Two Effective Strategies for Increasing Happiness

Random Acts of Kindness and Expressing Gratitude

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There are effective ways to increase one's happiness. Art: Tony DeLuz

The desire to be happy is perhaps the most universal goal human beings share. Empirical evidence shows that although individuals worldwide wish for ever-greater happiness, their pursuits fall short of being successful. Thankfully, new research in the field of psychology suggests that individuals can use specific cognitive and behavior strategies to increase their level of happiness.

Psychology Professor Meliksah Demir and colleagues at Northern Arizona University (NAU) have identified two happiness-increasing strategies to increase an individual’s level of happiness and wellbeing: participating in random acts of kindness and developing a sense of gratitude.  Both strategies have successfully increased the level of happiness in individuals.  Although other studies have reported the positive effect of these strategies, this research is the first time their short- and long-term effects have been studied.   

Implementing happiness interventions

Individuals were asked to implement what the researchers called “happiness interventions”—simple changes in everyday behavior and thinking that would increase levels of happiness. For one month, 95 individuals documented their gratitude (wrote about it) and engaged in random acts of kindness.  

Collectively, our findings suggest that happiness interventions work, and individuals can move above their baseline levels of happiness and maintain these benefits for at least six weeks.”

The individuals who participated in the happiness interventions had a significant positive increase in their levels of happiness. “Collectively, our findings suggest that happiness interventions work, and individuals can move above their baseline levels of happiness and maintain these benefits for at least six weeks,” reports Dr. Demir. Both the cognitive (gratitude) and behavioral (kindness) aspects of the intervention were equal in promoting happiness.

Anyone can use happiness interventions 

The results are duplicable, and happiness interventions can be used by anyone at any time. A manuscript reporting the project findings will be submitted for publication in the Journal of Positive Psychology in 2013.  

--Kelly Zarcone