5 tips to achieving happiness, as revealed by the experts

Joan Chew asks experts for their strategies to achieve happiness

√ Count your blessings

Keep a gratitude journal, listing what you are grateful for that day or in the past week. It can be about things, events, situations or people, and helps to foster an attitude of thanksgiving.

A similar exercise is to reflect on three good things that happened in the day and why they went well.

Another version of this is a gratitude visit. First, you pen a letter to someone who made a difference in your life but you never thanked properly. You then visit the person to read the letter to him and use the opportunity to discuss your feelings, helping to strengthen the relationship.

Dr Martin Seligman, known as the father of positive psychology, found that people who practised gratitude visits were less depressed and reported greater happiness than those who did not, one month later.

Source: Happiness Is A State of Mine by Maureen Neihart

√√ Identify strengths and values

In positive psychology, "flow" occurs when people are fully engaged in activities they enjoy so much that they lose track of time.

Using one's strengths is one way to achieve greater engagement. For example, instead of working just for a salary, find a job which appeals to you, matches your skill set and fits your personality.

Ensure your behaviour is in line with your values, which set your direction in life. If you value filial piety, then spending time with your parents is a meaningful activity that boosts your happiness.

Use online resources, such as www.behaviourlibrary.com/strengths.php to identify your strengths.

Source: Achieving Happiness In Singapore by DrChristopher Cheok and Angelina Esther David (available at www.thrive.org.sg/simple_event/detail/21)

√√√ Stop incessant comparisons

Life is like a carousel ride - it is full of ups and downs and there is always someone in front of and behind us.

We should concentrate on improving ourselves, not because others are doing better, but because we are able and want to do better.

Accept that there will always be someone better, cleverer and luckier than you. See yourself as your biggest competitor and aim to be better than you were yesterday.

Once we learn to be happy with ourselves, others will accept us for who we are.

Source: Happiness Within Your Reach: 52 Ideas To A Happier You by Sean Lim

√√√√ Consider different viewpoints

Whenever you encounter a setback in life, look at your situation through a different lens.

If your boss said the report you have submitted is not up to par, you may be very upset initially. But if you looked through a longer lens, you might see how much that remark could mean to you in the future. You are likely to feel less upset about it or even forget about it.

Using an alternative lens also lets you view the situation from someone else's perspective. A colleague may point out that the comment provides a learning opportunity for you. The wide lens provides the big picture, which is how you can learn and grow from the experience. For instance, learn the kind of reports your boss expects.

Know that you do not have the power to change your boss nor to quit your job at the drop of a hat, but you do have the ability to control how you feel and respond to a situation.

Source: Ms Elizabeth Sarah Ragen and Ms Marlene Chua, psychologists at the Centre for Effective Living at the Camden Medical Centre

√√√√√ Learn to regulate your emotions

Life will always hand you setbacks and make you experience feelings such as sadness, anger, grief and disappointment. They are all part of the human experience.

Those who are good at regulating their emotions do not necessarily lead perfect lives, but they do not dwell on negative experiences and know how to soothe themselves.

People can use strategies such as distraction (doing something else to take the mind off the upsetting event), reappraisal (reinterpreting events in a more positive way) and suppression (trying not to think about the upsetting event).

In general, people should direct their attention to people or things which bring them joy and gratitude and make it a habit to create and savour happy memories.

Source: Associate Professor of psychology Christie Napa Scollon of the School of Social Sciences at the Singapore Management University

Get a copy of Mind Your Body, The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.