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Last Updated on October 29, 2018

10 Scientifically Proven Ways To Stay Happy All The Time

10 Scientifically Proven Ways To Stay Happy All The Time

How do you stay happy all the time? Is it possible and is there any proof that these ways can work? In this post I want to show you 10 ways that are scientifically proven. If this does not convince you, then I do not know what will!

1. Exercise more

Lots of studies on this one. Exercising releases the good mood endorphins so that you are always in a better mood after a workout or simply a walk to the supermarket. I have never met a person in a bad mood after a workout! But where is the scientific evidence?

The University of Toronto did a great job on this and analyzed no less than 25 research studies.[1] The conclusion was that physical activity can and does help to keep depression at bay.

The best study I know is where three groups of depressed people are put on a regime of anti-depressants, exercise or a combination of the two. No surprise to know that all three groups were happier, but did it last? Six months later, the group who had been treated with exercise only, had a very low relapse rate of 9%. The other two groups had relapsed and how! Their rates were ranging from 38% to 31%, so about a third of them were now depressed again.

2. Positive thinking affects your performance

 “Happiness is the precursor to success.” – Shawn Achor

Sounds like pie in the sky? Well, according to Shawn Achor, if he knows everything about what factors are impinging on your happiness such as stressors, hassles, successes, economic circumstances, relationships and so on, then he can only predict 10% of your long term happiness. The remaining 90% is how you process the world around you. If happiness is on the other side of success, it is unlikely you will get there as you continually strive to get better grades, higher salaries and so on.

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Positive thinking raises energy levels, creativity and productivity by as much as 30%. The secret is to use positive thinking now, rather than when you are rich and famous. Watch the video below for a very entertaining outline of this.

3. Trash your negative thoughts

Some people are overwhelmed by their negative thoughts and they have real problems in getting rid of them. A University of Madrid study found that by actually writing these thoughts down on a piece of paper and then destroying them was effective.[2] They recommended that you either tear them up, throw them in the trash or burn them!

The fact of discarding them physically does help in reducing their toxic effects. Psychologists suggest doing this on a regular basis.

4. Treasure your experiences more than your possessions

Thomas Gilovich, a psychologist at Cornell University has done quite a lot of research as to why it is better to treasure memorable and pleasant experiences rather than the material things we buy. There are many reasons for this as outlined in his study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.[3] Comparing possessions and looking at better objects after purchase can be demoralizing and ruin the initial pleasure we got when purchasing and taking possession of that new car, TV or computer.

But treasuring experiences is not nearly as destructive. They belong to us, they are special and they provide longer lasting happiness. We should always aim to visit a new place or just go trekking. Local authorities should be able to provide the facilities in towns and cities so that people may experience more enjoyable and pleasurable activities, rather than building more shopping malls.

5. Write down why you are grateful

Feeling and thinking about the things you are grateful for as you wake up is a great way to build more happiness.

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Research on our brain shows that we always tend to focus on the negative things of life like those worries, tragedies, failures, and discontent. Negativity is the default position.

“We’ve got this negativity bias that’s a kind of bug in the stone-age brain in the 21st century,” – Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist.

This is why we need to focus on the good and more especially, we need to hone in on what we should be grateful for. There are various ways you can do this. Here are some ideas:

  • When you wake up, remind yourself mentally of three things that you can be grateful for.
  • Some people prefer to write down three things and keep the list to remind themselves every now and again.
  • Use Twitter or Facebook if you feel inclined. Useful to remind your followers that this does actually work.
  • Express gratitude by phoning your significant other or by treating a colleague to coffee for their help with a project or task.
  • Try giving back by helping a person or by volunteering for a few hours a week.

But is there any scientific proof that this actually works? Check out this link to see just some of the numerous studies on gratitude.[4]

6. Practice mindfulness

What does mindfulness mean? It just means that you concentrate and pay full attention to the present moment and accept it in a non-judgmental way. This is now becoming a popular trend in psychology and medicine. When done regularly it can boost mood, reduce stress levels, and lead to a better quality of life.

Focus on the present moment means that you can savor touch, smell and other physical sensations but also happy feelings. Concentrate on the joy they are giving you. It is really effective in forgetting about the past and not fretting about future, fearful scenarios.

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But can this really make us happier and what is the scientific evidence? Watch the video where Harvard researcher Matt Killingsworth explains that we are happier when we are mindful of the moment and the least happy when the mind is wandering all over the place. He has come to this conclusion after studying 15,000 people!

7. Don’t forget your beauty sleep

When you do not get enough sleep, your negativity takes over big time. This was the conclusion researchers came to after several experiments. One of these is particularly interesting. The researchers homed in on the hippocampus which is the part of the brain which processes our positive thoughts. When we are sleep deprived, this function starts to creak and negative thoughts muscle in much more than before.

To illustrate this, researchers asked sleep deprived students to remember a list of words. They were getting a high score on all the negative words (81%) but when it came to the positive ones or neutral ones, they were only getting about 31% of these right. Dr.Robert Stickgold has conducted similar experiments on sleep and memory.[5] Now you know why people are always in a bad mood when they do not get enough sleep.

8. Dedicate a little time to helping others

People buy bigger houses, cars and phones but it does not seem to increase their overall happiness in the long term, although it might cause a brief spike in happiness. That is short lived. Researchers have found that when we dedicate a little time or money to helping others, this has a significant effect on our own happiness.[6]

9. Focus on the life you want to live

“The heart goes where the head takes it, and neither cares much about the whereabouts of the feet.”- Dr. Daniel Gilbert.

We often talk about winning the lottery and where we would go and above all what we would buy. We might even talk about giving to charity. But we never or rarely talk about what our state of mind would be and how much happier and carefree we would be. This is why focusing on priorities to get the life you want to live is so important.

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After all, there is more to life than _______ (fill in the blanks yourself).

10. Focus on your strengths

Are you curious, open-minded or brave? How are you using these strengths to improve your life and that of others? These are key questions but people who exploit their strengths rather than dwelling on their weaknesses are generally much happier.[7]

Being able to realize our full potential through exploiting our strengths is one of the best ways of finding happiness and helping to make the world a better place.

Final thoughts

All these 10 ways are scientifically proven to help you feel happy. If you think your life is full of responsibilities and you’re too late to live a different life, think again! It’s really never too late to live a happier and more fulfilling life:

How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

Featured photo credit: Portrait of a happy liitle girl close-up via shutterstock.com

Reference

[1]Psychology Today: 25 Studies Confirm: Exercise Prevents Depression
[2]Universidad Autónoma de Madrid: Treating Thoughts as Material Objects Can Increase or Decrease Their Impact on Evaluation
[3]Journal of Personality and Social Psychology: To Do, to Have, or to Share?
[4]happier human: The Science of Gratitude: More Benefits Than Expected; 26 Studies and Counting
[5]Healthy Sleep: Sleep and Memory
[6]News Harvard: Money spent on others can buy happiness
[7]Tayyab Rashid & Afroze Anjum: 340 Ways to Use VIA Character Strengths

More by this author

Robert Locke

Author of Ziger the Tiger Stories, a health enthusiast specializing in relationships, life improvement and mental health.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How To Stop Negative Thoughts from Killing Your Confidence

How To Stop Negative Thoughts from Killing Your Confidence

To have negative thoughts is to be human. The story of humanity is the story of an epic battle with negativity.

This is perhaps the most important question in existence: How do you conquer negative thoughts that are stifling your confidence and bringing you down?

You’d be surprised to know the answer to this question is much simpler than it seems.

Yet even the simplest things can easily drown beneath the roar and constant cascade of negative thoughts that seem justified. If you could ignore that roar, what would you do? Pursue a new career? Make new friends? Go on a date and begin a relationship with a person who seems unattainable?

To read on is to know you can do any of these things, and more — but at the same time, this is a dare: to read on is to accept the dare and choose a confident approach to actions that terrify you.

This article will help you stop negative thoughts by teaching you strategies to cope with them in actionable ways. You’ll learn how to view your thoughts differently, how to calm your mind, and how to be confident in your actions. Most importantly, you’ll step away from the page empowered and ready to pay attention to the world around you in a non-judgmental way.

1. Uncover the Root of Negative Thoughts

Here’s a revelation: four different studies showed that people who are unskilled tend to grossly overestimate their abilities. The studies measured humor, grammar, and logic. Participants who thought they were great were in fact incompetent.[1]

This shines a light on the root of your negative thoughts about your own abilities. Your self-doubt is a result of your intelligence. Instead of assuming you’re good, capable, skilled, and born ready to tackle any challenge, you analyze yourself and the situation. Past failings come to mind.

You think — you don’t just act — and when the brain gives itself time to think, any number of unwanted thoughts tend to pop up.

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There’s a good reason why: early humans evolved in a dangerous environment. We had to think about what could possibly go wrong almost all of the time. We were threatened by wild animals, natural disasters, rival tribes, and competitors in our own camps. Our brains are hardwired to look for danger, and when a challenge arises, instinct tells us to either fight or flee.

You have negative thoughts because your intelligent brain is considering all of the possibilities. Although the challenges you face may not be anywhere close to the extremity of a wild animal attack, they’re challenges nonetheless, and a muffled version of your fight-or-flight instinct kicks in.

2. Value Your Emotional IQ

We’ve established that your intelligence is contributing to negative thoughts, the type of thoughts that can kill your confidence if you focus on them. But have you ever thought about your emotional intelligence?

Otherwise known as EI, this is a quality that goes a long way in the professional world, where it’s extremely important for people to possess it. In a survey, 71 percent of hiring managers said EI is more important than IQ, and 58 percent won’t even hire somebody with a high IQ and low EI.[2] The University of Maryland identifies the following important aspects of EI:

  • You recognize your emotions.
  • You register the emotions of others.
  • You can figure out what’s triggering your emotions.
  • You “manage emotional info,” meaning you don’t just react when emotions flare, you are able to control yourself.

We’re taught to value the intellect from a very young age. We don’t place very much emphasis on the ability to recognize emotions and use them in effective ways. It’s this lack of balance that leads many of us to stumble.

Negative emotions cause negative thoughts, and emotion is triggered by something you can’t control. Likewise, the internal verbalisation of an emotion happens almost instantaneously — you don’t even notice when it happens. You feel sad because you didn’t get invited to a party. Suddenly, you start thinking you’re inadequate, and then defensiveness kicks in and you think, “I don’t like those people anyhow.”

Instead of reacting to emotion negatively, cultivate your EI. Recognize the emotion and understand that an emotion of this type is likely to cause negative thoughts. Also, recognize that the emotion is natural — it’s not right or wrong, it’s just a feeling you have.

Be there with the emotion, give it a name, give it a color, find a way to express it externally. Be creative, and if your expression feels sad, that’s because it’s authentic.

3. Recognize Unhealthy Actions That Reinforce Negative Thoughts

We thrive on stimulus. Basically, this means you seek out things to help you feel good. A lot of times, when kids are very young, parents do them a disservice by offering a stimulus at the wrong times. This carries through to adulthood.

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For example, when you were a kid, you were sad because kids were making fun of you at school. Negative thoughts surfaced almost immediately, like buoyant objects on waves of emotion. Instead of sitting with you in your sadness and helping you express it, your parents gave you something to eat, sat you down in front of the TV, and then put you to bed.

What’s wrong with that? The first thing to provide comfort was an external stimulus in the form of food. The psychology of food[3] is such that,

“We can form unhealthy relationships with the thing that is supposed to aid in our well being.”

Food — especially processed, sugary food that delivers a dopamine kick — is a powerful substance that engages all of the senses. When you learn to turn to an external stimulus like food as a way to make yourself feel better, you create a negative feedback loop. Down the line, you develop a stimulus habit, and then when you indulge in the habit, you get down on yourself after the initial satisfaction is gone.

Identify unhealthy habits and remove them as an option. They’re confidence killers. Replace them with healthy habits such as exercise, art, journaling, and caring for a pet or visiting relatives and old friends more often.

4. Make Regular Deposits in Your Confidence Account

You need to do little things that increase your confidence. That way, when discouraging thoughts rear up, you have a reservoir of confidence to rely on.

Here are some confidence-building activities:

  1. Make a list of your strengths and things you’ve done (or are doing) that you’re proud of. Keep adding to the list regularly.
  2. Do a power pose every day. According to psychologist Amy Cuddy, simply standing in an open, broad stance with arms raised like you scored a touchdown will train your brain to develop confidence.[4] Do this for about a minute each day in front of the mirror.
  3. Challenge yourself with a new activity that isn’t out of reach. Take up yoga, learn how to sew or to cook a new type of food, memorize a poem or lyrics to a great song.
  4. Exercise and get enough sleep.
  5. Do the 100 days of rejection challenge. Jia Jiang, the owner of Rejection Therapy, desensitized himself to rejection and built courage by making crazy requests of people for 100 days.[5]
  6. Make self-affirmative statements in your mind and out loud. Use your list of strengths. Say, “I am a good communicator, I am smart, I care for other people.” When your inner critic speaks up, counter it with self-affirmation.

Doing confidence-building exercises regularly pays off in the long-term. You’ll feel better physically and mentally, and negative thoughts won’t have the confidence-killing effect they once had.

5. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

This is a huge one. It’s incredibly easy to compare yourself to other people in today’s social media environment. A study showed that the more time people spend on Facebook, the more depressed they are.[6]

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People tend to share their achievements via status updates and post pictures that are flattering. It’s easy to compare yourself to your friends’ Facebook façade and come up lacking. Then, you decide to post an update that makes you look good, and if it doesn’t get a ton of likes and comments, you get the impression your Facebook friends don’t like you.

This applies a great deal to people who are in relationships as well. A study showed that when people are in a serious, dependent relationship, they tend to advertise it on Facebook.[7] Oftentimes, they do so because they’ve seen their friends do the same. If you’re not in a satisfying relationship, seeing someone’s positive status in the artificial environment of social media can be a serious downer. You end up comparing yourself to them without even realizing it.

University of Texas professor Raj Raghunathan recommends an alternative approach.[8]:

“Become a little more aware of what it is that you’re really good at, and what you enjoy doing. When you don’t need to compare yourself to other people, you gravitate towards things that you instinctively enjoy doing.”

Focus on what you enjoy. There will be no room for negative thoughts. You’ll get closer to mastering what you enjoy most and you’ll be confident in your mastery.

6. Practice Mindfulness as a Way of Life

Our Western mode of thought frames things in terms of problems and solutions. It’s tempting to say, “If negative thoughts are the problem, mindfulness is the solution.”

Mindfulness meditation isn’t a solution and expectations for mindfulness creates frustration. All you can expect of mindfulness is to be mindful.

Mindfulness is a way of life. It’s the practice of paying attention, it’s the practice of noting phenomena and releasing phenomena in the same way the lungs take in oxygen and release carbon dioxide.

How does mindfulness help you cope with negative thoughts? The mind takes note of the thought and then releases it.

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That’s all, there’s no magic here. There is the recognition that your brain and its thoughts are a functioning part of a phenomenal universe. At the risk of sounding cliche, a rolling stone grows no moss. The mind that releases thoughts and lets them go in the universe does not brood on them, therefore that mind remains fresh and ready for new challenges.

7. Judge Less, Do More

When we judge other people and gossip and make negative comments about them, we give negative thoughts power. We vocalize them and let them resound. Soon, this type of thinking becomes a habit, and it turns on the speaker. It’s like a dog biting an owner who trained the dog to bite people.

Don’t give negative thoughts about other people a foothold. Don’t make these thoughts an authority. Instead, practice loving-kindness meditation or something close to it. With loving-kindness, you sit and direct thoughts of well-being and unconditional love first to yourself, then to a friend, then to an acquaintance, and then to someone you don’t like.

Next, start writing down specific, achievable checkpoints, tasks, and goals for yourself. Write down dates and places and get as hyper-specific as possible. Make sure your checkpoints and goals revolve around what you enjoy doing. Keep a laminated copy of your to-do list in your pocket. Check things off: do more and enjoy the act of doing.

By focusing positive thoughts on yourself and others, and by focusing on your object of enjoyment, you’re training your brain. Soon, you are used to thinking positively and getting things done. Oh how good this feels!

The Bottom Line

Confidence is a habit. Like any habit, you need continual practice to build confidence. It’s easy to develop bad habits because you’re not thinking of some distant goal. You’re just engaging in an action repeatedly. Hand takes donut, puts donut in mouth, mouth chews, throat swallows, repeat. Why can’t positive habits be the same way?

Build your confidence by repeating routine actions that build confidence. Go to sleep with enough time for eight hours of shut-eye. Wake up, stretch, and hold a power pose for a minute while thinking self-affirming thoughts.

If you have time for exercise in the morning, exercise in the morning. Set a realistic goal to challenge yourself in some way that day. Then, with knowledge that you will tackle an achievable challenge, go through your day with mindful indulgence in each moment.

More Resources to Help You Stay Positive

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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