Sunday, April 22, 2012

40 Pieces of the Happiness Puzzle - Part 5

Happiness Puzzle

Being happy is a state of being most everyone wants to experience, though not everyone is skilled at reaching and prolonging this state. There are a range of ways to experience feelings of happiness, with certain methods being better for some then others. 

This is the 5th post in a series of 40 on the techniques you can employ to experience and prolong the feeling of happiness. The first post was on Sensory Hedonism, followed by Achievable Challenges, Serving Others, and Expertise

#5: Fake it 'till you make it

"Fake it 'till you make it" (also called "act as if") is an assumption principle and common expression that means imitate confidence until experience and success generates genuine confidence. The main point is to not get stuck in a self-fulfilling prophesy or negative feedback loop where we allow negativity to strengthen negative beliefs that in turn, result in negative actions. 

The "fake it 'till you make it" technique is highly effective for combating depression and rigid thinking. The idea is to go through the routines of daily life as if one were enjoying them, despite the belief that would  otherwise label this activity as "forced." 

Continue acting this way until the feeling of happiness arises. This is an example of a positive feedback loop, a process that mimics the effects of energie matching. 

With our increasing dependence on technology, it is worthy to note that uncontrolled positive feedback can have destructive results.  

Electronics gradually increase in temperature, in turn releasing energie that further increases temperature. Some processes and reactions that release energie from the system, usually in the form of heat, but also in the form of light (spark, flame, explosion), electricity (battery), or sound (burning hydrogen), if sustained, and due to constant pressure, can actually modify and transform nearby systems. Organic material is particularly susceptible to this type of reaction because of how our bodies behave in response to different wavelengths of light. Living cells depend on feedback loops. Positive feedback can amplify a signal, whereas negative feedback can impede it. 

Positive thinking is therapeutic. It is a reasonable and constructive thought pattern. Negative thinking tends to be irrational and excessive, until offset by a positive thinking response. To avoid negative self-talk, try the following exercises: 

Interacting as if you are happy, being active and cheerful and getting out and doing happy things are practical ways you can jumpstart your inner happiness. The Double Dutch jump ropers in the below video are performing a highly rehearsed routine, however, within a very short period of time, their reactions to the movements notably raises their enthusiasm and by the end, they're all smiling. 

Something as seemingly simple as our posture can affect our mood. Sitting up straight and adopting an open or relaxed body language position allows your whole body communicate happiness. Moving around as if you're happy, with a little spring in your step and with a relaxed swinging of the arms, physically aligns your body and makes it more susceptible to happy feelings. 

Speaking clearly and using positive words brings the verbal into alignment. Speaking slightly faster and varying the pitch of your voice avoids monotone sounds, which can give off negative impressions. 

Depressed speech directly affects the quality of communication you share with others. Also, referring to yourself and others equally aids greatly in keeping conversations relaxed and enjoyable for everyone. 

Being pleasant to others, nodding in agreement, laughing at their jokes, clicking "like" on their Facebook posts, and leaving positive comments on this blog, all promote the happiness of others when in your presence. This reciprocal social effect can then be carried forward by all participants into other relationships. 

Avoiding destructive criticism of others and of ourselves allows us to step outside negative feedback loops so that a smile, despite whether or not it if arrived forced, eventually unclenches, resulting in a relaxed, joyful smile that all can enjoy. 

When we act contrary to our beliefs, we feel the tension of conflict between our beliefs and actions. As a result, we instinctively gravitate to resolve this tension of conflict. Choosing to change what we believe is more easily jumpstarted by changing how we act. 

Daniel Gilbert, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University

People who act happy, even when they are not, end up feeling happier. Criticizing someone for "faking it" not only affects their ability to sustain their happiness, it diminishes your own. 

In allowing ourselves to be happy, we also have to allow it, support it, and promote it for others. Helping to bring out the best in others is another way (positive empathy) we can sustain our own. 

Another word for this is friendship. 

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