Wondering how to be happy? Well, if anyone can tell you how to be happy it’s Dr. Laurie Santos, Professor of Psychology and Head of Silliman College at Yale. She teaches The Science of Well-Being on Coursera and started The Happiness Lab podcast after discovering that a lot of us do the exact opposite of what will truly make our lives better.
She recently did a really eye-opening AMA on Reddit, and we just had to summarise it in an article because, well who doesn’t want to know how to be happy?
Learn to go easier on yourself
In these crazy times, it’s easier than ever to beat yourself up about sleeping in for an hour or two, choosing snacks over healthy meals and living in sweatpants. But right now, our routines and our emotions are being tested. Dr. Laurie talks about a form of meditation called Metta or “loving-kindness” where you offer compassion to the people you know, but one of those people is yourself.
The other piece of advice (once you’re giving yourself the benefit of the doubt) is to allow yourself to take baby steps. Baby steps will always bring you closer to the behaviors you want. If you need some help starting to create that routine, find out how to plan your day when you work from home.
Don’t hit yourself with a second arrow
The best piece of advice Dr. Laurie gave was that we control our reactions to the bad situations in life.
Dr. Laurie shared a Buddhist parable to illustrate this. Buddha asks his followers if it’s bad to get hit with an arrow when you’re walking down the street, which they quickly agree it is. Then he asks if it’s worse to get hit with a second arrow. His followers again say it’s way worse to get hit with two. Buddha explains that the first arrow is out of our control, but the second arrow is in our control.
The first arrow is all the bad things that happen in life, the second arrow is our reaction to those events – whether we get angry, or make things worse. That second arrow is always up to us. Find out how to deal with stress and anxiety here.
Gratitude journaling can really change your life
Ever wondered why it’s so much easier to remember bad experiences than it is to remember good ones? It’s called negativity bias and it’s something we even have in infancy. It takes work to reverse negativity bias and one of the easiest ways you can do it is with gratitude journaling.
Regular gratitude journaling untwists negativity bias and allows you to remember only good things about every day. So if you’re stuck in a negative rut or feel like you’re becoming a negative person, now’s the perfect time to try gratitude journaling with something like the 365 Days of Gratitude journal.
Happiness is available to everyone
According to Dr. Laurie, happiness does not come from our circumstances. If bad circumstances are processed correctly, everyone can have a happy life. Even the act of going through trauma can lead to a happier, more meaningful life on the other side.
Dr. Laurie says that we forget how resilient we can really be, especially with time to heal and time to work through the bad things. Remember that you deserve happiness!