February 3, 2012 at 2:40 pm , by Louise Sloan
I was originally hired to be LHJ’s “psychology editor,” and over my four years here, much of my work has been about improving happiness and coping with stress. In fact, the first article I worked on was called “5 Habits of Truly Happy People.” I joked at the time that after a few months on the job I’d end up being oh so enlightened. But you know what? Lately I’ve realized that I have picked up a few ideas that help me through the hard times. Here are a few LHJ-article tricks I’ve been using—all of which have a lot of university research proving that they’re effective. Plus two thumbs up from this test driver!
Do fun stuff. Sure, you need to take your problems seriously, eat your vegetables and keep up with the news. But not every minute of the day! Take time to click on that cute or funny Facebook link. Watch or read something that makes you laugh (here’s our article on how laughter releases stress), or indulge in some escapism. I’ve most recently been transported to the English countryside, watching Downton Abbey on my iPhone on my subway commute, and reading Plan C, an e-book that came out last week (see photo) that Vanity Fair‘s James Wolcott accurately called a “breathless romp.” The heroine, dressed in expensive stilettos, teeters back and forth between fabulous Manhattan apartments and celeb-filled cocktail parties, exchanging gossip and witty banter with her equally fabulous BFFs—about as far from my NYC life as you can get. Though my reality—being the single working mom of a five-year-old—does help increase the fun factor, I gotta say (check out our article on the psychological importance of play)—there’s usually a game of chase or something silly I can engage in the minute I come home at night.
Think happy thoughts. Even small ones, like, “The Chrysler Building really is beautiful.” Or, “my bum hip isn’t bothering me too much today.” Look for something to enjoy in the moment (for tips, read our mindfulness article), or something to look forward to, something that you’re grateful for, or find a happy memory and dwell on that. These small thoughts add up, boosting your mood and at least temporarily interrupting that endless loop of negativity.
Hug somebody. Thank goodness for my snuggly schoolboy! But if you don’t have a five-year-old or a husband or a friend handy, a pet will work just fine. The benefits of touch are well-documented, and can sometimes really work wonders, as “The Cuddle Cure,” a pet story I edited, demonstrates.
Get some exercise. I know, sounds like broccoli. But wow, does it work. It’s as close to a psychological cure-all as you can get. After 20 minutes of lifting heavy weights, whatever my heavy load is always seems a lot lighter. Hmmm. I think it’s time for a gym break.
What’s your favorite “happiness skill”?