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How to Use Your Brain to Increase Your Happiness

Want to know how to think to feel happier? You do? Great! Wait--you want to know if works, too? Sure! That's a great dea.

Start by deciding on a scale of 1 to 7 how happy you feel right now. Let one be "Incredibly unhappy," so unhappy that happiness is not even on your horizon. Let seven be "Incredibly happy"--so happy nothing could get me down.

Use whatever you wish--a spread sheet where you can record day, date, time of day when you try this practice, and how you feel before and after; or a journal, even an e-mail or instant message to yourself. Just track your efforts in a way that makes sense to you.

Here's the deal: recent research at Harvard and Princetion (Emily Pronin, lead author) suggests that thinking fast about varied topics increases your happiness. The two criteria are "speed" and "varied."

Here are three things you could do each day to use your thinking to increase your happiness:

  1. Brainstorm as many ideas as you can (without judging any of them) about two topics.
  2. View several short videos on fast forward (yes, watch while fast forwarding)
  3. Scan multiple artices and highlight specific words while scanning.

All of these activities focus on speed--you have a limited amount of time in which to act. If you are daling with anxiety, racing thoughts, bipolar processes, or feelings of mania, try focusing on variety alone. Variety at a comfortable place may well help you be happier. Check it out to see if slower, varied thinking helps you towards a place of calm and peace.

You've noted where you are when you begin, and you've tried one of the three techniques. Pay attention to yoursefl, and using the same scale as before, note any difference. Of course you need to do this for couple of weeks, or 30 times (charted, please) before you can see the effects your efforts are having.

The over-tme repetition helps you determine how effective this tool is for you--something you can't decide after just one try.

Enjoy! We'd love to hear from you about changes in how you use your brain help you "Hike Up Your Happy."

--Elizabeth Power
The Empress of Happy!