March 20th marked the International day of happiness, but people around the world will be practicing happiness exercises all week. Happiness doesn’t just make you feel good, it also increases longevity, leads to higher income, and makes you more creative. Check out this empirical study on the effects of happiness. To help you celebrate both in class and on your own, here are four research-backed practices proven to make you happier.
1) Gratitude for Happiness
Gratitude has been shown to be one of the most effective ways of promoting happiness. There are many ways to express gratitude, from prayer to painting, but we recommend writing gratitude letters.
With your students, colleagues, friends, or even just by yourself, write letters to people who impact your lives in small ways every day, especially if you feel that they don’t often get the appreciation they deserve. In the letter, explain why you are grateful for them.
Extra credit for including a drawing! And of course, you should personally deliver the letter to the person you are writing about. Expressing gratitude in this way is an incredibly powerful tool to spread happiness. Here are some other idea to practice gratitude.
2) Practice Random Acts of Kindness
We’re all familiar with this one, but I’ve always been surprised that the reasons behind this maxim are never communicated. Why isn’t it “practice random acts of kindness. It will make you happy.”? The other problem is that the word “random” removes a lot of the intentionality. Maybe the saying should really go, “practice intentional acts of kindness. It will make you happy.”
For this exercise, have each student make a list of a few people that they think could benefit from an act of kindness. Then, instruct them to think of what act they think could most benefit that person. The act should be something simple enough that they will be able to complete it before the end of the day. Again, you can do this on your own or with a group of adults.
3) Happiness Journaling
Just as expressing gratitude to another person can make both of you happier, writing about your own experiences with happiness in a journal can make you happier as well.
In fact, reflecting on the things that make us happier is a proven technique for increasing happiness. It’s also a great way to savor the things that we enjoy about life that we’ve already experienced and look forward to experiencing them again. For more about savoring, check out our blog exclusively about it.
Another effective and research-backed technique for increasing happiness is simply creating a list of things that make you happy. The act of creating the list will surely bring about positive feelings and then it can be referred to later in moments when you want to feel happier.