How can we lead a happy life

The way to happiness: six insights for a good life

The way to happiness: six insights for a good life

Especially in these turbulent times, the question of what makes us satisfied is more important than ever. Six findings from positive psychology.

Can you learn to be happy? And is that more than humbug? I've always been on the side of the skeptics when it comes to positive psychology, or, as it is often called, happiness research. Until two years ago I decided to study happiness myself.

Since then I have known that there is much more to a person's life than being free of fear or being able to achieve. People want to find meaning, to live in a community, to achieve goals and to be able to enjoy them. And that's exactly what it's all about: Finding ways to shape one's life positively with the help of science. Especially in times of crisis, which are accompanied by negative headlines and dark hours of uncertainty, reflecting on your own strengths and self-care can therefore be beneficial.

The American psychologist Martin Seligman, who popularized positive psychology in the 1990s, saw it that way. The science of what is right with humans is still very young. But researchers, business leaders and the general public are increasingly interested in what it takes to stay healthy today, not only physically but also mentally.

Only ten percent of people consider themselves happy

And that's exactly what we need more than ever: Around 20 percent of people in Switzerland and other Western countries suffer from anxiety disorders or depression, thousands from psychosomatic symptoms. We sleep badly, are stressed, we have relationship worries and fears about the future.

Very few of us, namely around ten percent, describe themselves as happy. In English there is the term "flourishing" - to blossom. Not only do plants do this, humans can bloom too. And a satisfied person also keeps the political, economic and social processes of a democratic society healthy. That is why, in these difficult times, we have collected scientific findings from positive psychology for you. Especially a time of standstill can be an opportunity to focus on your own desires, relationships, health and priorities.

In search of happiness, the journalist Anna Miller completed a master's degree in positive psychology. Now she is helping others to find it. Here are 6 exhilarating tips:

1. This is how relationships work

We always suspected it: the quality of our relationships has a decisive influence on our well-being. How many relationships we have is secondary. It all comes down to feelings of security, trust and support. The psychologist John Gotman found out back in the 1970s that love relationships are more likely to succeed if we share five times more positive moments than negative ones. And that it depends largely on how we communicate with one another.

Active listening is a success factor - that is, perceiving the other with all your senses and not just waiting until he's finished and we can talk. Also, beware of the four horsemen of the apocalyptic! Getting personal in a quarrel, walling up, rejecting all guilt and contempt are guarantees that the relationship will break up fairly quickly. But there are ways out: Non-violent communication according to Marshall B. Rosenberg has proven itself just as useful as showing oneself vulnerable. The well-known shame researcher Brené Brown tells us on Netflix: Those who show themselves to be vulnerable feel connected. And therefore loved again.

2. Move around

Sport and exercise increase the dopamine and serotonin levels in our body, we can reduce stress and increase the feeling of happiness - purely because our hormone balance is positively influenced. Cardio training such as jogging or swimming also helps to reduce fears and to promote creativity and concentration. The constant, rhythmic movements can have a positive effect on the psyche. Studies also show that a healthy diet, for example with the right fats and vitamins, changes the composition in the brain. We can use it to reduce anxiety and alleviate depression.

It is best to go out into the fresh air, soak up the sun, and move around so that you are challenged but not overwhelmed. And above all: watch what is going on in your head. Negative beliefs, self-criticism and excessive performance thinking damage body, mind and soul. This is proven to help, which has also been proven in thousands of studies: meditation. Especially the “loving kindness meditation” (LKM), also called metta meditation. In doing so, you gently focus your thoughts on the good in you and the world. This has been shown to cause more happiness and energy for other things.

3. The secret of the state of flow

In psychology, flow is a state of complete concentration in which the person is absorbed in his task. The happiness researcher Mihály Csíkszentmihályi is considered to be the creator of the flow theory. You may be familiar with the fact that a task absorbs you so much and makes you so satisfied that you forget about time and space. The state of flow is a central element of happiness. This is also what we can observe in children: They play so deeply that they can no longer perceive anything around them. Researchers assume that people have to spend about 15 minutes of undisturbed attention on something that they experience as not too difficult and not too easy to get into the flow.

It is therefore important to put your cell phone down and do not interrupt what you are doing all the time. This may seem strange at first, but it has a long-term effect on your happiness in life. Studies have also shown that if you are structured and disciplined in one area, it increases the likelihood that you will last longer in another area as well. Fifteen minutes of fitness on the mat, at the same time each day, may help you pay your bills more regularly.

4. When life makes sense

Bad news for all atheists: Science concludes that belief and spirituality have a positive impact on life. What kind of belief doesn't matter in the end. On the other hand, that is believed. Beyond religions and gurus, it also plays a major role for people to explore their values ​​and live by them. That gives stability and security. In addition to the feeling of freedom and autonomy, the second major component for stable psychological well-being.

The Japanese call this phenomenon Ikigai - exploring the meaning of your own life. Ikigai is a mixture of what you are good at, what satisfies you and in which you see meaning for yourself and others. Don't know your Ikigai? No problem. You can find out by asking yourself four questions: What do I love? What am I good at? What am I paid for? What does the world need from me? Take a few minutes for your thoughts and feelings and write down your answers. And soon you might be setting off for new shores.

5. Gratitude and Strengths

Keeping a journal is beneficial. According to studies, ten minutes a day is enough to feel better for weeks. Pick up a pen and a nice notebook and give room to your thoughts and feelings. Also, think regularly about what you can be thankful for in your life. Because gratitude is one of the pillars of happiness and generates more positive emotions.

If we direct our thoughts and actions towards positive things, we automatically create an upward spiral - the more positive we see, the more we succeed. Because: Repeatedly experiencing positive emotions has a motivating effect. The psychologist Barbara Fredrickson records this fact in her “Broaden and Build” theory. It also works well for us when we refer to our strengths instead of seeing our weaknesses. Positive psychology assumes that every person has virtues such as creativity, courage or perseverance, but differently pronounced. If we express our five core strengths more often in everyday life and at work, we are happier overall. You can find out free of charge what your strengths are at www.viacharacter.org.

6. Friendliness pays off

The "random act of kindness" experiment is one of the hobbyhorses of positive psychology. It's all about the question: What happens if I just carry a random act of kindness into the world, even if I don't get anything in return? Research brought to light: A lot of positive things are happening. People who do good to strangers or the world on their own initiative are demonstrably happier. But do not worry if you are one of those who use their solidarity and friendliness in a stable and targeted manner: this also has an effect on the most varied of levels.

Those who stand up for their community and consciously absorb the positive from social interaction are also doing something for their health. So solidarity is not just a question of morality, it actually makes people happier. In times of crisis and afterwards. By the way: people who spontaneously enjoy good things are many times more willing to pass on their happiness within the next few minutes. Attention, Swiss Solidarity, go! You can find hundreds of suggestions for small gestures of happiness on the Internet. Or you think about what you have already enjoyed and share this joy with others. As they say? Love is the only good that multiplies when you share it.