A 2013 report found that most Yale University students seek mental health care while in school. But can people make themselves happy? That’s what more than 1,200 Yale students (almost a quarter of the undergraduate population) want to learn when they sign up for “Psychology and the Good Life.” Dr. Laurie Santos teaches the most popular course in Yale’s 316-year history, aiming to empower students to change their lives and increase their happiness. She calls it the most challenging course at Yale.
Santos believes that many understudies frequently put their desire before their joy, investing too much energy in trying to excel while putting their own needs on hold. The class focuses on positive psychology and behavioral change. Students must learn to change their habits and figure out how to build up the practices that will impact their lives years to come.
Expressing gratitude for the small things helps you appreciate life. Santos says spending just 10 minutes showing appreciation promotes your well-being. You must take the time to reflect on things that matter. Choose five things that you appreciate, such as your job, family, friends, talents, ambitions, or virtues. Consider their importance in your life and ask yourself what your life would be like if you didn’t have those things.
A study from UC Berkeley found that those who wrote gratitude letters to others showed improvements in mental health. Subjects saw benefits as far as 12 weeks after the writing exercise had finished. This information indicates that gratitude’s effects are long-lasting.
Quit comparing yourself to others
Nothing hinders your self-confidence quite like comparing yourself to your peers. It’s easy to idealize what you don’t have. You can spend all day envying others’ accomplishments, wealth, looks, and talents. Santos says people need to change their reference points.
“I tell students to hack their feed,” she says. “If you’re not watching all these televisions shows about the rich and famous, if you’re not surrounding yourself with reference points that are unattainable, then I think you won’t feel so bad.”
In an interview with GQ, Santos mentioned that Olympic bronze medalists are usually happier than silver medalists. Silver medal winners concentrate more on the fact that they didn’t win gold. However, bronze winners know how to appreciate their success.
Take time off social media
Regrettably, social media contributes to these kinds of comparisons. Watching your friends talk about their remarkable lives, vacations, jobs, and marriages might make you feel like you’re missing out. Countless studies prove that time on Facebook and depressive symptoms.
Many people to turn social media when they feel down or bored, says Santos, but these apps can have adverse effects in the long run. She adds that there are plenty of better things to do with your time, such as volunteering, exercising, sleeping, and making in-person social connections.
Spend more time with your friends
Being with your friends in-person is much better than merely watching their social media feeds. Face-to-face connections are far more meaningful than “likes” or “shares” on your posts. Time spent with loved ones is never wasted.
Happiness can spread from person to person. Being around happy people can boost your mood too. One study, which tracked participants for over 20 years, found that joy can spread across three degrees of separation. In other words, your friends’ friends’ friends can impact your emotions.
Make time for things you enjoy
Many people seem to forsake their happiness for what they think will make them happy. They chase high salaries, good grades, and excellent jobs, overestimating the value of such things and neglecting the misery they feel in their pursuit. Santos worries that high-achieving Yale students focus too much on trying to “make it” and end up ignoring their health and well-being. They see their end goals as “the light at the end of the tunnel” but fail to enjoy the journey there.
Santos also says that giving away time makes people feel like they have more of it. Doing volunteer work or hanging out with friends gives the feeling of having more time to spare. Scrolling social media is more likely to make a person feel as though they’re wasting their life away.
Meditating for a mere five to 10 minutes a day can bring excellent results. Santos practices loving-kindness meditation, in which she reflects on those important to her and sends them good wishes. She uses mantras such as, “I want you to be happy, I want you to live well.”
Studies have proved the upsides of mindful meditation. One from Harvard University found the brains of the participants who practiced mindfulness showed increased gray matter. They also experienced higher concentration, empathy, relaxation, and memory.
Finally, joyful people make time for their welfare. They make sure to get enough sleep and exercise to help them function. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, average Americans don’t get enough of either. In fact, one-third of Americans lack sufficient rest, and four-fifths don’t get the recommended amount of fitness.
A study from the University of Bristol found that working out before your job can increase your mood for the entire day. Those who worked out had better attention, performance, and stress management. Adequate sleep will also boost your energy, memory, and health.
You must shape the necessary habits to make yourself joyful. It’s easy to read any general list about gladness and still wonder why you feel depressed. You must rehearse these practices every day to see results. Create the permanent foundation that will ultimately improve your life and health.
Santos wants these behaviors to become automatic, like brushing your teeth. Then, they become a part of your everyday life without even thinking about it.
You wouldn’t do just one push-up and call it a set. You need to make a habit of working out to see muscle growth. In the same way, you must practice your happiness habits consistently to see results. You won’t be happy overnight. It takes time andpractice, but pays off in the end.