Feel good quotient

September 02, 2019 12:00 am | Updated 05:00 am IST

Look for the extraordinary in everyday routines

This piece culminates the tetrad of articles on happiness based on Sonja Lyubomirsky’s research. So far, I have covered eight happiness-inducing strategies. Lyubomirsky recommends four additional strategies to enhance your well-being, that I will outline here.

When was the last time you were transfixed by the orange-red glow of the setting sun? Though you posted a delectable picture of the ultimate double-fudge chocolate cake on Instagram, did you relish each spongy bite, as gooey, dark chocolate melted in your mouth? When your dog bounces in delight as you return home every evening, do you unplug your earphones to reciprocate the warmth? Life, however mundane, is filled with such magical moments, if only we would stop to savour them wholeheartedly. According to Lyubomirsky, the “habit of savouring,” is linked to “intense and frequent happiness.” So, whether you are going for a run, building a tower with Lego blocks with your nephew, or eating paani-puri at a roadside stall, be present and luxuriate in these moments at least twice a day. Look for the extraordinary in quotidian routines.

Sticking to goals

The next strategy involves delineating life-goals and committing to them. Having a personalised goal provides meaning to your life and also enhances your self-esteem. Further, every time you meet a sub-goal, your sense of accomplishment motivates you to seek further and try harder, thereby setting off a self-propelling forward momentum. At times, when people are down, they promise to adhere to their goals once they are out of the dumps. However, Lyubomirsky exhorts us to stick with our goals even during bleak times as it “may help us cope better with problems.” When we thus busy ourselves, we have less time for unproductive and unhelpful ruminations.

Research also implicates another factor in well-being. People who are religious are “happier, healthier, and recover better after traumas” than those who don’t profess any faith. While religious people may follow the tenets of a particular denomination, you may also cultivate a spiritual dimension without necessarily aligning yourself entirely with any prescribed religion. You can accrue the benefits of spirituality by believing in something larger than yourself. Even if you don’t frequent churches, mosques or temples, Lyubomirsky says you “can work at searching for the sacred” in myriad ways. Some people may practice mindfulness meditation while others may be mystically moved by a panoramic view of snow-topped mountains, at the end of an arduous trek.

Lyubomirsky’s final strategy for boosting happiness involves exercising. Grab your shoes and go for a run. Join a gym, Pilates or yoga class. Swim, cycle or simply walk. Apart from enhancing our physical health, engaging in sports or fitness also imbues us with a sense of control over our body and health, which, in turn, “provides a terrific sense of agency and self-worth.” Exercising also reduces stress as it releases feel-good hormones and can also be a social activity if done with other people.

This article concludes the series on happiness-inducing strategies. Here is a quick recap of the dozen methods that Lyubomirsky suggests. Express gratitude, be optimistic, don’t ruminate, perform acts of kindness, nurture relationships, cope with downers in life by journalling, forgive others and yourself, engage in ‘flow’ activities, savour life’s joys, chalk out goals, cultivate a spiritual dimension and exercise.

Of course, you have to pick the strategies that meld with your personality. But if you persist in cultivating at least three or four strategies, you are likely to maintain your zest for life.

The writer is Director, PRAYATNA. arunasankara@gmail.com

Life, however mundane, is filled with such magical moments.

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