You Can AIM for Lifetime Happiness

girl walking on fence with balloons

Just AIM for Happiness

This is simple, easy, and surprisingly effective. There are just three steps in this method to help you achieve happiness and wellbeing, as suggested by two of the most admired and regarded positive psychologists, Ed Diener and Robert Biswas-Diener. The AIM Model of Happiness is:

  • Attention: Pay close attention to the good things that happens to you.
  • Interpretation: Try to interpret the experiences in positive light. Look for the positive whenever you can.
  • Memory: Peg the positive events to your memory. Paint positive mental pictures of your experiences.

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Take AIM on Happiness

[By Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener]

There’s more to this pleasant feeling than you think! 

A few years ago a friend and colleague of mine – Sonja Lyubomirsky – wrote a book about the science of well-being called The How of Happiness. In this book Sonja reviewed much of the empirical evidence for various ways that a person might achieve happiness: cultivate a habit of gratitude, plug in spiritually, let go of sour feelings through forgiveness. The How of Happiness was timely and important in that it addressed what is, for many folks, the single most pressing question about happiness, “How can I get some more of it?”

There’s more to this pleasant feeling than you think. - Robert Biswas-Diener Click To Tweet

What many people fail to realize, where their own emotional good life is concerned, is that there is an equally crucial question: when is happiness? Many of us simply assume that happiness is an emotion we experience in the present and it therefore makes sense to find pleasant and rewarding tasks in which to engage. There is, however, more to the story….. there is a psychological “happiness timeline” during which happiness is constructed, much in the same way your story of your wedding day or trip to Paris is constructed.

In a book published the same year as Lyubomirsky’s, my father – Ed Diener – and I introduced readers to the “AIM” model of happiness. In Happiness: Unlocking The Mysteries of Psychological Wealth, we separate into three distinct components: attention, interpretation, and memory.

  • A- Attention: It turns out that what you pay attention to in the first place is what your mind becomes filled with! This is why a daily habit of gratitude can be helpful; it shifts your focus to the ways in which the world is good and in which you are fortunate. This is not a matter of naively overlooking the bad, of course. Rather, it is a matter of NOT overlooking the small good daily events.
  • I- Interpretation: This is classic cognitive psychology. Are you the type of person who feels appreciative when your boyfriend brings you flowers or are you the type to immediately suspect him of wrongdoing? We all have thinking habits and interpreting the events of daily life is one of these. To improve your happiness try consciously considering alternative explanations before jumping to an emotional conclusion.
  • M- Memory: Happiness does not just exist in the present but also can be drawn from past events. Try savoring past successes, enjoyable experiences and other golden memories by making a habit out of looking at memorabilia or trading stories with a spouse or friends. You will be surprised to find that you can draw actual happiness– right now– from events that have taken place long ago. Rather than looking for increased happiness in a better future you can mine your past experiences to pay out happiness dividends!

This week, set a challenge for yourself to undertake at least one of these three approaches to happiness.

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Originally published at ServingSuccess on Nov 5, 2011. Written by Dr. Robert Biswas-Diener.