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The happiness roulette

This is the second post in a series of three. The first is here:

In my last post I mentioned that Jeffery Martin recommends doing lots of positive psychology – happiness exercises – as part of a programme aimed at ‘Awakening’. (Recall that this is a pretty vague term, intended to be roughly similar to alternative ones like ‘non-symbolic consciousness’, ‘non-duality’, ‘enlightenment’.)

The point of this post is to provide a little bit of detail as to what these ‘exercises’ look like. What I’ve done is to gather together all the practical positive psychology exercises that I could find, so long as they look like they’d be potentially useful or effective for me. In other words, there are probably other exercises out there – but the following cover the main bases.

I’ve primarily used Sonja Lyubomirsky, ‘The How of Happiness’, Richard Wiseman, ‘Rip it Up’, as well as some suggestions made by Jeffery Martin in the webinars that I mentioned in the last post. It’s striking how the same themes come up again and again.

In other words, there seem to be a few core techniques to being happy. They are:

In a bit more detail, I made a list of all the useful positive psychology exercises that I could find. It was nice that this list contained roughly 38 items – hence the title of this post, a happiness roulette. If you have a roulette wheel handy, you could spin it at the start of each day, and do the exercise corresponding to the roulette wheel’s number. Alternatively, and much more prosaically, you could do as I have done, and download a random number generator for your phone.

OK, here is the roulette:

  1. Smile for at least half a minute
  2. Laugh out loud
  3. Rip a piece of paper into 9 pieces. On each, write an activity that makes you feel good. Put them into a hat. Draw out one.
  4. Write three things that have happened that you’re grateful for
  5. Write three things that are now/ ongoing that you’re grateful for
  6. Write three things to come that you’re grateful for
  7. Identify one thing that you take for granted that you’re grateful for
  8. Acknowledge an ungrateful thought, substitute for a corresponding grateful one
  9. Express gratitude to another person, either in person or via a letter (which may remain unsent once completed)
  10. Visualise your best possible self in 1 year’s time
  11. Visualise your best possible self in 10 years’ time
  12. Identify a long range goal that is of great importance to you. Break it into sub-goals, and consider how you could take small steps towards that long range goal.
  13. Identify your automatic/ habitual pessimistic thoughts. Consciously replace with a different thought when the former arises.
  14. Watch out for over-thinking/ rumination. When it happens, practic distraction, by saying ‘No!’, or getting up and doing something else – or simply being aware of it can be enough to stop it.
  15. Put yourself/ your problems in the context of astronomical scales
  16. Practice an act of kindness to a friend/ partner/ relative – it should be something you wouldn’t ordinarily do, something special
  17. Practice an act of kindness, as above, but to a stranger
  18. Talk to a partner or close friend, listen, give them all the time they want
  19. Ensure you stack up the ratio of positive to negative events in a particular relationship: as a rule of thumb, ensure that the former outnumber the latter at least 5:1
  20. Respond well to your partner or friend’s *good* news
  21. Do something that supports one of your partner or friend’s roles
  22. Hug as much as you can
  23. Find some benefit in a negative event, even a traumatic event
  24. Take a negative/ traumatic event in your life, and practice creative writing: your deepest thoughts and feelings about this event
  25. Remember and appreciate a time that you were forgiven
  26. Write a forgiveness letter to someone (again, it may remain unsent once completed)
  27. Forgive ‘micro-slights’, the sort of daily frustrations that other people cause you (and probably aren’t even aware of) – drivers cutting you up, people talking too loudly on their phone etc.
  28. Take time to fully appreciate something beautiful and/ or excellent today
  29. Take time to fully take pleasure in taste
  30. Take time to fully take pleasure in smell
  31. Take time to fully take pleasure in touch
  32. Form a positive intention/ loving kindness/ prayer for your partner, close friend, or relative
  33. Form a positive intention/ loving kindness/ prayer for a more distant friend or acquaintance
  34. Form a positive intention/ loving kindness/ prayer for an ‘enemy’, or someone that you have strong negative feelings towards
  35. Write your own eulogy: imagine that you are a ghost at your own funeral. What are your family and friends saying about you? What would you want them to say
  36. Like #1: Smile for at least half a minute
  37. Like #2: Laugh out loud
  38. Like #3: Draw out another positive activity from the hat

For more detail on any of the above, I recommend that you have a look at the books I mentioned earlier, particularly Lyubomirsky’s.

The third and final post in this series is on the way, covering the meditative practices that I have planned to cover, during the 18 week programme. This is going to be the most significant post – although the positive psychology exercises listed above certainly help, what’s going to get you making real progress is the solid hour of meditation each day.

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