4 Steps for Increasing Happiness

December 5, 2017

Everyone wants to have more joy in their life, but many people wonder how to actually go about achieving a higher level of happiness. There are four phases, the first of which is to find the motivation for making the effort it takes to become happier. Next is learning exactly what you need to do to be a happier person. Then you must practice every day until you master a new set of skills. And finally, you’ll have to build your resilience capability by getting back on a positive track when the inevitable problems of life bring you down.

Step 1. Motivation is cultivated by looking for the passionate emotions that accompany a positive outcome. If you want your marriage to be happier, then focus on the feelings that will be present when you reach that goal: affection, attraction, acceptance, etc. If you want your career to be more successful, cultivate passion by focusing on purpose, pride and positive results. If you want to have more personal satisfaction, think about what it would be like to experience more emotions such as gratitude, serenity, interest, hope, amusement, and inspiration.

Step 2. Increasing awareness of the passionate outcomes you want to attain prompts you to take action to create situations in which you’ll experience an abundance of the positive emotions you’re seeking. Trying out new behaviors is an essential starting point for improving your level of well-being. The positive emotions you’ll generate will feel good, as well as broaden your horizons and build your physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual capabilities.

Positive emotions spark upward spirals. For instance, you take a walk through the park and feel invigorated, which enhances your capacity for creativity, which stimulates a new idea for having fun with your partner, which gives your marriage a boost, which makes you more appreciative, which brings you more affection, which builds your optimism, which helps you deal well with a challenge at work, and so on.

Step 3. Most of the activities that make us happy are small, day-to-day behaviors. This is a major lesson for most people, who wrongly assume that it’s the big events that change our level of happiness. But thinking that you’ll be happy when you get married (or divorced), or get a better job, or can buy that dream house is misguided. You will quickly adapt to your change in circumstances and return to your previous level of well-being.

Sustained happiness comes from the daily practice of using your strengths, appreciating your loved ones, offering forgiveness, expressing gratitude, savoring the beauty in your surroundings, finding the silver lining in your troubles, committing acts of kindness, and showing support to your friends.

Step 4. When I prescribe these activities to people I often hear, “Making these changes is hard. I’m too busy. I’ve got too much stress right now.” To which I say, “Staying unhappy is just as hard. Being happy doesn’t require more time, just using your time differently. And if you wait for the stress to stop, you’ll be dead before you’ll be happy.”

Believing that it’s possible to generate a plethora of positive emotions is a hallmark of people who have high levels of happiness. Just the opposite is true of individuals who are depressed. The inability to experience pleasure, lack of enthusiasm, and pessimism are the predominant features of depression. But recent research has revealed that recovery can be jump-started by learning to engage in activities that produce positive emotions.

When circumstances arise that cause you to be unhappy (e.g. failures, fatigue, finances), you’ll experience automatic negative reactions such as becoming irritable, self-absorbed, or ungrateful. This is normal for human beings, and serves as a trigger to take action to correct the situation. To counterbalance negativity, recall the times that your life has been truly joyful and reengage in making an effort to regenerate happiness.

To become happier, start each day by putting the outcome that you’re passionate about achieving in the forefront of your consciousness. Place a post-it on your mirror or put a note in your schedule every day. Then pick one happiness activity that you think will help you realize your goal.

If you want your family life to be happier, for example, observe your partner and children. Appreciate what your spouse does to make the family function well. Catch your kids doing something right. Make the deliberate choice to express gratitude when you experience the positive emotions that come from seeing the good in the people you love.


Read more about how to apply all 6 positive psychology principles in PROPEL to Quality Healthcare: Six Steps to Improve Patient Care, Staff Engagement and the Bottom Line. Order here:  


Dr. Tom Muha is the Director of the PROPEL Institute. As the science of optimal human functioning has emerged, Dr. Muha has been at the forefront in the study of how people involved in healthcare systems can achieve the highest levels of success and satisfaction. Research at major academic medical centers has shown that applying the PROPEL Principles empowers healthcare professionals to achieve remarkable results.

For more information regarding Speaking, Coaching or Consulting Services: 

Website: www.PROPELinstitute.com

Contact: drtommuha@PROPELinstitute.com

Talk to Dr. Tom Muha:

Get information about PROPEL Institute and Dr. Tom Muha

  • If prompted, follow instructions on next screen.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.