In a previous post I shared the top 10 most unpopular strategies for boosting happiness. In this post I’ll review the most popular and widely used happiness interventions. These have repeatedly shown to be successful in both research and practice. If you work with clients, students or employees you’ll benefit from these favored strategies!

1. Count your blessings

Reflect at the end of the day and write down 3 things that went well and why they went well. This helps overcome gratitude adaptation/habituation and increases the salience of good acts.

2. Use your signature strengths in a new way

Complete the VIA Survey  and identify your highest strengths. Choose one of your top strengths and use it in a new way each day for one week.

3. Write a gratitude letter

Write a letter of gratitude to someone you have not previously thanked. I appropriate, meet the person and read the letter.

4. Practice mindfulness

Take a few minutes each day to bring your full and complete attention to something you are doing: for example, walking, eating, listening, breathing. Then, read and follow the 5 mindfulness tips that no one tells you about when building a meditation practice.

5. Set goals

Write down a goal you want to reach that is consistent with your life values. Write down your plan of action for reaching that goal: What are 2 specific steps you can do this week to make progress on your goal?

6. Imagine your best possible self

Imagine a future in which you are bringing your best possible self forward. Visualize a “best possible self” that is very pleasing to you and that you are interested in. Make note of the character strengths that you’ll need to deploy to make this best possible self a reality.

7. You at your best

Think of a specific time, recently or a while back, when you were at your best — really feeling and behaving at a high level. You felt like you were your authentic self, being who you are. Share the “story” of this experience with someone important in your life.

8. Practice loving-kindness

Loving-kindness meditation involves generating positive emotions of love in the present moment. Most common forms include the use of loving imagery and positive statements. Learn the specifics about using this approach of heartfulness.

9. Count your kind acts or pay kindness forward.

Count the acts of kindness you perform each day and track them so that you can report the total by the end of the week. Or, take notice when someone does something deliberately kind for you; pay the kindness forward by being kind to 3 people that day.

10. Savoring/Reminiscence exercise

One of my personal favorites. Reflect each day for 2-3 minutes on two pleasurable experiences and allow/make the pleasure last as long as possible.

Final comments

  • Remember, these research studies are done on groups of people so not every strategy works for every person in the study or for every person reading this blog. But, they are popular for a reason…they tend to work for a lot of people. It is very likely that if you give each one a try, you will gravitate to certain exercises and will benefit.
  • Taking action should be your top priority. So take you pick from these 10 popular exercises or from the 10 unpopular happiness strategies and start boosting your well-being today!

References

Bryant, F. B., Smart, C. M., & King, S. P. (2005). Using the past to enhance the present: Boosting happiness through positive reminiscence. Journal of Happiness Studies, 6, 227–260.

Cohn, M. A., & Fredrickson, B. L. (2010). In search of durable positive psychology interventions: Predictors and consequences of long-term positive behavior change. Journal of Positive Psychology, 5(5), 355-366.

Gander, F., Proyer, R. T., Ruch, W., & Wyss, T. (2012). Strength-based positive interventions: Further evidence for their potential in enhancing well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies.

Green, L. S., Oades, L. G., & Grant, A. M. (2006). Cognitive-behavioral, solution-focused life coaching: Enhancing goal striving, well-being, and hope. Journal of Positive Psychology, 1(3), 142-149.

Meevissen, Y. M. C., Peters, M. L., & Alberts, H. J. E. M. (2011). Become more optimistic by imagining a best possible self: Effects of a two week intervention. Journal of Behavior Therapy and Experimental Psychiatry, 42, 371-378.

Niemiec, R. M. (2014). Mindfulness and character strengths: A practical guide to flourishing. Cambridge, MA: Hogrefe.

Otake, K., Shimai, S., Tanaka-Matsumi, J., Otsui, K., & Fredrickson, B. (2006). Happy people become happier through kindness: A counting kindness intervention. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7(3), 361–375.

Pressman, S. D., Kraft, T. L., & Cross, M. P. (2014). It’s good to do good and receive good: The impact of a ‘pay it forward’ style kindness intervention on giver and receiver well-being. Journal of Positive Psychology.

Proyer, R. T., Gander, F., Wellenzohn, S., & Ruch, W. (2014). Positive psychology interventions in people aged 50–79 years: long-term effects of placebo-controlled online interventions on well-being and depression. Aging & Mental Health, 18(8), 997-1005.

Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410–421.