How to be Happier – An Exercise from Positive Psychology and the Book The Power of Moments

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Are you wondering how to be happier? Well, this post will show you how.

Today we’re gonna be diving into the wonderful world of positive psychology. 

And we’re gonna be talking about this powerful practice that’s simple but transformative that can bring you a lot of joy and connection into your life, and you could probably do it in like 15 minutes. So, let’s jump in.

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How To Be Happier

Look, you can’t just make yourself feel good all the time, right?  It’s not possible, and it often backfires, trying to feel happy.

But like a seed, you can grow happiness through consistent choices. 

What we consistently do is what we become. And today we’re going to talk about a simple but powerful action that positive psychology has shown to be super effective at helping people feel happier, and it lasts for weeks.

So, I feel like this exercise is something that people who are kind of naturally happy, they do it frequently without thinking about. But the rest of us have to learn this skill.

The Power Of Moments

This exercise is called a gratitude letter, and I learned about it from a book called The Power of Moments.

It’s a quick exercise designed by Martin Seligman. He was one of the founders of positive psychology, and his whole focus was on helping people become more resilient and overcome depression.

Research shows that people who write a gratitude letter experience greater levels of happiness and satisfaction in life than people who don’t.

They have less negativity in their lives, and they have an improved sense of connection with others.

Research also shows that they have less-reduced levels of anxiety and depression.  And I think one of the coolest things about this is that research found that people who did this exercise, weren’t just happy like right after doing it, but they were also happy one and three months later.

So, the authors of The Power of Moments, say, you know, this is a stunning finding. There are a lot of pleasures in the world that can spike our happiness for an hour – a warm donut comes to mind – but there are few that can still provide an afterglow a month later. So, that’s one of the reasons why I love this exercise.

Cultivating Happiness

So, here’s what you do: take a minute and think of someone who’s still alive and who did something that changed your life for the better. 

It could be a teacher who offered words of praise or a parent who sacrificed for you or an employer who mentored you – anyone who helped you out, but maybe you never properly thanked them.

And now you’re just gonna write a letter of gratitude to this person. It doesn’t have to be long, but it should be specific and go into as much detail as you can about what this person did that helped you and what that meant to you. How did it affect you personally?

And just be really sincere and authentic and specific. And then let them know as well, like, how you’re doing now, how that impacts you now, and just mention, if you do think about them frequently or in certain situations.

Let them know how you remember what they did or said. And then, if it’s possible in any way, share this letter with your mentor in person,

Now, if you have to, over the phone’s okay, or on FaceTime, but anything you can do to see their face, to see their reaction to this letter is going to increase the experience for both you and them.

And in the book, The Power of Moments, they share the story of a young man who did this. He was a college student named Paul, and he wrote this letter to his mother, and then he read it to her. 

He said, “Mom, from when I was born till now you have been impacting my life every day. When I was in high school you came to every single sporting event that you possibly could, even if that meant you had to leave work early to catch the bus to get there. You were there. It didn’t matter if I was playing down in Maple Valley during the playoffs, you were still there, bundled in blankets. Or if it was pouring rain in the middle of October you were there in your raincoat. You pushed and pushed and pushed me to do well in school because you wanted me to go to college. I remember the day I was accepted to the University of Montana.

We were both able to share that wonderful moment together. I know that if it was not for you, I would not have continued my education. And I thank you for being there for me through the toughest of times and through the best of times.

You have been there to support me. And I can’t honestly tell you what this means to me. All I can say is that I love you with all of my heart. You are such an amazing human being and an even better mother. Thank you for all the time and effort and hard work you’ve taken into making me the man that I am today. I love you with all of my heart.” 

Happiness Boost

Now, you can imagine why this experience would be really amazing for Paul’s mother. She of course shed some tears. But the experience was also really amazing for Paul. He said, “It was such an amazing feeling. I felt almost untouchable.” And when he was asked about the most impactful experiences of his entire college experience, this experience ranked as his third most impactful, right after graduation and attending the National Championship football game. 

So, not only does this exercise make you feel happy reflecting on something positive from your life, but also makes someone else happy, which makes you feel happier. And it increases that sense of connection with that person, and the connection is one of the best sources of joy and resilience. 

So now you know what to do. You know how to create a super positive and lasting experience for yourself and someone else. Don’t just think about it; go out and do it. Just start now. It’d probably take you 15 minutes. 

Click the link below if you want to learn how to process your emotions. 

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