Tag Archives: happiness

HERE IS A GREAT ARTICLE THAT CAN STAND ALONE AND SPEAK BY ITSELF. NOTHING MORE THAT I CAN REALLY ADD OTHER THAN PLEASE READ AND USE IT !

From Psychology Today Magazine………

Fulfillment at Any Age

    How to remain productive and healthy into your later years
    by Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D.

Giving thanks: The benefits of gratitude

      Why gratitude is good for your mental health

We all like being thanked. It’s a great feeling to have someone, especially someone who doesn’t stand to gain, tell us that we made a difference in their lives. In the past few weeks, I’ve had the good fortune of receiving some heartfelt thank you notes from students, pausing as they got ready to leave campus for the summer, or perhaps for good, to take a moment and let me know that something I said or did proved helpful to them. I’ve also had the good fortune of having favors done for me by people who went out of their way to help me solve a problem, fix something, or in fortunately only one case- return a lost cellphone. Being thanked and having reason to thank others are two sides of the same gratefulness coin. Both exemplify the positive in human behavior and provide us with a positive charge that boosts our emotional balance.

On the surface it seems like gratitude has everything to recommend it. There are a few gratitude traps, though. Some people feel uncomfortable about being thanked. They get truly embarrassed, dismissing the thanker by insisting that “it was nothing” (though clearly the thanker felt otherwise). There are also some uncomfortable aspects about thank-yous when it comes to thank-you presents that are overly generous or could be interpreted as bribes.

If you’re at the receiving end of a thank-you, you may feel unsure about how to reciprocate. Does a thank-you present require a thank-you note? What about thanking someone who’s helped you? Do you reward a person who returns a lost item with cash or just allow your relieved face to serve as its own reward? Then there’s the guilt factor: What if you let a few weeks slip by without sending a thank-you note for a birthday gift? Does it look worse to send a belated thank-you note or just to forget the whole thing and hope the gift-giver won’t notice? Thank-you notes inspire their own particular forms of angst, as was pointed out in one particularly insightful Social Q’s column of the New York Times (for the record: this column is a treasure trove of psychological insight on quirky behaviors).

It might be reassuring, then, to learn that the expression of thanks can be its own reward. Being the recipient of a favor can also make the favor-giver (if there is such a word) feel good too. Everyone benefits when thanks are freely given and just as freely acknowledged. 

There are always exceptional circumstances involving acts of extreme altruism. Heroes are known as the people who put the needs of others above our own. These cases put in bold relief the fact that a hero doesn’t expect thank-you notes or little gift baskets as acknowledgement of his or her sacrifice.

Many real-life heroes also do not expect thank-yous. Yet, when we benefit from the labors that others put out for our sake, we feel internally driven to and want to express our gratitude. And that’s a good thing, in more ways than one.

Psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough point out that gratitude is the “forgotten factor” in happiness research. They point out the benefits of expressing gratitude as ranging from better physical health to improved mental alertness. People who express gratitude also are more likely to offer emotional support to others.

Expressing gratitude in your daily life might even have a protective effect on staving off certain forms of psychological disorders. In a review article published this past March (see below), researchers found that habitually focusing on and appreciating the positive aspects of life is related to a generally higher level of psychological well-being and a lower risk of certain forms of psychopathology.

Now how can you apply these ideas to your own life? Here are some suggestions to boost your own, shall we say, GQ’s (“gratitude quotient”):

1. If someone thanks you, accept the thanks graciously. Let the person know you appreciate being thanked. That’s all you need to do. Really.

2. If you find that difficult, think about why gratitude makes you uncomfortable. Do you not feel worthy of being thanked? In my study of personal fulfillment in midlife, I identified a subgroup of people whose own fulfillment was hampered by their lack of faith in their own worth. Chronic feelings of inadequacy can make it difficult for people to benefit from any thanks that come their way.

3. Look for small things to be grateful for. Not all acts of kindness have a capital “K.” A driver who lets you ease into a busy highway deserves a wave just as much as someone who holds open a door when you’re loaded down with packages. A smile will boost your GQ and make both of you feel better.

4. Don’t fret about gratitude infractions. If you forget to send a thank you note don’t worry about it and certainly don’t use elapsed time as an excuse to avoid the task altogether. Send a quick email and then get to the real thing. If you’re a chronic forgetter, though, you might try to figure out why. By the same token, if someone forgets to thank you, don’t ruminate over it, thereby raising your BP if not your GQ.

5. Keep your thank you’s short, sweet, and easy to write. One reason people procrastinate about writing thank you’s is that they want them to be original and not seem hasty, insincere, or ill conceived. This doesn’t mean the thank you should be one that is short enough to tweet but if you don’t build it up in your mind as having to be a magnum opus you’ll be less inclined to put it off. Whatever you do, don’t make excuses or lie about having sent a thank you that you never did (for more on lying and excuse-making, check out my previous post).

I’ll close by saying thanks in advance to anyone who chooses to add their comments to the discussion or wishes to forward the blog link. It’s the least I can do!

Follow me on Twitter @swhitbo for daily updates on psychology, health, and aging. Feel free to join my Facebook group, “Fulfillment at Any Age,” to discuss today’s blog, or to ask further questions about this posting. 

Copyright Susan Krauss Whitbourne, Ph.D. 2010

Frey Freyday-Beliefs

(Frey Freyday is simply a bunch of inspirational, motivational and other quotes meant to make you think, reflect, smile, even laugh a bit. Hopefully helpful, useful stuff….)

Believe that life is worth living and your belief will help create the fact. Belief creates the actual fact.-William James

– It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.-Muhammad Ali

One person with a belief is equal to ninety-nine who have only interests.-John Stuart Mill

– Envy comes from people’s ignorance of, or lack of belief in, their own gifts.-Jean Vanier

Nothing great has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstances. – Bruce Barton –

Realizing that our actions, feelings and behaviour are the result of our own images and beliefs gives us the level that psychology has always needed for changing personality.-Maxwell Maltz

It’s not the events of our lives that shape us, but our beliefs as to what those events mean.-Tony Robbins

– Live your beliefs and you can turn the world around.-Henry David Thoreau

– Frisbeetarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck.-George Carlin

Words to Live By:

Beliefs – [ biˈlēf ] – Your beliefs are everything. Beliefs make up your personality, they create habits which lead to your lifestyle, your relationships, your career, etc. Beliefs can limit you or they can help you excel and grow. The meaning we assign to all sorts of things are related to beliefs. If you believe you’re smart, for instance, you will be more likely to act in a smart manner, make smart choices, and act according to that identity.
Bonus: Ted Talk – http://www.ted.com/talks/caroline_casey_looking_past_limits

Activist Caroline Casey tells the story of her extraordinary life, starting with a revelation (no spoilers). In a talk that challenges perceptions, Casey asks us all to move beyond the limits we may think we have.

Frey Freyday-Smile

(Frey Freyday is simply a bunch of inspirational, motivational and other quotes meant to make you think, reflect, smile, even laugh a bit. Hopefully helpful, useful stuff….)

A warm smile is the universal language of kindness.-William Arthur Ward

If you smile when no one else is around, you really mean it.-Andy Rooney

A smile is a curve that sets everything straight.-Phyllis Diller

We shall never know all the good that a simple smile can do.-Mother Teresa

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.-Leo Buscaglia

The real man smiles in trouble, gathers strength from distress, and grows brave by reflection.-Thomas Paine

Smiling is definitely one of the best beauty remedies. If you have a good sense of humor and a good approach to life, that’s beautiful.-Rashida Jones

Colors are the smiles of nature.-Leigh Hunt

The happiness of life is made up of minute fractions – the little, soon forgotten charities of a kiss or a smile, a kind look or heartfelt compliment.-Samuel Taylor Coleridge

There’s nothing I value more than the closeness of friends and family, a smile as I pass someone on the street.-Willie Stargell

The Best Makeup Is Your Smile. By J. Johnson

Words to Live By:

Smile – \ˈsmī(-ə)l\ – A smile is a facial expression formed primarily by flexing the muscles at the sides of the mouth. Try to smile at any appropriate chance you get. Give a smile to a stranger, a friend, a loved one. Everyone looks better with a smile. The right smile, at the right time, wins friends and calms enemies. A recent study found that in obituaries people often, more than any other attribute, mentioned their loved one’s smile. Putting a smile on your face will boost your mood and increase your potential for long-term happiness.

A genuine smile also sends the message to others that we are likeable, trustworthy and dependable – the kind of person others want to do business with, engage in conversation, or build meaningful relationships with.

Smiling stimulates our brain’s reward mechanisms in a way that even chocolate, a well-regarded pleasure-inducer, cannot match. Smiling reduces stress that your body and mind feel, almost similar to getting good sleep, according to recent studies. Smiling helps to generate more positive emotions within you.

 

Bonus: Ted Talk -The hidden power of smiling

http://www.ted.com/talks/ron_gutman_the_hidden_power_of_smiling

(FYI-Frey Freyday was actually born out of something I created called “Words To Live By” (WTLB). Going forward, I will now not only share the quotes, as you may be used to receiving, but also a related (WTLB). In 1999, when we had our first daughter, I was contemplating how I would raise my new beautiful child, and I was thinking about how I can best educate her and my other children about values, morals, and other key thoughts about life. So I created (WTLB).)

 

Rewire your brain to be happy…

Rewire your brain to be happy…

You can re-wire your brain to be happy by simply recalling 3 things you’re grateful for every day for 21 days.

-Shawn Achor

3 Decisions That Will Change You

The 3 Decisions That Will Change Your Life

From entrepreneur.com Nov 19, 2014

Decision 1: Carefully choose what to focus on.
At every moment, millions of things compete for your attention. You can focus on things that are happening right here and now or on what you want to create in the future. Or you can focus on the past.

Where focus goes, energy flows. What you focus on and your pattern for doing so shapes your entire life.

Which area do you tend to focus on more: what you have or what’s missing from your life?

I’m sure you think about both sides of this coin. But if you examine your habitual thoughts, what do you tend to spend most of your time dwelling on?

Rather than focusing on what you don’t have and begrudging those who are better off than you financially, perhaps you should acknowledge that you have much to be grateful for and some of it has nothing to do with money. You can be grateful for your health, family, friends, opportunities and mind.

Developing a habit of appreciating what you have can create a new level of emotional well-being and wealth. But the real question is, do you take time to deeply feel grateful with your mind, body, heart and soul? That’s where the joy, happiness and fulfillment can be found.

Consider a second pattern of focus that affects the quality of your life: Do you tend to focus more on what you can control or what you can’t?

If you focus on what you can’t control, you’ll have more stress in life. You can influence many aspects of your life but you usually can’t control them.

When you adopt this pattern of focus, your brain has to make another decision:

—-

Decision 2: Figure out, What does this all mean?
Ultimately, how you feel about your life has nothing to do with the events in it or with your financial condition or what has (or hasn’t) happened to you. The quality of your life is controlled by the meaning you give these things.

Most of the time you may be unaware of the effect of your unconscious mind in assigning meaning to life’s events.

When something happens that disrupts your life (a car accident, a health issue, a job loss), do you tend to think that this is the end or the beginning?

If someone confronts you, is that person insulting you, coaching you or truly caring for you?

Does a devastating problem mean that God is punishing you or challenging you? Or is it possible that this problem is a gift from God?

Your life takes on whatever meaning you give it. With each meaning comes a unique feeling or emotion and the quality of your life involves where you live emotionally.

I always ask during my seminars, “How many of you know someone who is on antidepressants and still depressed?” Typically 85 percent to 90 percent of those assembled raise their hands.

How is this possible? The drugs should make people feel better. It’s true that antidepressants do come with labels warning that suicidal thoughts are a possible side effect.

But no matter how much a person drugs himself, if he constantly focuses on what he can’t control in life and what’s missing, he won’t find it hard to despair. If he adds to that a meaning like “life is not worth living,” that’s an emotional cocktail that no antidepressant can consistently overcome.

Yet if that same person can arrive at a new meaning, a reason to live or a belief that all this was meant to be, then he will be stronger than anything that ever happened to him.

When people shift their habitual focus and meanings, there’s no limit on what life can become. A change of focus and a shift in meaning can literally alter someone’s biochemistry in minutes.

So take control and always remember: Meaning equals emotion and emotion equals life. Choose consciously and wisely. Find an empowering meaning in any event, and wealth in its deepest sense will be yours today.

Once you create a meaning in your mind, it creates an emotion, and that emotion leads to a state for making your third decision:
——
Decision 3: What will you do?
The actions you take are powerfully shaped by the emotional state you’re in. If you’re angry, you’re going to behave quite differently than if you’re feeling playful or outrageous.

If you want to shape your actions, the fastest way is to change what you focus on and shift the meaning to be something more empowering.

Two people who are angry will behave differently. Some pull back. Others push through.

Some individuals express anger quietly. Others do so loudly or violently. Yet others suppress it only to look for a passive-aggressive opportunity to regain the upper hand or even exact revenge.

Where do these patterns come from? People tend to model their behavior on those they respect, enjoy and love.

The people who frustrated or angered you? You often reject their approaches.

Yet far too often you may find yourself falling back into patterns you witnessed over and over again in your youth and were displeased by.

It’s very useful for you to become aware of your patterns when you are frustrated, angry or sad or feel lonely. You can’t change your patterns if you’re not aware of them.

Now that you’re aware of the power of these three decisions, start looking for role models who are experiencing what you want out of life. I promise you that those who have passionate relationships have a totally different focus and arrive at totally different meanings for the challenges in relationships than people who are constantly bickering or fighting.

It’s not rocket science. If you become aware of the differences in how people approach these three decisions, you’ll have a pathway to help you create a permanent positive change in any area of life.

This piece was adapted from Tony Robbins’ new book, Money Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom.

Little habits mean a lot…

As I may have mentioned, several years ago I had a challenging year, and I felt that it set me back in many ways.

I lost both parents within 5 weeks of each other, I was temporarily unemployed, and I had losses with my investment property.

I was grieving, sad, depressed, I felt like I wasn’t living up to being a man, a father, etc.

My self talk and thoughts were probably the biggest problem. I worried a lot, thought negative thoughts, went over bad things in the past, focused on what wasn’t working.

Looking back now, trying to learn from the experience, the things that helped me the most were these items:
1. having a vision of how I wanted things to be – and thinking/talking about that vision as if it was already done, already here.

2. asking great, positive questions – like “Why am I so happy?” instead of “Why do I feel so down?”

3. Focusing on what is working, what I have that is good, instead of what doesn’t work, what isn’t good.

I adopted little habits that I tried to do each day –

  1. I would write down my vision and when I could, handwrite it/copy it again.
  2. I would write down my powerful questions on index cards and read them, even copy them whenever I could. I would pick one each day to really focus on.
  3. I started using passwords that were meaningful and helpful to changing my thinking. So instead of some random password like shoe$1lace I might choose whydoIwin6 or whatisgr8, Iamgr8ful and so on. Think about how many times you put in different passwords each day. We type them over and over. What if these were little empowering questions, messages or reminders? wouldn’t that help a little?

Have a good week!

Visualize-090604

14 Ways to Be a Happier Person

A great article to consider:

http://time.com/3433493/14-ways-to-be-a-happier-person/?utm_content=buffer72c3f&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Billboard-worthy news: It’s possible to amp up your bliss every single day with these simple, unexpected strategies

Also tricky: keeping the glee going when you have work to do, kids to raise, bills to pay and more work to do. Mercifully, big, costly, splashy events are not the ultimate bliss bringers. As people get older, they tend to find ordinary treats—such as a latte or a manicure—just as joy-inducing as extraordinary ones like an around-the-world cruise, found a 2014 study by researchers at Dartmouth and the University of Pennsylvania. With age, the authors speculate, we’re more aware of how fleeting time is, so we’re particularly likely to relish everyday bright spots.

What you won’t find here: a step-by-step happiness guide. How draining would that be? Instead, we tapped top positive psychologists for easy ways to infuse your days with more pleasure. Consider this a pick-and-choose list; even doing just a few will help. Ready for more joy? Plan on it!

First up: Make it your goal

Although increasing happiness levels shouldn’t feel like work, having a can-do mindset really comes in handy. In a study published in theJournal of Positive Psychology, people who were told to listen to music and attempt to feel happier had a greater boost in bliss over a two-week period than those instructed only to relax as they listened to the same upbeat tunes. It comes down to motivation: You can transform into more of a glass-half-full type.

While researchers believe that genetics are behind about 50 percent of the variation in happiness levels among you and your neighbors and that life circumstances account for maybe 10 percent, you’re fully in charge of the rest. “A lot of people think you can’t control happiness—you either have it or you don’t—which is totally not true,” stresses Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, professor of psychology at University of California, Riverside, and author of The Myths of Happiness. “It’s like controlling your health. First you need to believe that you can do it before you take those first steps.”

Know your own bliss

When was the last time you mulled over what truly brings you pleasure, aside from biggies like your partner and the kids? “A key to steering your own happiness is reflecting on the things that make you come alive,” Fredrickson says. Perhaps it’s been so long since you’ve done some of them that they’ve fallen off your radar. Make a list, if it helps. “Think back to what gave you joy in your younger years,” says psychiatrist Stuart Brown, MD, founder of the National Institute for Play in Carmel Valley, Calif., and author of Play. Maybe you’re not jamming on a guitar in your bedroom anymore, but “you can recall the carefree state,” Dr. Brown says, “in which the outcome wasn’t as important as what you were experiencing.” You want to find what does that for you now and…

…Prioritize it

Sigh if this sounds familiar: You make a major effort to avoid future stress—say, staying up late to finish laundry so tomorrow will be a better day—only to suck your evening dry of all fun. Happiness researcher Robert Biswas-Diener, PhD, founder and managing director of the consulting firm Positive Acorn in Milwaukie, Ore., knows this treadmill effect well. He delivers a lecture regularly at Portland State University: “I give the students an hour off and tell them to do anything they want that’s legal that will make them happy. Some have a hard time with it—they even do homework! What they say is, ‘I’d be stressed if I didn’t get that task done.’ People think that working toward less stress will make them happier. That’s a minor form of insanity.”

In a get-stuff-done world, it’s hard to avoid our efficiency instinct. The answer, then, is to focus on enjoyable stuff, along with the must-dos. “Don’t fit joyful activities into your days—fit your days around them,” Biswas-Diener urges. “Do you ever hear devoted church attendees say, ‘Can we reschedule church because something came up?’ You need to have that church mentality about whatever it is that gives you pleasure. If you say that your weeks are full, find the next blank spot in your calendar.” Protect that sacred time from “nibblers” (otherwise known as your family), adds productivity consultant Julie Morgenstern, author of Time Management from the Inside Out:“Announce to everyone that it’s your time to recharge your batteries.” Tap a friend to make sure you use that time strictly for fun.

Smell the shower gel

The act of savoring—mining pleasant moments for their joy—is a proven happiness booster. In one study published in The Journal of Positive Psychology, 101 men and women kept diaries for a month, recording positive activities they participated in and how much they did or didn’t savor them. Those who tended to enjoy a good thing—and share their delight with others—maintained high levels of happiness no matter what the day brought, whereas nonappreciators needed positive events to get into a good mood. Savoring is a no-brainer—just tune in to your senses. Inhale that pinot grigio, feel the soft rug under your bare feet. “I leave a little time in the morning to savor my showers,” Lyubomirsky says. “I go out of my way to buy gels with the best scents.” You can even find ways to relish tasks; try running YouTube as you delete junk email. (Why hasn’t anyone yet studied the happiness powers of panda videos?!)

Ration your time

Gold, natural gas and your attention: They’re all scarce resources. Allocate wisely so you can max out time for pleasure, recommends Paul Dolan, PhD, in his new book Happiness By Design. “Every tweet, text or email distracts us from the good experiences and people in our lives,” he says. Some research shows that heavy social media users are less merry than others. One study published in the scientific journal Plos One found that the more people went on Facebook, the more their life satisfaction levels declined. (Click: dis-like.)

Experts widely recommend electronic time-outs; shut off your phone for a couple of hours a night or do email-free Saturdays or Sundays. You also want to dump any activity that “should” make you happy but in reality doesn’t, like the book club that picks crappy reads or an overly earnest yoga class. It’s hard to walk away, Dolan acknowledges, “but you probably haven’t regretted breaking joyless commitments in the past. Remember: Lost happiness is lost forever.”

Think perky thoughts

On those days when you barely have time to breathe, recall something that made you happy and you can get a boost. In one study from Michigan State University, bus drivers who smiled as a result of thinking about a positive event, such as a child’s recital, were in more upbeat moods than workers who fake-smiled. Science suggests that a full, genuine grin—one that involves facial muscles around the eyes—sparks a change in brain activity related to a good mood. So, yep: Say cheese.

Buy some happy

As any woman who has ever bought a trendy, overpriced accessory knows, the kick we get out of purchases wears off fast. However, spending on experiences (like tickets to a Broadway show) rather than things (another black sweater) creates lasting contentment—with one new caveat. A study co-authored by Ryan T. Howell, PhD, associate professor at San Francisco State University and director of its Personality and Well-Being Lab, found that people fail to get pleasure from objects or experiences if they’re acquiring them mainly for bragging rights. That is, if you’re more of a local-Thai-restaurant person and you plan a 40th-birthday blowout at Le Fancy Schmancy Bistro, you may get admiration on Facebook but miss out on feeling personal delight.

Play around in love

If the words Honey, take out the trash! are your idea of foreplay, you know that running our domestic lives sometimes saps the fun out of relationships. “Playfulness energizes both of you and gets your brains in sync,” says Vagdevi Meunier, PsyD, a relationship therapist certified by the Gottman Institute in Seattle and founder of The Center for Relationships in Austin, Texas. “It also lightens the vibe of a relationship and helps us manage the business of our lives—otherwise it’s too much about dishes and bills.” She likes to tell couples she works with, “I can help you fight better, but that’s not nearly as effective as if I help you play better.” One recent suggestion to busy parents of three: Zap each other more playful texts. “They’d send links to funny sites. Or he would text her at work, suggesting she imagine him naked,” Meunier says. “The couple started looking forward to coming home instead of being grumpy. And they’d talk about the texts.”

Have a bad-day backup plan

You have backup in case your electricity goes out, even if it’s just a stockpile of flashlights. Time to come up with one in case your moodfails. Michele Phillips, a performance coach in Piermont, N.Y., and author of Happiness Is a Habit, has a group of friends who’ve dubbed themselves the Village. “I can call them anytime my day is going badly, and they will change my frame of mind,” she says. She recalls sitting in a bar in Colorado after her divorce, feeling lonely and, she says, “like I had loser written on my forehead.” She called a Village friend, “and she said, ‘Look around: You’re in Vail, skiing!’ She helped me shift the thinking from ‘poor me’ to ‘lucky me.’”

Find purpose in pleasure

For total happiness, you need a mix of activities that give you joy and a sense of meaning, what Dolan calls the pleasure-purpose principle. “If happiness were only about pleasure, what would be the point of having kids or helping others?” he says. “To be truly happy, we need feelings of purpose, too.” Think volunteer work or taking a cooking class. The positive feelings that come from these sorts of activities can help train the brain’s neurons to overcome its negativity bias. As neuropsychologist Rick Hanson, PhD, explains in his bookHardwiring Happiness, the brain is all too good at remembering adverse experiences, which he traces to ancestors who had to focus on threats like predators in order to survive. But when you rack up feel-good experiences that give you a sense of achievement, they can serve as a buffer against the disappointing ones.

Think less “me” time, more “we” time

Truly sunny people have one thing in common, and it’s got nothing to do with their paychecks, IQs or gender, Biswas-Diener says: They have plenty of good social relationships. These include interactions that psychologists refer to as social snacking—little ways of connecting with other human beings, including strangers. In one 2014 study by Nicholas Epley, PhD, professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and author ofMindwise: How We Understand What Others Think, Believe, Feel and Want, participants heading to work by train either refrained from engaging with fellow passengers or made conversation. Chatty commuters—both introverts and extroverts alike—reported having the most pleasant commute. In another recent study co-authored by Elizabeth Dunn, PhD, at the University of British Columbia, people kept a running tab of social interactions with folks with whom they had either a strong or weak tie. Regardless of the type of person they connected with, they consistently felt more chipper on days when they mingled.

Yes, camaraderie is comforting—that feeling that we’re all in this crazy world together. “But when you talk with strangers, there’s also the pleasant surprise of finding stuff in common and sometimes the exhilaration of their opening up your world when they tell you something interesting you didn’t know,” Epley says. Surprisingly, having conversations with new people can even keep things upbeat at home. As Dunn puts it, “Trying to be pleasant and cheerful ends up improving your mood in ways you can’t foresee.”

Go off the grid

Weekend getaways continue to trend; cruise lines are even creating shorter jaunts for time-crunched travelers. And yet for deeper joy, you can’t beat a long trip. “One of the biggest deterrents to happiness is that we adapt to our situations—you buy your house and it has a beautiful view, but at some point you stop deriving pleasure from it,” Howell says. When you take only a quick journey, the elation spike is brief. How high you go! How quickly you return to reality! An extended vacation—even to somewhere familiar like a beach town three hours away from home—may create more impactful, lasting memories. And having a bank of them to tap into can add to happiness, research shows. So try to budget for a two-week trip. Even just planning gives you a boost: One study from the Netherlands indicated that the bliss of a trip can start months before it begins, owing to the anticipation.

Be nicer

Nobody is calling you evil, but committing to a few do-good gestures a day can increase your general level of contentment. “I’ve found that when people are told to try to do three to five acts of kindness a week, they get happier,” Lyubomirsky reports. “It does not have to be a grand gesture, given that women are already doing so much caregiving. At the store, let someone get in line ahead of you. Give a compliment. Smile at someone.” Or simply do something thoughtful for your significant other, she continues: “We just finished a study in which we asked someone to choose a person in her life to make happier, like her husband, three times a week. It also made the giversignificantly happier.”

Make Sunday future-fun day

One enjoyable thing you should do every weekend: Make plans for the next one. “The anticipation powers you through the workweek,” Morgenstern says. The tactic also helps you avoid making passive, meh plans, like accepting the Saturday dinner invite from that couple you don’t totally like just because you have nothing better on tap. Morgenstern has a formula for a blissful weekend: PEP (physical, escape, people). In other words, a mix of physical activities that energize you, escapist activities that relax you and people who inspire you. “It’s a good framework for putting together weekends that leave you happy,” she says. Not to mention entire happier weeks.

This article originally appeared on Health.com.

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