What’s the key to happiness? According to Martin Seligman, pioneering researcher in positive psychology, happiness is but one aspect of psychological wellbeing, which is longer-lasting and has 5 elements: positive emotions, engagement, positive relationships, meaning and achievement.
“Positive psychology doesn’t encourage people to be happy all the time,” says Maria Hennessy, lecturer in psychology at James Cook University. “Life is all about having swings and roundabouts, and people with high levels of wellbeing understand that when you have down moments in life, you know they won’t stay forever and you can pick yourself up and move forward again.”
Cultivating a strong sense of wellbeing isn’t difficult. Here are 7 simple ‘actionable things’ you can do to take charge of your wellbeing.
1. Learn something new
“Learning is a core need for psychological wellbeing,” says Vanessa King, positive psychology expert. “It can build confidence and a sense of self-efficacy. A fun thing to try might be a skills swap with a friend. Do they have knowledge you’d like to learn and vice versa?”
Learning something new may mean more stress in the short run, but according to this study, your wellbeing increases the most when you learn something you want to, not what you think you should.
Call-to-action: Take a short online course about a topic of interest. There are tons of free ones.
2. Do anything creative
Engaging in small daily acts of creativity doesn’t just make us feel good in that moment—it increases our overall wellbeing. How do we incorporate creativity into our daily lives? For a start, be curious.
“Curiosity and creative thinking go hand-in-hand,” says King. “Learning something new in one area of our lives can trigger ideas in another.”
Call-to-action: By learning something new you’ve killed two birds with one stone. Or do one of these things to stay curious.
3. Identify your strengths
Seligman’s research found that people who found opportunities to use their strengths in new ways reported higher life satisfaction in the long run.
Call-to-action: Seligman suggests writing down a story about when you felt you were at your best. What personal strengths did you display? Think of 3 aspects of your life where you can use them.
4. Consciously seek out the good
Gratitude has long been proven to increase your wellbeing. As American artist Agnes Martin writes, “The measure of your life is the amount of beauty and happiness of which you are aware.”
Call-to-action: Write down 3 things that went well in your day.
5. Be kind
Kindness has profound effects on our happiness. A study found that people felt happier when asked to remember a past act of generosity, which prompted them to do another kind act in the present.
Call-to-action: Do one of these kind acts today.
6. Keep your friends close
Literally. Research shows that friends who live within a mile of you have the greatest effect on your wellbeing. Friends don’t live near you? Befriend your neighbours!
Strong social relationships boost our wellbeing but acquaintances help too—people reported less feelings of loneliness after genuine social interactions with acquaintances.
Call-to-action: Ask your neighbour how their day’s going. Listen and respond with sincerity.
Studies have consistently shown that having plants around reduces stress and anxiety. Good sunlight exposure and window views make a difference too.
Call-to-action: Get that desk plant already.
This article first appeared in The Mindful Company.