Arkansas State University - Newport

Search form

ASUN Lobby

5 Strategies to Become Happier

ASUN's faculty and staff started the semester with Dr. Tim Bono who shared his science on happiness. Dr. Bono concludes that happiness is not about being happy all the time. The goal is working to be happier. Negativity happens, it will always happen and continue to happen. Negative emotions can prompt us to reflect on those aspects of life that may be driving our anxiety or despair and lead us to make changes.  

These 5 strategies will keep you focused on what you have in the present moment and make you happier.

  1. Practice Gratitude.
  2. Make Progress toward Goals.
  3. Manage Your Energy.
  4. Move Your Body.
  5. Still Your Mind.

1. Practice Gratitude

Gratitude helps us see what is there instead of what isn’t.

Where the mind goes, everything else follows. Practicing gratitude is giving the mind a positive direction to focus on what we currently have rather than focusing on what we don’t have. The best way to practice gratitude is to make a list each day. You can list it anywhere that works best for you, a notebook, journal, your phone, or even email them to yourself. List at least 3 things that you are grateful for within the last 24 hours. It is easy to list the grander things we are grateful for…our family, friends, house, car, employment, though listing things within the last day strengthens our awareness of daily gratitude and recognizing new areas that bring us joy.

Journaling is also great. Journaling doesn’t have to be Dear Diary. It very well can be – and probably the best way to process your emotions without judgment. Journal writing is an excellent way to capture ideas and progress toward goals. It provides a personal and private way to track your greatest moments. If used regularly, you will capture your greatest success, but – most importantly – you will also be recording those times when your choices weren’t the best. New strategies and perspectives can later be gained from these writings.

2. Make progress towards your goals-even small tasks

Making progress, regardless of size, is the best way to increase self-confidence and become happier. We can easily get overwhelmed with the magnitude of our goals but celebrating small victories is great for building self-confidence.

Start to focus on your Activation Energy or the amount of effort required for you to get up and do a particular task. The lower the effort the more likely you are to do it. This is according to research at Harvard by Shawn Anchor. He found the difference between people who take action and those who don’t can be attributed to creating this momentum that keeps them going.

Achieving anything in life is a series of small steps. Activation energy gets you started. The momentum it generates keeps you going. You take one step, then the next, and the next again, and before you know it – you’re on your way.

Start asking yourself what is the smallest task you can complete to get one step closer. Plan a daily list of your top priorities, determine your to-dos to achieve them, and fire up your activation energy.

3. Manage your energy

We need energy to complete our tasks and reach our goals but what if we are spending our energy in the wrong areas or giving too much of our energy away. This often leads to us not having enough healthy and positive energy to exert toward our goals.

Think about your sleep patterns, diet, and stress levels. It is amazing how much energy we exert through stress, anxiety and worry. Working to find passions outside of work that re-energize you takes your mind off work and renews energy levels through your passions.

It is also important to manage your mental and emotional energy. Our goal is always to work to increase our positive energy and decrease any negative energy. Remember – where the mind goes, everything else follows!! It is unrealistic that negative energy will never occur but we can’t let it take over and lead us. A small amount of negative energy can be healthy as long as we have the strategies to realign. We begin by recognizing our own emotions and having a step that helps us process, understand, and communicate our own feelings. This is the foundational step for empathy. Our own strategies will be unique but it is important for us to find and refine strategies that work for us.

4. Move your body

Moving the body each day can create a space for calmness in the mind and body. Movement to calm the mind was the original purpose for yoga poses and sequences. This was an effort to exhaust the body to calm the mind. Medical research focuses on the beneficial effects of lowering cortisol levels and reducing stress.

Movement keeps your body healthy and replenishes physical energy that will help you contribute to your passions. Movement doesn’t have to be hitting the gym at 4am or running a 5K each day. Movement can be walking at lunch or stretching in bed or your chair – during a commercial. Once again, start with small tasks that you can achieve and celebrate the victories toward increased self-esteem and confidence.

5. Still your mind

Unfortunately, many believe meditation is about avoiding our thoughts and thinking of nothing. Yea right – fat chance! Never going to happen! It is reclaiming our thoughts and attention. Meditation isn’t about emptying our mind of thoughts – but being able to step back and see our thoughts as they pass by. It is like watching traffic pass by as you stand on the side of the street. Think of your thoughts as the cars and trucks that pass by. Yes – I see that one, it passes. Okay, here’s the next one, yes passing by. Oh wait – I need to jump on the bumper of this one and hang on for a while as it drives in circles. Nope – this exhaust pipe is killing me. Going back to the side of the road. And keep going back to the side of the road. That is all meditation is! Our ability to sit on the side of the road and look for patterns in our thoughts.

Meditation can be as easy as S.T.O.P. Stop what you’re doing. Take a few deep breaths. Observe your thoughts & emotions (watch from the side of the road). Proceed.

Bad days are a part of life but the secret is learning to minimize the negative impact of bad days and capitalize on the positive impact of good days. The best way to become happier and learn from the negativity is to refine a set of your own strategies that will keep you aligned.

This blog was provided by Dr. Veronica Manning, Dean for Leadership and Organizational Development.