We all want to be happier – but how do we achieve this? True long-term happiness and joy comes from fulfilment at a deep level. However there are things you can do to make yourself start feeling better immediately – no matter how bad you feel right now.
The good news is that repeating these techniques overtime will actually rewire your brain to be more optimistic – so that positive thoughts and behaviours become habits to you. Yes that’s right – you can actually train yourself to become an optimist!
How These Techniques Work
Most of these techniques center on changing your body movements in some way. There is a good reason for this and it is extremely powerful.
The truth is that your mind and body are in what is called a cybernetic-feedback-loop. Basically this means is that when you are happy your body naturally goes into different positions than when you are sad. Therefore we can hack this connection to work backwards. To put it simply – just as the body follows the mind, the mind can also follow the body and it is this we are taking advantage of.
Sit Up Straight
It turns out that our parents were on to something when they used to tell us to sit up straight. It has been scientifically proven that changing your posture from slouching to sitting up straight can make people feel happier.
An easy way to do this is to imagine that there is an invisible thread coming out of the top of your head pulling you up towards the sky. Gently allow your shoulder to relax and roll back. Make sure that you are not sticking your chin out further than normal – this is a common mistake when people try this exercise for the first time.
It might be uncomfortable holding this new position for longer than a few minutes – don’t worry – this is because the muscles that are meant to hold you in this position have not been used in a long time. Simply spend 3 minutes every morning making a conscious effort to stand or sit up straight and you will find your body starts to do it again naturally.
There are posture cushions specifically designed to encourage your to sit up straight, so you don’t have to keep reminding yourself to do it.
Smile & Laugh
Everyone knows that you smile when you are happy but can you smile to make yourself happy?
Science says yes.
In a famous happiness study researchers were able to prove that the very act of smiling itself appears to make people happier. They did this by asking subjects to hold a pencil in their mouth in a way that would activate the same muscles as a genuine smile (as opposed to a fake smile). They were then asked to watch short funny video clips, Participants reported their emotional state as more positive when using their ‘smiling muscles’ then when they did not. It is thought that this is because smiling releases serotonin – one of the chemicals that makes us feel happy.
In one study which was the subject of a BBC documentary a scientist studied people with major depression. Before the experiment started the participants were each given an MRI scan to show the activity of the left prefrontal lobe – and it turned out that each of the people has the signs of long term depression.
During the month of the experiment subjects were asked to smile or laugh for 20 minutes a day and also take at least 20 minutes exercise a day. Subjects were also asked to stick coloured dots around their daily environment and were told to think a happy thought every time they saw one of the dots.
The results were astounding – in just one month the participants had gone from being extremely depressed to being extremely optimistic. Not only that – when subjects were given a second MRI scan at the end of the experiment it was shown that they had actually managed to change the structure of their neural pathways just by changing their thinking habits!
Because the results were so amazing at first the BBC refused to believe the results and asked for the MRI machine to be tested. After finding that it had no faults they actually delayed transmitting the program for 6 months in order to check that the results stayed. After 6 months the subjects had another MRI scan and the changes were still in place.
This one is even weirder. It has been discovered that when people are happy they generally look up more and when they are feeling sad they generally look down.
Our current understanding is that the eye is mapped to correspond to certain brain areas. This has long been understood in the area of NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). When you look up you generate more alpha brainwaves causing you to become more relaxed. Masters of meditation have known this trick for centuries. So to make yourself happier – look up!
Jump up and down (yes – really). This one was taught to me years ago at a motivational seminar. I was like “…You want me to WHAT?” But amazingly it really works. It has been tested and proven that the act of punching your arms in the air above you releases brain chemicals related to happiness.
This is a great way to perk yourself up when you need a boost.
Can you think of someone that you care about that could potentially benefit from this information? Don’t forget to share it.
For more life changing techniques like this check out the ebook Unlock Your Brains Limitless Power – the ultimate guide to personal development and brain hacking.