5 Positive Psychology Techniques To Improve Mental Wellbeing

Most people think that their happiness depends on the circumstances in which they live. Meaning that they will be more or less happy depending on what is going on in their life. That's why we hunt for promotions, partners, cars, new clothes or bigger houses. Think about it, is that not why we are pursuing something at all? 

In the longer term, however, circumstances play only a minor role in happiness - around 10%, according to some researchers' estimates.

Our intentional activities are far more important - the things we do with our time, habits, and attitudes. 

Fortunately, these are much easier to change. 

Here are five research-backed techniques from positive psychology that you can use to increase your happiness. 

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1) Build relationships with others. One of the most consistent findings in happiness research is that social relationships and spending time with others make us happy. Research has shown that socializing is one of the happiest activities. Try saying “yes” to a few more social invitations with your friends and co-workers. The best thing to do is to arrange something yourself. You will feel better about it. 

2) Random acts of kindness. Studies have shown that doing simple random kind acts on behalf of others can actually increase your own happiness. People who volunteer have known that for a long time. In one study, participants were asked to do five kindnesses a week for six weeks and were significantly happier than a control group at the end of the study. An act of kindness can be as simple as holding a door, tidying someone up, or giving them a drink. 

3) Gratitude. Happiness is largely based on relative judgments about our lives, not absolute conditions. When our lives improve, such as with a raise, we are happier for a while. But soon we get used to our new circumstances and our happiness returns to normal. Psychologists call this the "hedonic treadmill". However, there is a simple trick you can use to get around this: expressing gratitude. Every night, write down at least five things that you are grateful for and why. If this is difficult for you, start with the basics. Do you have friends? A roof over your head? Are you generally in good health? As you write, try to develop a sense of gratitude for each item on your list. 

4) Challenge the negativity bias. The human brain has a "negative bias". This means that negative events affect our mood more than positive ones. Have you ever received feedback on a piece of work that was mostly positive, apart from one point of criticism - and that was the comment that stayed with you? That's the negativity distortion in action. Here are two ways to counteract that. Three good things: Before you go to bed, write down three good things that happened that day. This simple exercise draws your attention to the positive. If something happens during the day and you think, "Ahh, that can be one of my three things," then you know it works. Question negative thoughts: When something negative happens (e.g. we made a mistake in a report), we sometimes extrapolate it to our entire personality (e.g., "I am useless"). This is the negativity bias that went nuts. Actively challenge such thoughts. Wonder where is the evidence? Are there any alternative explanations? What are the effects of this thinking? Do I expect to be perfect? Would I judge another person the same way? 

5) Mindfulness Meditation. Mindfulness meditation is a form of attention and emotion regulation training. The study of mindfulness has exploded in the past few years, and thousands of research papers have been published in the past decade. An analysis of 209 studies found that mindfulness "is particularly effective at reducing anxiety, depression, and stress". Research shows that mindfulness also increases activity in areas of the brain that are associated with positive emotions. In addition, it improves various cognitive functions that are conducive to effectiveness in the workplace, such as memory, attention, empathy, and communication skills. Because of this, several organizations run mindfulness training programs including Google, Transport for London, and even the U.S. Marines. 

Mindfulness is quite similar to exercise in that, despite its known benefits, it is a difficult habit to maintain.

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