10 Happiness Habits For You, Backed By Positive Psychology

Happiness habits are science-backed routines that can increase your positive emotions and well-being, allowing you to cope better with stress and adversities.

In positive psychology, the technical term for happiness is subjective well-being.

Happiness habits are science-backed behaviors that can increase our positive emotions and subjective well-being.

According to positive psychologists, these exercises or “interventions” have been shown to boost our happiness and resilience, help us to cope better with stress, and make us more resistant to anxiety and depression.

To give you a glimpse, three simple habits of happiness that work:

  • Breathe in the deep forest air.
  • Learn to forgive everyone and everything.
  • Look with wonder from behind a veil of fear.

There’s more; read on to reap the benefits of their decades of happiness research. Include these in your daily life.

Happiness Habits from Positive Psychology
Happiness Habits from Positive Psychology

Habits of Happiness Backed By Science

These habits can raise your base level of happiness, optimism, and positivity, and build your mental resilience to stress, anxiety, and depression.

Here are some great happiness habits to adopt in your lifestyle:

1. Practice Forest Therapy

Studies show that a 40-minute walk in the woods can boost your mood and your sense of health and vigor.

In Japan, they call it shinrin-yoku, and in Mandarin, they call it sēnlínyù. The English speakers call it “forest bathing” or “forest therapy” — in essence, an unrushed walk in the forest.

Researchers from Japan and South Korea have extensively studied the health benefits of spending time under the canopy of a living forest and built a robust body of scientific literature.

Shinrin-yoku is now finding recognition and usefulness throughout the rest of the world.

To practice this happiness habit, go to a forested area and take a leisurely walk while inhaling deeply the forest air.

In essence, you would breathe in the essential oils (phytoncides) emitted by the trees that get mixed into the forest air.

These essential oils from trees have many proven benefits. They can reduce your level of cortisol, a stress hormone. Over time, they can also lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

The phytoncides increase immunity by making more natural killer cells. It helps patients to recover faster from any surgery or illness. Current research is hinting that this might even prevent cancer.

Shinrin-yoku, or forest breathing, can improve your mood and increase your mental energy and performance.

2. Learn To Forgive Your Offenders

Everything and everyone can be forgiven.

You might want to react to that with a rebellion. We understand this may be the hardest of all the happiness habits we mention here.

Yes, there are acts and people you simply cannot and should not forgive. But in opposing the idea of “universal forgiveness,” you could be overlooking one thing.

Forgiving is for you, first and foremost.

Your forgiveness of your abuser is primarily intended for you, not for them. Forgiving means removing someone from your mind who spouted negative emotions like regret, anger, and revengefulness.

So, forgive the worst offenses and the vilest offenders, keeping in mind that you are doing so to stop hurting yourself.

Forgiving is not condoning their sins. Forgiveness doesn’t depend on whether that person deserves it or not.

Forgiveness doesn’t need to be conveyed. You do not have to tell them that you forgave them.

Buddha said, holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.

forgive instead of holding on to anger

Forgiveness is releasing the hot coal from your grasp and letting go of your negative feelings.

If it’s still hard, you can learn how to forgive someone, even those who keep hurting.

Forgiving is emptying a toxic part of your mind.

Studies have found that forgiving someone can lower the risk of a heart attack, improve blood pressure and cholesterol levels, reduce pain, anxiety, depression, and stress, and help us sleep better.

Says Karen Swartz, the director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, “There is an enormous physical burden of being hurt and disappointed.”

So, learn to forgive people, even those who do not ask for your forgiveness.

Lastly, it may be even harder to come by, but forgive yourself too.

3. Start The “3 Good Things” Practice

This is a simple, yet effective, science-backed strategy for increasing your happiness levels. Its effectiveness was proven by Kennon Sheldon and Sonja Lyubomirsky, and Martin Seligman et al., in 2005.

In our normal day-to-day life, we tend to focus more on the negative cues in our environment, as these possibly pose a threat to our survival. The “3 Good Things” forces us to start seeing the good things in our lives. In essence, is the good old practice of counting our blessings.

The process is simple. Sit down with a pen and paper, undisturbed, and write down three good things that happened in your day. Be sure to include how they made you feel, and why they happened.

It will be difficult at first, but you’ll get the right hang of it with practice. Here’s The Shortest Guide To 3 Good Things.

With this, we become better at noticing the good things around us, and our mind gets some free space to become more aware of the positive things in our life.

Whereas a negative brain sees problems, a brain re-conditioned to “look at the bright side of life” sees happier possibilities. As a result, you find yourself living happier, more fulfilling lives.

‘3 Good Things’ rewires our brain to be more aware of positivity.

4. Exercise At Least 5 Days A Week

Exercise is good for you, whatever your age, sex, or physical condition.

Apart from fighting back many diseases, exercise boosts your mood and happiness. Science has shown time and again that physically active people are happier.

Experts suggest we do 30 minutes of moderate exercise for at least 5 days a week to derive maximum benefits. However, researchers found that even 20 minutes of exercise can give a mood lift that can last for up to 12 hours.

  • Exercise helps us have better control of our bodies and the capabilities of our bodies, which then boosts our confidence in goal-achievement. Remember to make the workout fun.
  • Exercise distracts us from negative thinking patterns, such as overthinking and worrying, and cuts down our stress.
  • When you exercise with a friend or a group, it increases your social relatedness and hikes your happiness.

A study revealed this surprising fact: exercise helps the body remove toxic substances that are linked to stress-related depression. Dr. Jorge Ruas, who led the study, says:

Well-trained muscle produces an enzyme that purges the body of harmful substances.

John Ratey, the world’s most known exercise researcher, says:

Exercise generates the release of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the brain. People’s mood significantly increased after exercise.

5. Have More Experiences of Awe

Awe is a difficult sensation to describe. We may equal awe to a feeling of mild fear mixed with wide-eyed wonder.

You get a sense of awe when you come across something that’s exceptionally vast and incredibly powerful.

Awe can exhilarate us while also making us feel a little weak in the knees. So, in a way, awe is a little less joyful than pure wonder. In any case, it is light-years away from the irritatingly ubiquitous urban jargon ‘awesome.’

Awe is a combination of fear, admiration, delight, and surprise.

Psychologists Paul Piff, Pia Dietze, and Dacher Keltner tell us how to find awe in their paper Awe, the Small Self, and Prosocial Behavior:

Awe arises in evanescent experiences. Looking up at the starry expanse of the night sky. Gazing out across the blue vastness of the ocean. Feeling amazed at the birth and development of a child. Protesting at a political rally or watching a favorite sports team live. Many of the experiences people cherish most are triggers of the emotion we focused on here—awe.

The first-ever book on awe came from Paul Pearsall, a psychiatry professor, and clinical neuropsychologist: Awe: The Delights and Dangers of Our Eleventh Emotion.

Unfortunately, it also turned out to be his last book before he passed away in 2007.

Pearsall saw awe as the 11th emotion, beyond the scientifically accepted ten emotions of love, fear, sadness, pride, embarrassment, curiosity, enjoyment, despair, guilt, and anger.

Pearsall told us, if we experience and interpret awe correctly, it can save us from a state of languishing and launch us into a much-needed state of flourishing.

So, you can make your personal journey from languishing to flourishing by consciously engaging and reflecting on the world outside yourself, and by being in awe of the ordinary things around you. Find out more about The Little-Known Power of Awe.

Pearsall wrote,

If we go beyond a kind of ignorant distant voyeurism through which we gawk at life rather than fully engage with it and put in the effort to try to understand a little more about life’s meaning, awe becomes less a feeling of being high and more a feeling of deep immersion in any and all of life’s processes, including health, illness, love, and even death.

Watch Felix Baumgartner jump from a helium balloon floating 39 km (ca. 24 miles) above the earth to set a world record for the highest skydive, and feel awe:

Jumping From Space! - Red Bull Space Dive - BBC

Habits of Happiness
Infographic: Happiness Habits

6. Sleep Well, Sleep Full.

According to the National Sleep Foundation, Mayo Clinic, and CDC, the recommended amount of sleep for adults is 7-9 hours per night on a regular basis for optimal health.

Now, what research tells us is that proper sleep can have a major impact on our life-satisfaction and well-being.

Studies have shown that people who get adequate quality sleep are more likely to rate their lives as happier and more satisfied. Good sleep quality can also drastically increase happiness and should be promoted as a public health value.

On the other hand, poor or inadequate sleep can cause irritability, stress, and negative emotions such as anger, sadness, and mental exhaustion, which can lead to emotional disorders, depression, and anxiety.

Want to know how to improve your sleep habits? Here’s our well-researched post on sleep science hacks here: Six Scientific Sleep Hacks.

Better sleep also improves memory and creativity, reduces inflammation and stress, and boosts brain functioning.

7. Meditate Ritually

Meditation is the key to peace of mind.

Physical activity increases physical strength and immunity, but meditation restores the brain, enhances memory, and increases empathy. Make meditation a daily ritual for increased happiness.

Yoga can also bring inner peace and make you calmer. Yoga and meditation are practiced for eons in hundreds of forms. Need reasons to start practicing meditation and yoga? Here they are:

  • Heals your mind and reduces stress and anxiety
  • Increases focus
  • Boost memory and brain power
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • It makes you better at dealing with stressful conditions
  • Regular meditation and yoga make you emotionally strong
  • Happiness increases

Check out this beginner-level guide to mindfulness meditation: Mindfulness In 7 Steps.

8. Laugh More Often

A person who can’t laugh at himself, can’t make others laugh too.

Look for ways to laugh more. There are several health benefits of laughing:

  • Laughing helps in better oxygenation of the blood
  • It reduces stress hormones
  • Laughing releases endorphins – your body’s feel-good chemicals
  • Brings a positive state of mind
  • A smiling face looks more attractive
  • Good for skin health and reduces dark circles
  • Laughter enhances the healing process

And here are a few ways to laugh more:

  • Spend more time with your lovable
  • Make friends with someone who has a good sense of humor
  • Watch comedy shows and laughter gags
  • Follow funny people on social media
  • Spend time with kids
  • Play fun games

Find out how you can improve your health and happiness through humor.

9. Accept And Love Yourself

The worst part of this life is that we don’t accept ourselves. Nobody knows you better than you, my friend. It is possible that you may have failed to complete your goals, but it doesn’t mean you should blame yourself for that for the rest of your life.

When you accept yourself, you develop self-confidence. When you develop self-confidence, you start valuing yourself and your role in the world.

Acceptance and Commitment Therapy teaches us to be psychologically flexible. It helps us win the inner battle that is based on our past experiences.

10. Embrace Change & Stay Optimistic

Change is the universal rule of nature. So, if accept the changes happening around you, you open yourself to learning new life skills.

Of course, embracing change comes with fear and uncertainty. But you don’t have to know the whole path where change will take you. You just need to take one step at a time to balance out the fear and uncertainty.

Learn how you can start facing your fears head-on.

Let your overall tone of life be one of optimism. Don’t waste time blaming anyone – yourself, other people, or circumstances. Accept what is, and move on.

Father of Modern Positive Psychology, Martin Seligman lays out some strategies to override your inner pessimist:

  • challenge your negative thought patterns,
  • practice mindfulness,
  • accept setbacks, and
  • try to find out what could be alternative explanations for seemingly bad events.

Actually, no one has it all figured out, and there is much to hope for positively in life from this point on. Hope is the belief that the future will be better and you have the ability to make it better.

Believe in yourself, love yourself, accept the changes, work hard, and move on from toxic relationships.

Final Words

A habit is an act you do without paying much attention. A ritual is just the opposite — it needs intentional focus. So, start with a happiness ritual, and keep at it patiently so that it turns into a happiness habit.

Of all these five happiness rituals, that become happiness habits with time, we suggest you surrender to awe first and feel how it changes you.

To find awe, look at some old pictures from your parent’s or grandparent’s time. Go watch a flower sway in the spring breeze, or peer into the vast expanse of a late evening sky.

Finally, do a bit of what you love to do every day to make yourself and others happier.

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Author Bio: Researched and reviewed by Dr. Sandip Roy. He writes on mental well-being, positive psychology, narcissism, and Stoic philosophy.

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