I watched a BBC documentary a couple of weeks back, entitled ‘How to be Happy.’ They took three participants, all of whom were feeling generally unhappy and miserable, and placed them on a new regime aimed at increasing their happiness.
Now… this documentary was dated and I rolled my eyes at more than just the outfits and hairstyles.
But the content wasn’t. This new regime worked.
The two ladies and a gent had been filling out weekly mental health questionnaires, all of which showed massive improvements both by the end of the 8 weeks, and when they came back to them 6 months later. One participant also had an EEG, looking at brain activity, and brain scan at the beginning and end of the 8 week program. The results were impressive. Whilst initially her results showed patterns associated with mild negativity, after just 8 weeks, the pattern was one of the happiest ever seen – she was literally off that chart! She’d changed not only her subjective feelings, but the actual functioning of her brain.
Impressed? Me too. Here’s what they did to ‘get’ happy:
- They were told to exercise for 30 minutes daily. Because endorphins.
- *Cue eye rolling* – they had to spend twenty minutes laughing and smiling. They actually had a laughter track to listen to (on tape… I told you it was dated) and mostly seemed to do this in front of a mirror. They looked like lunatics, but happy lunatics.
- They had these little blue dot stickers, that they basically stuck around their houses and workplaces; on doors, tables, picture frames, car rear-view mirror and in one instance, a cat (just no need…) Whenever they saw one of these stickers, they had to think happy thoughts – what they were grateful for, something that they were looking forward to, something that they liked about themselves.
As time went on, they were given a few CBT-style exercises in which they wrote down old unhelpful ways of thinking and swapped them out for better thoughts and beliefs, and towards the end of the 8 weeks they were all instructed to pick up a hobby that they could enjoy three times per week.
So apparently that’s it folks – the key to happiness right here. When I think about it, the CBT stuff, regular exercise and hobby (Jiu Jitsu) has definitely made me significantly happier than I was before it. And to be fair, I smile and laugh much more than I did back then, thanks to those things I just mentioned (which gets me out of the daily laughter tracker I reckon?!)
I’m pretty sure that I’ve already changed my brain functioning to some extent. I certainly feel like I have. But I am still prone to negative thoughts and images based on cynicism, pessimism, anxiety and negativity.
I am generally pretty happy, but I wouldn’t say that I’m ‘off the charts’ – and I want me some of that!
So I better get shopping for some blue dots.