Even if you have not been diagnosed with a mental illness, day-to-day stresses can easily drain your life of fulfillment and contentment. Fortunately, the scientific field of so-called “positive psychology” has provided countless techniques to boost your mood.
But how do we find the time to apply them to our daily lives? Sandi Mann, a clinical psychologist at the Universityof Central Lancashire, offers one solution. As she outlines in her book, Ten Minutes to Happiness, her program takes the form of a daily journal, to be completed in five parts: what experiences, however mundane, gave you pleasure, what praise and feedback did you receive, what were your achievements, what made you feel grateful, and how did you express kindness.
The program builds on a vast amount of scientific research showing that taking a little time to reap praise your day in these ways can slowly shift your mind set so that you eventually find more happiness in your life. When we feel low,it can be easy to overlook the things that are going right, and keeping this journal brings them to the forefront of your attention.
Mann stresses that the benefits do not just come from the immediate lift as you write the entries; re-reading your previous entries can help you cope with difficult situations in the future too. Due to our “associative” memory, a darkmood – caused by one bad event – may lead you to remember other sources of stress and unhappiness. Whenever that happens, leafing through the pages of your journal may help you to break out of that ruminative spiral.
The last point builds on recent research into the power of kindness. Various studies have found that selfless acts not only increase the well-being of those around you, they consistently boost your own mood too. Spending a bit of money to help a stranger, for instance, makes you far happier than using the same cash to treat yourself.
A 10-minute review of your day can’t work miracles, of course, and Mann stresses that anyone who suspects theymay suffer from depression should still see doctors for professional medical care. But for those who generally feel low and stressed, without severe clinical symptoms, this might just help put you back on the right path.