Is there a more effective way to pursue happiness? We know that everyone wants to feel happy, but we also understand that it is unrealistic to strive to feel happy all the time. As those negative emotions/experiences are still beneficial in the way that we can learn from them, and use those experiences to help ourselves navigate events of the future. Since we know that the pursuit of happiness is often a complex one; how do we find balance in our pursuit of happiness without overdoing it with high expectations?
The approach of “Prioritizing Positivity” may be the key! This approach has gained traction in the past years within the field of positive psychology. Prioritizing positivity encourages the individual to structure their day-to-day life in a way that contains situations that naturally produce positive emotions throughout your day. In a study led by Lahnna Catalino, Department of Psychiatry at University of California, found that “prioritizing positivity was positively associated with beneficial features of well-being (positive emotions, satisfaction with life) and inversely associated with negative aspects of well-being (negative emotions, depression.”) It is interesting to note that they also found that individuals high in prioritizing positivity may also have additional advantages with respect to self-compassion and ego-resilience.
So how do we go about prioritizing positivity in our own lives? One simple way to start is “situation selection;” in other words you can seek out (or avoid) situations that will naturally cause a certain emotion. Taking a walk as a family after dinner or planning a mid-day walk for yourself are just a few examples of how you could use situation selection to experience feelings of calm/contentment. Whereas some other people may choose to seek out activities/situations that arise feelings of excitement/awe/vigor; like going to a concert or taking a hike!
It is amazing because we all have the power to structure our day, in one way or another, to prioritize positivity in order to increase and become more aware of those positive emotions throughout the day, and it may look different for each person. This is a time to reflect on how the structure of your day influences your emotions. Do you have activities/moments scheduled into your day/week that allow you to seek out positivity? It is important to understand what would be best FOR YOU to structure into your day to maximize your happiness, as I mentioned; it may look a bit different with each person, but it is definitely worth reflecting on. Take some time to think about the activities that give you joy, contentment, excitement, etc. Whether that be trying a new recipe, connecting with a loved one, physical activity, or reading a good book.
Once you have reflected on some activities that bring you feelings of happiness, schedule them into your upcoming week! Be as specific as you can with date/time, so you’ll be more likely to stick to it. Even if it is only 10-20 minutes; it is still worth it if it can help you to increase your feelings of contentment in your day!
As you can tell, the pursuit of happiness isn’t necessarily a straight shot, but being mindful of our expectations around happiness, while adjusting your day-to-day routine so that they include moments of happiness/joy. Although this pursuit may not be easy; it is definitely worth while to reflect on how your daily activities support or undermine your happiness.