Not feeling happy? An article in Shape magazine (“What really, truly makes us happy”, July/August 2015) says, “The sad fact is, Americans are less happy than we used to be. According to the latest Harris Interactive poll, only a third of us say we’re “very happy,” down from 2008.” That stat alone can make one unhappy!
How can you experience more happiness in your life? The article discusses PAIs, or positive activity interventions, as a potential answer. PAIs “include things like writing letters to yourself and other people outlining what you’re grateful for; mentally counting your blessings; performing acts of kindness; doing things that reinforce your values…;and thinking about how good you feel about the people in your life.” How often you should do these things is still up for debate, but you may want to use yourself as a lab experiment. Try doing one a day—is that too much? Maybe cut back to every other day. The important thing is that you are consciously taking the time to bring positive emotions into your life and recognizing them. The positive feelings build on each other, and voila! You are happier. That doesn’t sound too difficult, right?
Below are 5 tips that the article shares on how to do PAIs in order to get the “biggest happiness bump”:
Mix it up. Write someone a thank-you note one day; notice good things that happen to you on another. Just as people tend to adapt to life changes, repeatedly using the same exact method to boost your happiness will probably cause it to stop working.
Do it voluntarily. Your mom or even your inner critic telling you that you “should” count your blessings so that you realize how lucky you are will make it feel like work. Pick a PAI that suits your personality and decide on your own to do it.
Put in a little effort. In one of [Kristin] Layous’s studies, people who invested more time and energy in writing a gratitude letter saw a bigger happiness lift. Instead of quickly jotting down a few sentences, take 20 minutes and really put some thought into what you want to say.
Make it a habit. Think of PAIs as you would a yoga practice or a workout schedule. “If you went to the gym one time, you wouldn’t expect to maintain your fitness level over weeks and weeks,” Layous says. “Likewise, you have to continue doing PAIs . Over time, they’ll become second nature.”
Keep it feeling new. Even though the happiness that came from buying that new iPhone didn’t last, if you can use it in meaningful ways—say, sharing photos with friends—you can stave off hedonic adaptation (means that as you quickly get used to the new state of affairs, it makes you less happy than it did at first), [Kennon] Sheldon says. The same goes for any positive change you make. If you move to California because you want to be able to surf more, and that stops making you as happy as it used to, find a new beach or join a surging group to make more of the experience. “Keep interacting with what makes you happy on a daily basis,” Sheldon says, “changing it up as needed, and it will continue to give you a positive experience.””
I have consciously worked on expressing my gratitude over the past few years as a result of working with my life coach. It is amazingly transformative when you thank someone. In our instant gratification, do it now world, many people don’t take the time to thank people for the simplest things and it can make such a difference in their world. Thank the person who fills up your water glass at the restaurant, delivers your mail, picks up your garbage. And if someone does something really amazing, send them a hand written note of thanks. Not a text, not a phone call, HAND WRITTEN. It is a lost art that really is in need of a comeback.
When you are happy, you can influence others to be happy, and if we all did that, think of the wonderful things we could achieve. So as the Partridge family sang (look it up, youngsters), COME ON GET HAPPY!

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