“All life is an experiment” Ralph Waldo Emerson
Happiness Experiment No 1: Smile more!
All you need to start practising this experiment is a pencil.
Happiness Experiment No 2: 3 Good Things
All you need to start practising this experiment is a pencil and a notebook.
Happiness Experiment No 3: Laugh more
“Even if there is nothing to laugh about, laugh on credit.” Anon
There are so many benefits to laughing – it really is worthwhile experimenting with new ways to have a laugh.
For inspiration watch this wonderful Channel 4 documentary about The Laughing Club of India
Happiness Experiment No 4: Buy less stuff
This short video from Gretchen Ruben who wrote the best-selling book The Happiness Project has posted a timely video in her pigeon of discontent series which gives us some great tips on how to resist spending money. Why don’t you experiment with her suggestions and see what happens.
Happiness Experiment No 5: Three Wise Things
Happy Experiment No 5 comes from Tim Le Bon’s recent Wise Wednesday article called Making Positive Psychology Wiser and is a philosophical version of Happy Experiment No 2: Three Good Things. In order to inspire you here are video clips from three wise men past and present.
Three Wise Things
Each night for one week, write down three ways in which you or someone you know acted wisely that day. The things don’t have exhibit the wisdom of King Solomon – they just have to be things where someone showed good judgement. In addition to writing down three wise things, write down what made these actions wise?
The wisdom of Will Smith
The Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln
The wisdom of Confucious
Happiness Experiment No 6: Acts of Kindness
“Thousands of candles can be lit from one single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” Buddha
When is the last time you helped someone? Whether it was a large gesture or something small that brightened another person’s day, how did it make you feel?
The psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky instructed participants in a study to to practice acts of kindness during each week either for people they knew personally or for strangers. The acts of kindness could be carried out either openly or secretly and could be either spontaneous or planned. The study demonstrated that the participants enjoyed a significant increase in their well-being. The participants who were asked to constantly vary their acts of kindness and to carry them out on one single day of the week rather than spreading them over the week benefitted the most.
Try out this happiness experiment for yourself: on any day this week perform at least 5 acts of kindness beyond what you normally do. You will see that you derive so much benefit from your generous actions that it could be argued that there is no more selfish act than a generous act. Have fun with this happiness experiment and give it a try – you will be amazed at how it makes you feel. You can watch this wonderful short video by Life Vest Inside for inspiration.
Happiness Experiment No 7: A perfect day
What is your idea of a perfect day? Imagine a normal day which is not a holiday and take a look at what would constitute a perfect day for you. Look at the day in detail imagining what you would do from getting up in the morning to going to sleep at night. Live through the day in the present tense and in detail and write down your ideas. Think about what you are doing, where you are and who you are spending time with. How close are you to achieving this ideal day in your normal everyday life? What is one thing you can do today to get you closer to your ideal life? The first step to happiness is knowing what you want in life. Try this Happiness Experiment and see if you can come closer to living your perfect day every day of the week.
Happiness Experiment No 8: Pay more compliments
This great short film by Kurt Kuenne, Validation, introduces us to Happiness Experiment No 8: Pay more compliments. Have fun with this experiment and learn to show your appreciation for others, hand out some genuine praise on a regular basis and smile more. If you pay someone a genuine compliment it will make their day and their reaction may just make your day too. It’s a habit worth cultivating and it costs nothing so give it a try and let me know how you get on.
Happiness Experiment No 9: Feel Proud
Happiness Experiment No 9 is to do something every day that you are proud of – you don’t need to win an Olympic medal but I’m sure you will think of something. Why don’t you give it a try?
Happiness Experiment No 10: Before I die I want to ….
Happiness Experiment No 10 is to make a list of all the things you want to do before you die and to start doing them today. Have fun doing all the fun things you want to do and let me know how you get on.
Happiness Experiment No 11: Go with the flow
You will like Happiness Experiment no 11 because it involves doing more of what you love to do. It sounds so simple, surely attaining happiness should be more complicated and involve more of an effort? How can you be happy just by doing what you love to do? Simple as the idea sounds most of us forget to do the things we love to do and get involved in the daily 9 to 5, the things we ought to do, the daily must do, should do and need to do lists. True happiness, argues Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, comes from you being completely absorbed in some activity: you are completely in the zone and time slips by unnoticed. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a Hungarian psychologist and researcher, was credited with naming this state of complete absorption as “flow”. After interviewing many people who all had one thing in common (they pursued an activity for its own sake, not for the money or status but just for the joy of it) he came to label these experiences as “flow” activities. We all have different activities that put us in a state of flow and this can vary from individual to individual. So how can you tell if you are in flow? If you are experiencing most of these 7 characteristics while performing a task, chances are that you are experiencing flow:
- You experience oneness and ecstasy (you lose sense of self)
- You are completely involved and concentrated
- You experience the task as highly challenging and requiring a high level of skills
- You have a wonderful sense of serenity
- You experience a distorted sense of time
- You are intrinsically motivated
- You have a sense of control
Happiness Experiment no 11 is therefore to become aware of which activities are flow activities for you. Make sure you set aside time for these flow activities this week rather than telling yourself you are too busy. Make more time in your life for doing the things that you love. It sounds a simple experiment but is a remarkably effective way of increasing your happiness. If you would like to read more on the subject of flow read this book by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi or watch this video featuring in which Mihaly explains his theories further:
Happiness Experiment No 12: Live in the moment
Living in the present is one of the simplest positive psychology ideas to try but can seem like one of the hardest to master. We are so used to having our minds preoccupied with so many thoughts at once that it can be hard to focus on what is giving us joy right now. So give Happiness Experiment No 12 a try and learn to: Live in the moment. Learning the practice of mindfulness can help you to learn how to live in the moment. This short video about mindfulness will give you some pointers on what is involved:
Happiness Experiment No 13: Dance More
As children and young adults dance is something that comes naturally to us and it is difficult to imagine a life in which we do not dance and move our bodies to music. As we grow up we increasingly disconnect our heads from our bodies and dance becomes a less significant activity in our life, apart from the occasional boogie on the dance floor at a cousin’s wedding. Positive psychology research tells us that getting your groove on can seriously improve your mental and physical health. Dr Peter Lovatt who runs the dance psychology lab at the University of Hertfordshire has pioneered research in to dance and its mood altering possibilities. This School of Life video from the Sunday Sermons series gives you an insight in to his fascinating research. Watch the video and maybe you will be persuaded to put on your shoes and dance again.
Happiness Experiment No 14: Improve your luck
Professor Richard Wiseman’s research into the science of luck has demonstrated that good luck is not just something enjoyed by the lucky few but a skill which can be mastered easily. His book The Luck Factor shows that lucky people have 4 traits in common and these can be learned by anyone. Happiness Experiment no 14 is, therefore, to work at improving your luck – you may be missing out on opportunities you were not aware of.
1. Maximize Chance Opportunities
Lucky people are skilled at creating, noticing, and acting upon chance opportunities. They do this in various ways, which include building and maintaining a strong network, adopting a relaxed attitude to life, and being open to new experiences.
2. Listen to Your Lucky Hunches
Lucky people make effective decisions by listening to their intuition and gut feelings. They also take steps to actively boost their intuitive abilities — for example, by meditating and clearing their mind of other thoughts.
3. Expect Good Fortune
Lucky people are certain that the future will be bright. Over time, that expectation becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because it helps lucky people persist in the face of failure and positively shapes their interactions with other people.
4. Turn Bad Luck Into Good
Lucky people employ various psychological techniques to cope with, and even thrive upon, the ill fortune that comes their way. For example, they spontaneously imagine how things could have been worse, they don’t dwell on the ill fortune, and they take control of the situation.
Happiness Experiment No 15: Reconnect with a friend
Having a supportive network of friends is crucial for our happiness. It is never too late to reconnect with an old friend as true friendship never dies. Try getting in touch with someone you haven’t spoken to for some time. You won’t regret it.
Happiness Experiment No 16: Enjoy life’s simple pleasures
Pleasure is wild and sweet. She likes purple flowers. She loves the sun and the wind and the night sky. She carries a silver bowl full of liquid moonlight. She has a cat named Midnight with stars on his paws.
Many people mistrust Pleasure and even more misunderstand her. For a long time I could hardly stand to be in the same room with her. I went to sleep early to avoid her. I thought she was a gossip and a flirt and she drank too much. In school we learned that she was dangerous and I was sure that she would distract me from my work. I didn’t realise she could nurture me.
As I have changed, Pleasure has changed. I have learned to value her friendship.
This delightful description comes from a gem of a book, called The Book of Qualities by J. Ruth Gendler, which I recently discovered thanks to a recommendation by Brené Brown. We often deny ourselves the small simple pleasures in life which could give us a quick happiness boost if we gave ourselves permission to have some fun on a regular basis. This video clip by Gretchen Rubin is a great introduction to Happiness Experiment No 16: Find more ways to introduce small moments of pleasure in your life.