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7 Steps to Becoming a Happier Person

By Amra B. 

There is a quote that I read some time ago, and it states: "You hate your life, while some people dream of having your life." Sure enough, I had this posted on my Facebook profile, and overtime just forgot about it. 

Recently, it has come to my attention that although I have some of the most privileged friends and family none of them seem particularly happy. They post fantastic photos on their profile where they seem to be enjoying themselves, indulging in everything life has to offer, yet they will tell me that behind these images there is a sad person lurking. There are issues that they want to resolve and they all dream of some type of life that they have not "achieved yet." On the other hand, I was also able to find people in the most unlikely places that ginuenly seemed happy. These people were a mystery to me and I always aspired to be like them. However, somehow, the images of these happy individuals would fade away, and I would be stuck searching (yet again) for that "magical happiness formula."  

I don't claim myself to be the expert on happiness; there is countless literature devoted to this subject and they each have their own version of the "happiness recipe." My philosophy is based on my own experience and the experience of my friends and family. I also don't claim that I follow the path of happiness hundred percent of the time and never deviate, distracted by some minor (or major) event/person that comes my way. The point is, happiness, like any activity, requires consistency, practice, and effort. It may not persist hundred percent of the time, but the more we are able to increase its presence in our daily lives, the more likely it is that it will stay. 

There are many things we can do to help improve our mood and feel happy. I encourage incorporating daily rituals that (although seem minor) help lift our spirits throughout the day. I also believe in practicing activities that help us obtain long term happiness. Here are my...

Top 7 Ways to be Happy:

  • (1) Incorporate change into your life: deviate from mechanized activities! My father told me long ago: "brain is about novelty." Every time we engage in an activity we have not performed before, our brain perceives it as a challenge. When we are faced with a new situation, our attention shifts as the brain tries to process new information. Our focus on the new activity allows us to tune out our worries/usual thoughts and think about the task at hand. Engaging in a new activity is relaxing because it forces us to forget (even for a brief moment) other things in our lives

  • (2) Help others: there is no more rewarding experience than helping other people. Whether you volunteer, tutor, or just help an old lady/man cross the street, the act of helping feels unbelievably gratifying. I have never felt happier than when I personally contributed my time and effort to improving someone else's well being. I also find that there is an even larger satisfaction in helping total strangers because we don't expect them to reciprocate. The act of providing assistance should be satisfying in itself and not the expectation of a returned favor. My recent story involved defending an older woman. She was being shunned from a fast food restaurant because the manager claimed "she was begging for food." I was able to defend her, give the a**hole manager a piece of my mind, buy her some food, and have a lovely conversation. Although I knew that this act of kindness might have been very minor in the grand scheme of things, I was happy to know that I might have contributed to her well-being even for a brief moment 
  • (3) Make a list of what you have achieved so far (what you have that others don't). We seldom give ourselves credit for how far we have come. Instead, we focus only on the things that are missing from our lives. Make a physical list of what you have achieved and what you have that many people can only dream of. 

  • (4) Listen to music :  Gary Marcus, a cognitive psychologist and author of the book "Guitar Zero." says : "A brain imaging study that came out last year proved what many scientists long suspected: Listening to music can lead the brain to release the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is the brain's universal signal for pleasure, an internal system that tells the brain (sometimes rightly, sometime wrongly) that it is doing the right thing."

  • (5) Exercise: When you exercise, you engage the BDNF (Brain Derived Neuro Trophic Factor) that protects the brain from emotional disorders and repairs damage from stress and depression. The image below illustrates how exercise can help you feel happier.

  • (6) Read: reading helps you shift your thoughts from every day worries/obstacles to some new information/story. Shifting your thoughts and learning about something new has a relaxing and gratifying effect. 

  • (7) Dance: I may look crazy to my neighbors who sometimes see me dancing my A** off around my apartment, but I am not worried. Dancing makes me feel incredibly happy! Sometimes I incorporate cleaning into my dancing ritual, making this activity useful to my environment as well as my psychology.

Hope my suggestion help you stay positive and happy this summer (and all year around)! 


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