“Depression really spirals downward because a depressed mood makes negative memories come to mind more easily. These negative thoughts in turn set off a more depressed mood, which in turn makes even more negative thoughts accessible, and so on. Breaking the downward spiral is a critical skill for the depressed patient to learn.” (Authentic Happiness, M. Seligman, 2002, Free Press, page 210).
Building happiness is, however, not just important for depressed people, research is conclusive that everyone can improve on their level of happiness by checking whether you have ‘all the ingredients for a happy life’ in your tool box. Here are some ideas:
Have important values and goals
The authentic happiness website from the University of Pennsylvania is a rich resource for finding out about your character strengths and values in a variety of contexts. You can do a number of tests, find out about yourself, and read up on happiness research.Follow this link!
Develop strong relationships
Your ability to develop supportive relationships in your life is directly correlated to your sense of happiness. Make sure to keep alive current relationships and find ways of deepen them. Also engage more in your community's social activities and build new relationships. All this will improve your sense jof well being and happiness.
Cultivate spiritual emotions
Spiritual emotions are those which make life larger than just our own self-interests. They involve: Gratitude, Love, Awe, Transcendence. By expressing gratitude to someone who has been important in your life, by helping people who are in need of help, and by focusing on something greater than yourself, you will increase your sense of happiness. You’ll find more ideas of how to use these emotions to build happiness and the Authentic Happiness Website.
AIM your mind (Attention – Interpretation – Memory)
This involves the habit of seeing beauty and good in the world, seeing the glass half full seeing opportunities; generally trusting and liking oneself and others; Interpreting many things as positive, looking for the good side of things; savoring experiences that were pleasant and enjoyable rather than ruminating on those that were unpleasant.
Despite popular myths, money is correlated with happiness, although not always strongly. Whilst money can be a very important part of happiness for those who struggle to get their basic needs met and who live in poverty, people are not necessarily less happy than others as long as they have loving and caring relationships.
Live as though happiness is a process
Happiness is not a destination, something that can be found ‘out there’. Happiness is a discipline that takes some mental work. Whether people are happy or not – is to a large degree dependant on how they process their experiences within their inner world. People have choices. They can dwell in their museum of horror and forever pick up the exhibits and frighten themselves and make themselves depressed. They can also step out of the darkness of that museum and step into the sunshine. They may need some help, but it’s perfectly possible!