Recipe for happiness in 21 days

Did you know, there is an actual recipe for happiness? 

Psychology as a discipline is focused on problems

As a clinical psychologist, I’m trained to look for symptoms and arrive at clinical diagnoses. The interventions psychologists are trained to offer are undoubtedly useful and meaningful – there’s lots of evidence to show that therapy leads to good outcomes – but there isn’t really any quick fix. Even my super quick and helpful Brain Working Recursive Therapy technique (BWRT) is about fixing something specific and is usually part of a therapy process. 

Psychology as a discipline tends to focus on problems – identifying them, exploring them, and solving them (as best as possible). This article looks at positive psychology, the longest ever psychological study, and the 21 day recipe for happiness.

Is there a quicker way to happiness?

In recent years, positive psychology has emerged, which looks at human issues through a more positive lens. Positive psychologists and researchers study the strengths and virtues of an individual, a community or a society. 

It’s easy to assume the whole world is full of malaise and discontent. In some ways we feel disconnected from nature, and as a result, many studies report rising levels of mental illness and dysfunction.

However, there are always people and groups who stand out from the crowd because they’re remarkably happy and contented. They thrive and prosper where others survive and suffer, and positive psychology is deeply interested in examining them.

The longest ever psychology study

There is a fascinating, ongoing longitudinal research project on happiness that has been monitoring a group of men since they were teenagers back in 1938, during the great depression. This famous experiment was the brainchild of Harvard university researchers, who selected 268 Harvard sophomores to participate in the study, which hoped to find the common factors of happy and successful lives. 

These men, most of whom are now deceased, were studied for over 80 years, and later the study included their 1300 offspring. More recently, women have been included as well. 

The project has become bigger and yields ever more interesting data for all kinds of researchers.

The single most important research result: It’s about connection

The most important finding to come out of this fascinating body of research is that the main contributing factor to someone’s happiness appears to be quite simple. It’s all about the quality and happiness of relationships. 

Participants who flourished had strong and satisfying relationships with their family, friends and community.  This feeling of being connected to others and engaged with others leads to better outcomes for research participants across the board. People who feel a warm sense of connection are people who are healthier, happier, and more content. As a result they live longer and better. Conversely, loners tend to have shorter lives. 

Forming social bonds may not be easy for everyone

Going out and forming social connections as a route to happiness isn’t necessarily simple for many people. If you’re kind of weird, quirky, odd, different, or alternative, just thinking about going out and getting connected to others might be overwhelming.

So here’s a recipe for rewiring your brain towards happiness in 21 days. The recipe breaks down the process of becoming happier and more connected with yourself and the world, into 5 steps that are easy to incorporate into your day. You’ll need a notebook or journal to write in, or you can keep notes on your phone if you prefer. 

Success Formula: The recipe for happiness in 21 days

  1. Three new gratitudes

Write down 3 new things you’re grateful for every day. This makes you scan your environment for the positives and after 21 days your brain begins to do this automatically.

  1. One positive experience.

Journal about a positive experience you had in the last 24 hours. Or just jot down a few points. This helps to increase your awareness of positive experiences and interactions you have every day, as well as making you more open to further positive experiences and interactions. 

  1. Do some exercise.

Move your body. Ideally for 30 minutes or more, and outdoors so you can take advantage of fresh air and exposure to nature. But keep in mind, any exercise (anywhere) is better than none. It can be as simple as going for a walk, or you can make it as involved as you like. 

Exercise has proven benefits for your health and wellbeing. Doing some exercise consistently on a daily basis reminds you that your behaviour matters and it’s in your control. Also, it has an immediate positive impact on our body, mind, and mood. 

  1. Do some meditation.

Again, how much you do is up to you. Even one minute of meditation per day has been shown to have major benefits.  You can certainly meditate for a little bit or a lot longer, you need to find what works for you. The sweet spot seems to be around 10 minutes – 15 minutes a day, but if you’re a beginner, start with one minute or whatever feels comfortable. Or feel free to download an app with guided meditations where you can choose the length of time according to how much time you have.

  1. Do one random act of kindness.

Practising kindness has proven benefits to health and wellbeing. If you’re not sure what to do (or if you’re worried you might forget), pick up your phone at the time of journaling and send out a kind message to someone or about someone, or positively review someone or something online. Then write it down in your diary

Let us know how this works for you

According to positive psychology researcher and Harvard lecturer Shawn Anchor, as soon as you start this practice you’re on the route to happiness – because happiness is about taking actions towards a happy mindset. You need to follow this simple recipe on repeat for 21 days, because it takes at least 21 days to form a strong foundation for a new habit.

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