Research shows that happiness can be a product of nature and nurture, impacted by both our genetics and our environment.1 But there is another path to happiness: our attitude.
Viktor Frankl, renowned psychiatrist and Holocaust survivor, coined the term “attitudinal values” to describe the potential to make the best out of the most difficult circumstances and tragedies.2 It enables a person to turn their experiences into something meaningful and positive.
This shift in mindset is developed with healthy and positive habits, or in other words, creating a happiness practice. Thinking about happiness as a choice allows you to stay in better control of your reactions to the ups and downs of life.
By starting a happiness practice, you may just find that your days are filled with a little more joy.
The DNA of happiness
At the turn of the 21st century, Martin Seligman popularized the field of positive psychology—the study of helping people lead happier and healthier lives. Although the term “positive psychology” was coined by Abraham Maslow in the 1950s, Seligman made it prominent in mainstream culture.3
Seligman explored the dimensions of happiness and created PERMA, an acronym that describes five key building blocks for happiness.4
PERMA: The building blocks of happiness
- P—Positive emotion. Cultivating pleasure, enjoyment, and peace.
- E—Engagement. Getting involved in creative projects, fulfilling work, and interesting hobbies.
- R—Relationships. Giving importance to friendships, family, partners, and community.
- M—Meaning. Finding a sense of meaning and purpose in something bigger.
- A—Accomplishment. Setting goals, acknowledging wins, making progress, and having ambition.
You can apply these core elements to a daily happiness practice that might just change your life. Here’s how.
1. Balance your thoughts
We’re all prone to negative thoughts. A tense conversation with your significant other, mounting debt, or a terse email from your boss can all quietly add to your anxiety. Balance negative thoughts with positive thoughts that make you feel good.
Make this change by finding things to be grateful for and focusing on what’s going right. Activities that induce relaxation, such as meditation, mindfulness, yoga, and other physical exercise, can help restore balance.
2. Find an activity that puts you in “flow state”
We all know the feeling when you get totally absorbed in doing something, and suddenly you look up and it’s three hours later. Many people call this “flow state,” and it can happen whenever you’re doing physical, creative, or intellectual activities. It’s highly enjoyable, and people who experience flow—from professional athletes to artists—regularly report having a higher sense of well-being than people who don’t get into flow states often.
Find activities that stretch your intelligence, skills, creativity, and emotional capacity—whether that’s writing, dancing, solving a jigsaw puzzle, or playing an instrument or a sport. Doing things that engage your attention keeps you focused in the present moment and can bring contentment.
3. Spend quality time with those who matter
Christopher Peterson described positive psychology in three words: Other people matter.5 His work discovered correlations between optimism, good health, and a long life.6 He concluded that nurturing relationships, from friends to work colleagues, family, or neighbors, is crucial to a healthy life.
Having genuine and longstanding bonds brings happiness and fulfilment. Build deeper relationships by connecting with people. Make time in your schedule to partake in fun activities with friends, children, parents, siblings, peers, and coworkers on a regular basis. Although how you prefer to socialize may differ depending on whether you’re extroverted or introverted, as humans, we’re social beings—and belonging to a group makes us feel secure, safe, and valued.7
4. Find a larger purpose that adds meaning to your life
Friedrich Nietzsche once said, “If we have our own ‘why’ of life we shall get along with almost any ‘how.’”8 Developing a sense of purpose in life can help you overcome many obstacles.
One way to find purpose is by spending your time, talents, and resources on things that make the world a better place. Volunteering, donating to charities, and supporting causes using your platform or your creative talents are different ways to serve a greater good.
You can find purpose in your professional life, too—even if you haven’t landed your dream job. Knowing the “why” behind what you do every day can help bring you satisfaction in your career. You can connect to greater meaning through spiritual and religious practices, spending time in nature, or anything else that ties you to something bigger than yourself.
5. Acknowledge your achievements and strive for progress
Nothing feels better than setting a goal and smashing it. A sense of achievement can inspire you on to even greater things. After a win—big or small—you can continue to savor it and use it as motivation. Even small accomplishments build self-esteem and strengthen your belief in yourself.
Tap into this power by setting goals for yourself on a regular basis. If you’re spending more time at home, now’s a great time for a new challenge. This could be anything from clocking your best 5k run to writing a short story or trying a new guacamole recipe. Setting financial goals like improving your credit score, saving for retirement, or buying a home can help you increase your emotional and financial abundance.
In summary, happiness isn’t solely determined by luck, genetics, and circumstances. It comes down to working on five key elements that support your overall well-being. And the more you practice, the more it will come naturally to you.