience of pleasure and meaning” (2007). And happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, (2008) explains that experiencing life as worthwhile and meaningful is an important aspect of happiness.
If happiness is not just a feel-good experience, how can we take charge of our happiness?
The factors that contribute to building happiness and wellbeing have been studied extensively by positive psychologists. According to Dr. Lyubomirsky and her colleague Kristin Layous, PhD, to experience greater happiness we don’t need to rely on unsubstantiated advice from self-help books or pop magazines. Mounting evidence from controlled, randomized studies shows “that relatively simple intentional changes in one’s thoughts and behaviors can precipitate meaningful increases in happiness” (2013).
💭 Positive Intentional Activities
A study by Lyubomirsky, Sheldon, and Schkade (2005)looked at 51 researched interventions and found that people who practiced positive intentional activities became significantly happier. Five activities that increase happiness include (Lyubomirsky, 2013; Lama & Tutu, 2016; Seligman, et al, 2005; Fredrickson, Cohn, Coffey, Pek & Finkel, 2008):
- Reframing or visualizing an experience more positively
- Choosing to be generous and kind
- Practicing and experiencing gratitude
- Cultivating strengths
The acronym PERMA can help us further clarify the factors that build happiness. The components of the PERMA model are:
- P – Positive Emotions
- E – Engagement/Flow
- R – Relationships
- M – Meaning/Purpose
- A – Accomplishments/Achievements
According to Martin Seligman, Ph.D., happiness and wellbeing are high PERMA, while languishing (feelings of dissatisfaction, blah, stagnation) is low PERMA (Seligman, 2012; Ackerman, 2018). Even when life serves up tough stuff, we typically have opportunities to experience components of PERMA, inviting more moments of happiness and wellbeing into our lives. Many happiness ingredients are not one-and-done’s — but rather the products of ongoing actions and pursuits. Moment by moment choices can improve our sense of well-being.
Reframing and visualizing life’s challenges with greater acceptance can be a key to unlocking positive emotions and revealing greater happiness:
- Accepting that while change is inevitable and mostly beyond my realm of control, I can make choices about how I view those changes.
- Learning to accept the positives in life along with the challenges and limitations.
- Noticing the moments of joy even during tough times.
- Accepting that I’m not perfect, others are not perfect, and the world is not perfect.
- Accepting that much of life is probably lived in the ambiguity of the grey zone — middle ground — rather than in either-or.
- Accepting that personal growth and development is an ongoing process, not a destination. And that when I fail, fall down, or don’t meet expectations, I can get back up and try again.
Happiness thrives on living with intention. The A in PERMA is about achievement, setting intentions for yourself and aiming toward clear, specific, attainable goals. Then taking actions, one manageable chunk at a time, to bring your goals and positive habits to reality.
Consider your own life. How can you take charge of your own happiness? How can you help generate more happiness opportunities to inspire those around you to choose greater happiness in their own lives?
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. No content is a substitute for consulting with a qualified mental health or healthcare professional.
© 2023 Ilene Berns-Zare, LLC, All Rights Reserved
An earlier version of this article was published at Psychology Today.
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- Ackerman, C.E. (2018). What is flourishing in positive psychology?
- APA Dictionary of Psychology (2022).
- Ben-Shahar, T. (2007). Happier: Learn the secrets to daily joy and lasting fulfillment (Vol. 1). New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Lyubomirsky, S., & Layous, K. (2013). How do simple positive activities increase well-being? Current directions in psychological science, 22(1), 57-62.
- Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological bulletin, 131(6), 803.
- Lyubomirsky, S. (2008). The how of happiness: A new approach to getting the life you want. New York, NY: The Penguin Press.
- Seligman, M. E. (2012). Flourish: A visionary new understanding of happiness and well-being. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster.
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Ilene Berns-Zare, PsyD, PCC, CEC, is an Executive and Personal Coach and Speaker. Ilene helps people live their best personal and professional lives by bringing mind, body, and spirit into flow with strengths, purpose, and potential. She inspires clients to find fresh perspectives and access their full potential as creative, resourceful, whole persons. Find Ilene online, set up a free discovery coaching consultation, and access free resources at https://ibzcoaching.com/.
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