Five Steps to Lasting Joy

I want to live a happier life, but I just don't know where to start. Is there some kind of plan I can follow for integrating happiness tools into my everyday routine?
After many years of using the tried and true methods listed below, I have been able to relieve stress and live a happier-ever-after life. If you want to improve your relationships, increase your bank account, get a promotion or, most of all, if you just want to feel better day in and day out, try these tips and see what happens!

The key to feeling happier starts with committing to just that: feeling happier. Make a happiness decision right now, and then use the following tools to back that up with action rather than just waiting for good things to come your way. According to research by happiness researcher Dr. Sonja Lyubormirsky, changes in your circumstances (e.g., moving to a nicer apartment) made people happier for 6 weeks, but changes in activities (e.g., spending time with a new friend) made people happier for at least 12 weeks. Choosing to make changes in your activities rather than waiting for your circumstances to change* will bring longer lasting joy to your life.

If you really are ready to commit to your own happiness once and for all, here are five steps to help you implement "happiness science" in your daily routine and allow you to move into the upward spiral* of your life!

1. Empowerment

First, download this certificate designed by the Happiness Club to help you formalize your decision to be happy:

Happiness Decision PDF

Here is a video of Lionel Ketchian, the founder of the Happiness Club, talking about how he has sustained his happiness for more than 20 years through his 24-hour commitment to his decision to being happy no matter what.

Happiness Decision video

2. Positive mood

I've created a protocol sheet (opens as an Excel document) that can help you implement a daily happiness practice and be accountable to yourself.

Stress Relief Protocol doc

3. Resiliency

These three tools can help increase your happiness in the face of challenges:

I. Pollyanna's "Glad Game" -- Look at the Good in the Bad

Pollyanna, the main character of the 1913 best-selling novel by the same name, is best known for always finding the silver lining of life's gray clouds. No matter what, gray clouds come in and out of our lives, so it is important to learn how to note the good things that can come out of bad situations; this is one of the quickest ways to happiness when something negative occurs. Next time something "bad" happens, ask yourself "What can I be glad about?" For example, when I have a bad hair day, I am glad I even have hair. When I get an unexpected bill, I am glad I have the money to pay it. If I am away from my mom on her birthday, I am going to be glad about the rosebush in her garden, which my dad planted as my gift to her. In every gray cloud there is a silver lining if you look hard enough.

Image Credit:miss pupik via Flickr

II. Acceptance Model -- Learn from Negative Circumstances and Express Gratitude

My Acceptance Model diagram can help when you are experiencing a negative situation that is out of your control.

The Acceptance Model (opens as a Word document).

The five steps to the Acceptance Model are:

1. Decide to accept. Take a deep breath and choose wisely how to respond.

2. Accept. Feel acceptance in your body, breathing into what it feels like to totally accept that the situation is out of your control. Feel your emotional reaction neutralize. Notice how it allows you think rather than just feel.

3. Respond practically. Handle the situation with a cool, calm, and collected brain.

4. Ask your heart what you learned. We learn from bad things that happen in life, so take a moment to reflect on what this situation taught you. Put your hand on your heart, quiet your mind, ask the question, and wait for the answer.

5. Feel gratitude for the learning. Use the structure "I am grateful for ________ because it adds ________ to my life!"

As an example, let’s say a loved one is in the hospital and the situation is out of my control.

  1. I will decide to accept this. (deep breath)
  2. I will accept this. (emotional neutrality)
  3. I will handle this situation to the best of my ability. (practical response)
  4. I learned I need to be here for my loved one. (learning lesson)
  5. I am grateful I am able to be here for my loved one because it adds meaning and purpose in my life. (gratitude leads to happiness)

You can remember the steps of this Acceptance Model with the acronym DAPAG: Decide to accept, Accept, Practical response, Ask your heart “What did I learn?” and Gratitude for the learning.

III. Happiness Shield, a.k.a. KLOGZ (Kindness, Love, Optimism, Gratitude, and Zest)

Respond to negativity with kindness, love, optimism, gratitude, and zest/excitement: Fill in the blanks with positive qualities for the negative people in your life. For instance, “I admire _______," "I accept _______," "I'm optimistic about _______," "I'm grateful for _______," "I'm excited about _______."

4. Contentment

To dive into contentment, sit back, relax, and ask the deep inner questions, such as “Who am I?” and “What is my purpose?”

To get into your heart to find the answers, follow these steps:

(a) Take a deep breath, close your eyes, then take another deep breath.

(b) Drop your awareness into your heart center, focusing your attention in the area of your physical heart.

(c) Focus on creating an all-loving, all-nurturing, all-accepting, open environment there, as if you have a child at your chest or as if you are greeting someone you love as they return from a trip.

(d) Feel your heartbeat through your chest with the palm of your hand. When you can feel your heartbeat, ask the following questions:

1. What are the values of my happy self?

2. What are the beliefs of my happy self?

3. What are the emotions of my happy self?

4. What are the thoughts about my happy self?

5. What are the strengths of my happy self?

6. What are the capabilities of my happy self?

7. What are the unique talents of my happy self?

8. What are the goals of my happy self?

9. What are the motives of my happy self?

10. What are the desires of my happy self?

11. What is the purpose of my happy self?

Each question will take about 10 to 15 minutes to answer, so make sure you set aside this time to focus on your contentment. When you have the answers to these questions, introduce your happy self to your 10 closest relationships.

This exercise can help you feel a burst of contentment in your heart that will be sustainable!

5. Bliss

Our human experience (thoughts, emotions, and physical sensations) can inhibit feelings of peaceful bliss, so one way to find and feel this emotion quickly and easily is through the following meditation:

“Empty yourself of thoughts, empty yourself of emotions, empty yourself of physical sensations."

Repeat this line until you feel peaceful bliss. It may take between 30 seconds and 2 minutes to achieve this feeling.

***

The tools above provide the nuts and bolts of achieving sustainable happiness in your life. Engaging in all five steps every day will allow you to experience the most benefit from these practices. And if the personal benefits that result from taking on your own happiness aren't enough to convince you, remember that your family, colleagues, and community will also benefit. Research out of Harvard Medical School and the University of California, San Diego, says your happiness can influence up to three degrees of relationships in your social network. Wouldn't you love more happiness for your children, your parents, your grocery store clerk, your school attendant, and anyone else you're connected to? That happiness can start with you!

Please share your favorite resources for increasing and sustaining happiness in the comments below.

I love being a part of the Life Well Lived community and sharing skills in sustainable happiness. Let’s stay connected on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. To get a BlogHer Discount of 50% off my online courses, visit my online store at www.happinessmakeover.com and use the coupon code "blogher."

Dr. Aymee Coget, Sustainable Happiness Expert and founder of The Happiness Makeover™ Training Program, offers services and products on how to become happier at her website www.happinessmakeover.com. Ask questions and visit her on Facebook or Twitter (@draymee), or on her blog www.draymee.blogspot.com.

*Please visit our Life Well Lived Glossary for more information about terms used in this post.

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