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Eight Steps Towards a More Satisfying Life

Sonja Lyubomirsky, University of California. This is more of a 'summary' which brings together a number of different stands from this famous psychologist's research.

1. Count your blessings                                                       Keep a 'gratitude journal' in which you write 3 to 5 things for which you are currently thankful - rom the mundane to the magnificent. Do this once a week e.g. on a Sunday night. Keep it fresh by varying your entries as much as possible.

2. Practice acts of kindness
These should be both random (letting a harassed mum go ahead of you in the queue at the supermarket) and systematic (bringing a meal to an elderly neighbour). Being kind to others, whether friends or strangers, triggers a cascade of positive effects - it makes you feel generous and capable, gives you greater sense of connection with others and wins you smiles, approval and reciprocated kindness - all happiness boosters.

3. Savour life's joys
Pay close attention to momentary pleasures and wonders. Focus on the sweetness of a ripe strawberry or the warmth of the sun when you step out from the shade. Some psychologists suggest taking 'mental photographs' of pleasurable moments to review in less happy times.

4. Thank a mentor
If there is someone whom you owe a debt of gratitude for guiding you at one of life's cross roads, don't wait to express your appreciation in detail, and if possible, in person.

5. Learn to forgive                                                                 Let go of anger and resentment by writing a letter of forgiveness to a person who has hurt or wronged you. Inability to forgive is associated with persistent rumination or dwelling on revenge, while forgiving allows you to move on.

6. Invest time and energy in friends and family
Where you live, how much money you make, your job title and even your health have surprisingly small effects on your satisfaction with life. The biggest factor appears to be strong personal relationships.

7. Take care of your body
Getting plenty of sleep, exercising, stretching, smiling and laughing can all enhance your mood in the short term. Practiced regularly, they can help make your daily life more satisfying.

8. Develop strategies for coping with stress and hardship.
There is no avoiding hard times. Religious faith has been shown to help people cope, but so do the secular beliefs enshrined in axioms like 'this too shall pass' and 'that which doesn't kill me makes me stronger'. The trick is that you have to believe them


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