Until recently, I had no idea that you could fairly easily teach your brain to be happier. As most of us could have guessed, researchers have found that positivity (having a positive outlook) makes us happier. I didn’t know that positivity is also proven to make people more successful.
Luckily for us, there are simple, proven ways researchers have found for us (even pessimists) to be happier by training our brains to think more positively.
Let’s start with a quick exercise . . .
Do one quick scan of the room you’re in and look at everything that’s red. When you’re done, scroll down to continue reading…
What did you see that was blue?
Perhaps you don’t remember the blue things that well. Most people don’t.
It’s because we see what we look for.
Ever notice how your pessimistic friends always notice what’s wrong and what will be difficult? On the other hand, your optimistic friends – even when they’re in the same situation as a pessimist — see opportunities?
There are enormous opportunities when we understand that we find what we look for.
Do you want to be annoyed by the little thing someone does or see the positive in their effort? Do you want to be depressed at the problems in the world or inspired by the heroes tackling them and the acts of kindness that are happening all around us?
Research shows that we’re happier and more open to possibilities when we see the positive (see research notes at end of this article – it’s amazing how much positivity, having a more positive outlook, can impact our lives).
Luckily for us, we’re not locked into our current way of viewing the world. If we want, we can actually influence how we see things to see more positive.
Here are three steps we can take that, among other benefits, teaches our brains to start looking for the positive more often. Over time, our brains will learn to look for the positive and start looking for the positive without our prodding. By the way, the research backing up these three suggestions is summarized at the end of the article.
You know the person you see doing a great job busing tables? The admin who can juggle way more than seems humanly possible? The store clerk who has a great attitude? Tell them. You know the kid who is exceptionally well behaved? Tell her parents. In general there are too few compliments going around. Complimenting is an easy way for you to make someone’s day (and help shape how you view the world).
One simple way to ensure you give at least on compliment a day — When you open your inbox for the first time of the day, write a short email or text (one paragraph max) praising someone.
- Keep a gratitude journal.
Every night, write down three things for which you’re grateful. This can be as easy as sending a nightly email to yourself.
- Perform a daily act of kindness.
As you perform random acts of kindness you start noticing opportunities to be kind, which feeds into positivity. Acts of kindness can range from calling a friend, to writing a card, to holding open the door. Here are 102 Random Acts of Kindness to get you started.
Training your brain for positivity takes time, but what an opportunity.
And, how awesome that helping others can have such a great benefit to ourselves.
If you’re interested, here is some of the research related to positivity:
Benefit of positive thinking: In an interview with the Harvard Business Review, Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, highlights studies showing how positivity allows us to perform better. The studies showed that MDs who are put in a positive mood before meeting with patients diagnose problems 50% faster with 3 times more intellectual flexibility, test takers perform better when they’re positive instead of negative and even 4-year-olds asked to put blocks together will be 50% faster if they are slightly primed to be positive compared to neutral 4-year-olds.
Note: I got the idea for the exercise to look around the room from a post by Dave Frees at Success Technologies.
If you enjoyed this content about positivity, please consider clicking this link and liking my Facebook page. You’ll be helping me get my book published (Publishers said I need more Facebook fans). And, you’ll also make yourself happier by doing something nice : – ) Thank you!
If you’re interested in further reading, here are 46 ways to be happier.