Share your happiness: Create positive experiences in life | Sunday Observer

Share your happiness: Create positive experiences in life

In your own mind, what do you usually think about, at the end of the day? The fifty things that went right, or the one that went wrong? Like the guy who cut you off in traffic, or you wish you had said something different to a co-worker, or the one thing on your “To Do” list that didn’t get done.

Scientists believe, our brains have a built-in “negativity bias.” In other words, as we evolved over millions of years, dodging dangers and chasing prey for food, it was a lot more important to notice, react to, and remember dangers than the prey.

That’s because, in the tough environments that our ancestors lived in, if they missed out on a prey, they usually had a shot at another, later on.

But, if they failed to avoid a danger - a predator, a natural hazard, or aggression from others of their species - WHAM, no more chances to pass on their genes.

The negativity bias shows up in lots of ways. For example, studies have found, in a relationship it takes typically five good interactions to make up for a single bad one. Or, painful experiences are much more memorable than pleasurable ones.

Research

How can we counter this tendency to assign greater weight to the negative experiences in our lives? A recent study at the Brigham Young University, gives a clue.

Their research shows, discussing positive experiences leads to a heightened well-being, increased overall life satisfaction and more energy.

The research may seem surprising, because, we are often reluctant to talk about our good fortune. We don’t want to show off, and sometimes, we don’t want to put a jinx on. Or, we may feel guilty that good things are happening to us in the face of suffering in other people’s lives.

However, the research suggests, describing our happy experiences to close friends and romantic partners is a better idea.

In addition to this research, a number of other studies have shown that making daily lists of the things you feel grateful for - which help draw our attention to positive experiences in our lives improves our psychological and physical health.

Great literary figures have long known that happiness grows in sharing. In one of her letters, Charlotte Bronte observes, “Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness; it has no taste.” In the Common Reader, Virginia Woolf writes ‘Pleasure has no relish unless we share it.’

Steps

So, what else can we do, in addition to talking about our good fortunes and listing the positives?

1. Take a mental photograph.

Pause for a moment, and be aware of things you want to remember later on, such as, the sound of a loved one’s chuckle, or a touching moment between two family members. For example, when you take a walk, consciously look for nicer things. It’s about saying to yourself, ‘This is great. I’m enjoying my walk.’

2. Congratulate yourself.

Don’t hesitate to pat yourself on the back and take credit for your hard work. People who revel in their successes are more likely to enjoy the outcome.

Maybe, self-congratulation is not encouraged in our country, where many individuals downplay their achievements or believe, a good experience is likely to be followed by a bad one. They tend to tell themselves not to get carried away. But, let us change this thinking.

3. Sharpen your sensory perceptions.

Getting in touch with your senses - or taking time to use them more consciously - also flexes savouring muscles. With all the distractions that we face today, this is particularly difficult. Take time to shut out your other senses and hone in on one. Take time to smell the food, or close your eyes while you take a sip of a nice cup of tea.

4. Shout from the rooftop

Laugh out loud, jump up and down, and shout for joy when something good happens to you. People who outwardly express their good feelings tend to feel extra good, because it provides the mind with evidence that something positive has occurred.

5. Compare the outcome to

something worse

Boost positive feelings by reminding yourself how things could be worse. For example, if you are late to work, remind yourself of those who may not have a job at all. Comparing good experiences with unpleasant ones gives us a reference point and makes our current situation seem better.

6. Get absorbed in the moment

Try to turn off your thoughts and absorb positive feelings during a special moment, such as, appreciating a work of art.

Studies of positive experiences indicate that people most enjoy themselves when they are totally absorbed in a task or a moment, losing their sense of time and place - a state that psychologists call ‘flow.’ Children are particularly good at this, but it’s tougher for adults, who are easily distracted by technology and the temptation to multi-task.

7.Count your blessings

Tell your loved ones how lucky you feel to have them, or take extra time to appreciate your job or people who work with you. Research suggests that saying “thank you” out loud can make us happier by affirming our positive feelings.

8. Avoid killjoy thinking

Avoiding negative thinking is just as important as thinking positively. After a tough day, try not to focus on the negative things that occurred. Studies show that the more negative thoughts people have after a personal achievement, the less likely they are to enjoy it.

9. Remind yourself of how

quickly time passes

Remember, good moments pass quickly, and tell yourself to consciously relish the moment.

Realizing how short-lived certain moments are, and wishing they could last longer, encourages you to enjoy them while they’re happening.

In fact, enjoyment can be used to connect you to the past or future. This can be done by remembering a good time and recreating it, or imagining a time in the future when you will look back with good memories.

Each single action will make only a small difference to your life. But, over time, they will gradually add up, weaving positive experiences into the fabric of your brain and yourself. 

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