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Developing Practices for Happiness

Make the end of 2014 a time to establish habits that will last much longer than 2015. Spend the rest of your life increasing your happiness.
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Into the bank I go. It's not a branch I visit very often; in fact, the last time was a month ago. I walked up to the cashier and recognized her; she recognized me, too, and we broke into happy banter about nothing in particular.

I call a phone number to check on the progress of paperwork that has been going around in circles for more than two months. I wait 20 minutes listening to a recording filled with every "Get help here" website before a man finally answers -- the same man I spoke to about a month ago. The same man who was able to calm me down when I burst into tears of frustration with the "system" I am forced to use.

What do these two random interactions have in common? They both describe chance encounters with total strangers... strangers who just happened to make my good day turn into a great day. Perfect strangers who were able to step out of what could have been a "Next. Just another day on the job" attitude to one where they were open to the possibilities of the world around them... and enjoying every second.

This could be you. With a smile on your face, a lilt in your voice, and a positive spirit, you can change your days from ordinary to ones filled with happiness, enthusiasm, and a sense of adventure.

Try some of the practices that have proven to literally increase levels of happiness and, in the process, overall well-being:

  • Take 10 minutes each day to reflect and record three positive things that happened during your day.
  • Practice active listening by paraphrasing, asking clarifying questions, expressing empathy, using body language, and not making judgments or giving advice.
  • Perform random acts of kindness. Write down what you do, and how it made you feel.
  • Think about someone for whom you are holding a grudge. Try to realistically evaluate the impact it is having on your life; it may be time for you to take advice from Frozen and let it go. Holding onto ager and hurt takes a greater toll on you than it does on anyone else.
  • Practice mindful breathing for 15 minutes each day. Count the tie it takes for each inhale and each exhale. Or count the number of inhales and exhales. If you find yourself at a number and you don't realize how you got there, simply realize you got distracted, and start over again.
  • Treat yourself to a healthy dose of compassion. The next time you're tempted to tell yourself you did something stupid, that you're a klutz, or you never do anything right or well, treat yourself like a baby. If you saw a crying baby, you would show that baby compassion. Be kind to yourself; treat yourself as you would want to treat a crying baby.
  • Start a gratitude journal and write in it on a regular basis. Record the things for which you are grateful, and also note the people for whom you are grateful. Also, appreciate the negative encounters that you managed to avoid, and consider the unexpected positives as gifts for which you are especially grateful.
  • Notice the awe-inspiring events that we take for granted every day. A cool breeze, ripples on the water, the leaves on the tree. Notice, appreciate, and record

And one more suggestion: enroll in the edX Science of Happiness Class. Each of the above suggestions was presented in the class, which can be taken for free, and will open your eyes to the gift of this life you are currently living.

Make the end of 2014 a time to establish habits that will last much longer than 2015. Spend the rest of your life increasing your happiness.

Dr. Wolbe can be contacted via her website at