Prescribing Happiness

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Many good studies have proved that an optimistic outlook has significant long-term health benefits. According to an article in Family Medicine, a journal for primary care doctors, some holistically oriented family physicians are recommending daily exercises in optimism to reduce the risk of developing all sorts of illnesses, both physical and emotional.

Here are four exercises to place yourself on a happiness track:
• Gratitude Exercise At the end of your day, write down three good things that happened. Then write a sentence or two explaining to yourself why they occurred. An example: To “My boss complimented my work,” you can add “Because I’m a good worker.” If you tend to focus on your problems or worries, doing this exercise regularly can help alter your glass-half-empty perspective.

• Capitalization Exercise When you hear about something good occurring in someone’s life, ask about it in detail. Show your enthusiasm for their pleasure. If you read about something that moves you in a positive way, clip it from the newspaper or find it online and then share with a friend.

• “Satis-ficing” Exercise Many of us have developed the sad habit of endlessly wanting whatever is newest or best. This sets us up for second guessing and dissatisfaction. Trying to decide what’s best (clothes, cars, houses, appliances, schools, wines, the list is endless) can be time consuming and emotionally wearing. Learn “satis-ficing,” which is simply accepting whatever’s good enough. Afterwards, think about the steps you took to reach the decision (and the time you saved).

• Learn Optimism Exercise This one helps us cope with the bad things that life inevitably tosses our way. Pay careful attention to the words you tell yourself when a negative event occurs. It’s vital to realize that unfortunate events are most likely caused by factors that are temporary and specific, rather than factors that are long-term and your fault. For example, something major, like losing your job. Look at it as the job just not being right for you, rather than the decidedly more negative “I am a failure.” Or something minor, like burning your dinner, can be turned from “I am a terrible cook,” to “The universe is telling me to eat out tonight.”

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