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7 New Exercises to Boost Happiness



New research on positive psychologyexercises has found a number of ways to give your happiness a boost and lessen your depression. If you are trying to manage your stress better, lift some of the holiday blues, or simply become a bit more happy, pick one of these 7 exercises and try it for a 1 week.


  • One door closes, another door opens: Consider a moment in your life when a negative event led to positive consequences that you were not expecting. Write about this each day

  • Gift of time: Offer the “gift” of your time to three different people this week. This might be in the form of time spent, helping someone around their house, or sharing a meal with someone who is lonely. These “gifts” should be in addition to your planned activities.

  • Counting kindness: Keep a log of all the kind acts that you do in a particular day. Jot them down by the end of each day.

  • Three funny things: Write down the three funniest things that you experienced or participated in each day; also write about why the funny thing happened (e.g., was it something you created, something you observed, something spontaneous?)

  • Gratitude letter/visit: Write a letter of gratitude to someone who has had a positive impact on you. If feasible, you might consider delivering the letter to the person. [It is important to first weigh the pros and cons of delivering such a letter.]

  • Three good things: Jot down three things that went well for you each day and give an explanation as to why these good things occurred.

  • Use your signature strengths in a new way: This is the most popular of all positive psychology exercises. Take the VIA Survey ( that asks you about your character strengths. Choose one of your highest strengths (your signature strengths) and use it in a new way each day. For tips on how to use any of the 24 character strengths in a new way, go here (  













  • If you don’t like the idea of writing these exercises out, consider having a planned discussion each day for a week about the exercise with someone in your life.

  • Make sure you practice the exercise for a full week. Take notice of the impact it has.




Study noted above:

Gander, F., Proyer, R. T., Ruch, W., & Wyss, T. (2012). Strength-based positive interventions: Further evidence for their potential in enhancing well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies.

Related studies and sources with similar exercises:

Mitchell, J., Stanimirovic, R., Klein, B., & Vella-Brodrick, D. (2009). A randomised controlled trial of a self-guided internet intervention promoting well-being. Computers in Human Behavior, 25, 749–760.

Mongrain, M., & Anselmo-Matthews, T. (2012).Do positive psychology exercises work? A replication of Seligman et al. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 68(4).

Niemiec, R. M., & Wedding, D. (2013). Positive psychology at the movies 2: Using films to build virtues and character strengths(link is external). Cambridge, MA: Hogrefe.

Otake, K., Shimai, S., Tanaka-Matsumi, J., Otsui, K., & Fredrickson, B. (2006). Happy people become happier through kindness: A counting kindness intervention. Journal of Happiness Studies, 7(3), 361–375.

Peterson, C. (2006). A primer in positive psychology. New York: Oxford University Press.

Peterson, C. & Seligman, M. E. P. (2004). Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification(link is external). New York: Oxford University Press.

Rashid, T., & Anjum, A. (2008). Positive psychotherapy for young adults and children. In J. R. Z. Abela & B. L. Hankin (Eds.), Handbook of depression in children and adolescents: Causes, treatment, and prevention (pp. 250–287). New York: Guilford.

Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. A., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60, 410–421.


Post published by Ryan M. Niemiec Psy.D. on Dec 21, 2012

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