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The Three Keys to Happiness and How to Attain Them

  Countless life gurus and public speakers instruct and assure their audiences that the key to happiness lies in whatever they are about to recommend: a diet, a new gadget, or a trip to an exotic location. This prompted me to ask myself: What is the key to happiness? What makes humans happy? And finally, what does science have to say about happiness?
 
As a scientific field that has everything to do with our emotions and longings, psychology should have the key to happiness. In fact, psychologists today believe that there might be more than one key to happiness, namely three, to be precise. There is a whole field of psychology called positive psychology that deals with the study of happiness.
a group of people are jumping on a beach with the sun in the backgroundResearchers at Penn State University argue that there are 3 aspects to human happiness: pleasure, engagement, and meaning. In every activity that we do, one or a few of these aspects come into play. When present, these 3 aspects of happiness will significantly enhance your life, but when absent, they can make you feel lazy, depressed and powerless.

If you want to become a much happier person by doing a few simple exercises that we share with you in this article or seek to expand your knowledge about happiness, just continue reading.

1. Pleasure

What Is Pleasure?
Pleasure is connected to positive emotions like joy, fun, satisfaction, pride, and excitement. These emotions feel great, but they are also scientifically proven to have marked positive health consequences and will improve your social relationships.4 people join glasses with platefuls of food in the background
An example of a pleasurable activity is a fun night out with friends, an inspiring walk on a beach, a romantic date with your significant other, an interesting movie, a delicious meal, or anything else that makes you feel good.

How to Maximize a Pleasant Activity?
Don’t forget that humans are social beings. Both experimental findings and, maybe, your intuition as well support the idea that engaging in a pleasant activity, like a hobby, with others is more pleasant than engaging in the same activity alone.

Exercises that Will Boost Pleasure

4 people and a dog having a picnic in the park
If you find it difficult to relax and experience pleasure, you can try the following exercises. All of these are very customizable. You can choose the format, time and frequency of these exercises. The goal is to target and promote the activities that make you savor life much more.

1. Three Pleasant Things
Remember 3 things you did today that were fun, amusing, exciting, or pleasant. Write them down and explain how they made you feel. After a week, try looking back at your list and try to gauge what makes you feel happier and makes your life more pleasant and fun, you might be surprised!

2. Plan a beautiful day
Imagine/write down all the activities you’d like to do on a perfect day. Note, they have to be realistic. If you’d like to lay in bed all day that’s fine too, but try to be specific. Would you watch your favorite movie, read a great book, or do something entirely different? Now make that day happen, and then reflect: did that day feel as great as you imagined it would be? If not, why not? Repeat in some time.
a journal with pictures and dried herbs laying on the beach
3. Just set aside some time for the things you enjoy doing, such as hobbies and sports. Research proves that it is very important to be consistent to see a significant improvement. If you don’t hate writing, you can also write down how you feel before and after the fun activity and check your progress every month. This will not only motivate you to continue but will also boost your positive emotions.

2. Engagement

What Is Engagement?
By engagement or flow, psychology researchers mean a person’s ability to zone into whatever they are doing. You know that feeling when you’re so engaged with your task that you forget about everything that is going on around you? That is flow.
After finishing the task, that person will feel accomplished and delighted. Several studies report that a state of flow also increases the quality of performance and aids learning. Examples of flow include musicians improvising, a teacher explaining the study material with zest and vigor, a parent teaching his or her child to say a new word, etc.
a woman wearing glasses is smiling as she is working at the laptop
As with pleasurable activities, engaging activities can, but don’t have to be work-related, one can experience flow during a sports activity, a hobby, or anything that challenges you, but isn’t too overwhelming.

The Exercise that Increases Engagement

To really increase flow, the best thing you can do is Mindfulness Meditation.

Mindfulness meditation is proven to reduce stress and increase focus, memory, relationship satisfaction and flexibility of thought. All you have to do is to pay attention to your feelings, thoughts, experiences, and sensations without the goal of changing or judging them. You are in the moment, focused on our present experiences, no matter how good or bad they might be.

The Body Scan is one of the shortest and most common types of mindfulness meditation. Those of you who were in a yoga class will be familiar with it. You can try doing a simple body scan by following the video guide at the end of the article.

3. Meaning

What Is Meaning?

All of us search for a sense of meaning in life, we need to explain to ourselves why we have the goals we have and why some things are more important to us than others. It turns out that this sense of purpose or belonging that psychologists call “meaning” is the top-ranked predictor of a person’s life satisfaction.

When we find meaning in an idea or goal, we feel so empowered that we are often ready to endure all the challenges, difficulties, and negative emotions that life throws at us. A person will find meaning in whatever resonates deeply with them, be it a role in a family, a social group, a religion, an organization or a tradition.

a woman is teaching her children to carve out pumpkins

Exercises that Promote Meaning

Try at least 1 of these meaning exercises:
 

1. 3 Meaningful Things

This exercise is similar to the one we shared in the first exercise section. Your task is to remember/write down 3 things every day that were meaningful or significant to you. Describe your experience and try to understand how you felt. Repeat for a week and then look back, did anything change? If so, think why.


2. Do Something Altruistic vs Do Something Fun

This exercise is great for those of you who aren’t sure if they’re lacking meaning or pleasure in life. Plan 2 activities: one should be fun, let’s say an evening out at a fancy restaurant, and the other should be generous or meaningful, like helping a family member with some tedious chore.

After doing both, compare how each made you feel.

Which one made you feel better and the effects of which lasted longer? The activity that made you feel more accomplished and lasted longer is the one that is more important to you, no matter which one it ends up being.


3. Best Possible Self

This exercise was designed to promote meaning and optimism. You'll have to contemplate your best future in all areas of your life (e.g. romantic life, occupation, wellbeing, etc.).

Imagine in as much detail as you can your most important goals and picture how your life will improve once you’ve accomplished them. Think about this exercise as a realization of your potential and your dreams. After a week of doing this, you will feel much happier and more motivated.

A Body Scan Mindfulness Meditation Video Tutorial

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