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Anytime you need to be happier, just do some time travel. It’s that simple.
I know what you’re thinking: He’s finally gone insane.
No, I’m not crazy. And you don’t need a time machine. You’re just going to use your imagination.
But scientific research shows this is a great way to immediately increase happiness. You can do it anywhere and it doesn’t cost anything.
Research shows happiness is all about where you put your attention. And shifting your attention to the past, the future or even the present — can boost happiness.
Still sound silly? Stay with me. You do unhappy time travel all too frequently.
When you are overcome with regret, you’re turning your attention to negative elements of the past. When you worry, you’re thinking about an unpleasant future. But we can also use mental time travel to get the best out of life.
Here are three ways, why they work, and quick tips to use them to put a smile on your face.
It’s as simple as anticipation. Remember being a kid and looking forward to holiday gifts? Or as an adult haven’t you fantasized about that vacation coming up?
Well, research says deliberately using anticipation is an insanely powerful way to get happy.
How does it work?
Here’s why you absolutely need to incorporate more anticipation into your life:
Studies show anticipation can actually be more enjoyable than getting the thing you’re anticipating.
For example, a month before embarking on a guided twelve-day tour of several European cities, eager travelers report expecting to enjoy their trip significantly more than they actually do during the twelve days. Identical results are found when students are surveyed about their expectations three days before their Thanksgiving vacation, and when midwesterners are surveyed three weeks before a bicycle trip across California. Indeed, researchers who studied a thousand Dutch vacationers concluded that by far the greatest amount of happiness extracted from the vacation is derived from the anticipation period…
This is why lottery tickets sell so well: you’re never gonna win that cash but the chance to dream and anticipate it brings an enormous amount of joy.
But I’m not encouraging you to buy lottery tickets.
How to do it:
Simply make plans to do something fun with a friend.
Harvard happiness expert Shawn Achor says just calling, emailing or texting a friend and putting an event on the calendar is more powerful than you think.
One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent. Often, the most enjoyable part of an activity is the anticipation. If you can’t take the time for a vacation right now, or even a night out with friends, put something on the calendar—even if it’s a month or a year down the road. Then whenever you need a boost of happiness, remind yourself about it.
Want an extra 130,000 bucks a year? That’s the financial equivalent of the happiness boost you get from spending more time with those you’re closest to.
Approximately 70% of your happiness comes from relationships.
Contrary to the belief that happiness is hard to explain, or that it depends on having great wealth, researchers have identified the core factors in a happy life. The primary components are number of friends, closeness of friends, closeness of family, and relationships with co-workers and neighbors. Together these features explain about 70 percent of personal happiness. – Murray and Peacock 1996
(For more ways to improve your life by sending five simple emails, click here.)
Okay, so you’ve got an easy way to travel to a happy future. Let’s make like Marty McFly and visit the past…
Nostalgia. People look at pictures of happy times for a very good reason. Maybe you do too.
But science says you don’t engage with those enough deliberately.
How does it work?
Happiness researcher Sonya Lyubomirsky says reliving the past kills stress.
…those proficient at reminiscing about the past—looking back on happy times, rekindling joy from happy memories—are best able to buffer stress.
How to do it:
Keep a picture of happy times or people you love in your pocket. Take it out to trigger good feelings when you need them. Want to take it to the next level?
Reminiscing with others about good times improves your relationships and makes both of you happier.
Researchers have found that mutual reminiscence—sharing memories with other people—is accompanied by abundant positive emotions, such as joy, accomplishment, amusement, contentment, and pride.
(For the 8 things you can learn from the happiest people on the planet, click here.)
Okay, mental time travel to the future and the past is boosting your mood. We’ve arrived at our final destination.
This one is weird… But it may be the most powerful in the long run.
Okay, this one doesn’t sound nearly as exciting. But it’s the core of that mindfulness thing everyone keeps screaming about.
Experts call it “savoring.” You may think you’re living in the present — but you’re doing it all wrong.
How does it work?
They savor life’s pleasures and try to live in the present moment.
But what’s “savor” really mean? Giving your full attention to the good things around you right now.
The key component to effective savoring is focused attention. By taking the time and spending the effort to appreciate the positive, people are able to experience more well-being.
Focusing on the positive and appreciating those things leads to a happiness boost in under a week.
One group was told to focus on all the upbeat things they could find— sunshine, flowers, smiling pedestrians. Another was to look for negative stuff— graffiti, litter, frowning faces. The third group was instructed to walk just for the exercise. At the end of the week, when the walkers’ well-being was tested again, those who had deliberately targeted positive cues were happier than before the experiment.
How to do it:
That morning cup of coffee? That quick catch-up with a friend? Put your phone away. Don’t think about the past or the future. Stop, slow down and appreciate this little moment.
Sound corny? Just doing that decreases depression and boosts happiness.
…In all these studies those participants prompted to practice savoring regularly showed significant increases in happiness and reductions in depression.
(To learn how 5 post-it notes can make you happy, confident and successful, click here.)
Alright, time travelers, let’s round it up and learn the magic ingredient that these all have in common…
Feeling down? Just remember “time travel.” The three ways to do it:
Why else are these three great? They give you hope.
They give you hope for the future, they remind you of hope from the past, and they reveal the hope present all around you right now.
That’s not a silly Hallmark card platitude. There’s science behind hope.
Research shows your level of hope predicts future achievement better than intelligence, grades or personality. It actually predicts law school GPA better than the LSAT.
…Kevin Rand and his colleagues found that hope, but not optimism, predicted grades in law school above and beyond LSAT scores and undergraduate grades.
And, of course, hope makes you happy.
Philip R. Magaletta and J. M. Oliver measured hope, self-efficacy, and optimism and found that hope stood head and shoulders above the other vehicles.
We all need hope. And a little mental time travel is a simple cheap way to bring more of that special feeling into all of our lives. As Allan K. Chalmers once said:
The grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.
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