Excerpt: Dr. Ian Smith's 'Happy'

Gratitude also works by focusing on the good things that happened in the past. If you take the time to think about what you have to be thankful for, then that means there is less time to think about the bad things that happened. Imagine a constant battle between the good and evil forces trying to occupy your thoughts. Only one can dominate at a time. The more time you spend on one, the less time you can spend on the other. By devoting more time to thinking about and expressing gratitude, you allow the good forces to win and all the positive energy that comes with them.

List Three Things That Went Well Today and Why Too much of our day is focused on the bad things that happen or the things we wanted or expected that didn't happen. This often leads to feelings of disappointment, failure, and negativity. But research performed by a group of psychologists led by Martin Seligman has shown that recognizing the good that happens in your day can boost your levels of happiness.

In this groundbreaking study the researchers asked over four hundred participants to perform happiness interventions over a period of several months.5 One of these interventions involved listing three things that went well each day and identifying why those three things went well. This was done every night for one week. It was one of two exercises that showed the greatest results, increasing happiness and decreasing depressive symptoms for six months.

The exercise might look something like this:

1. I got accepted into one of my top three college choices. This is great news because I like the campus and curriculum at this college, and the school also offered me a scholarship to help reduce the cost of attending.
2. I read a book to a group of toddlers at the library today. It went so well that the librarian invited me back to read another book.
3. I spoke to a friend I hadn't spoken to for several months because of an argument we had. We talked about the merits of the argument, our different viewpoints, and how bad we both felt about not speaking to each other. We agreed to put the disagreement behind us and move on with our friendship, which we both enjoy.

Spend Money on Someone Else

Having money might not buy happiness, but how you spend it could actually make a difference. This is the premise of a study conducted by a team at Harvard Business School and the University of British Columbia.6 One of the researchers said that they wanted to test the theory that how people spend their money is at least as important as how much they earn. Participants in the study were asked to rate their general happiness, report their annual income, and detail their monthly spending, including bills, gifts for themselves, gifts for others, and donations to charity.

Surprisingly, they found that regardless of how much income each person made, those who spent money on others reported greater happiness while those who spent more on themselves didn't.

In a different experiment the same researchers focused on the employees of a small Boston company. They surveyed the employees before and after receiving profi t- sharing bonuses between $3,000 and $8,000. They found that employees who devoted more of their bonus to pro- social spending experienced greater happiness after collecting the bonus. How an employee spent the bonus was a more important predictor of their happiness than the size of the bonus itself.

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