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Cure for winter doldrums? Get happy. It’s science

In the words of the iconic Joey Tribianni of “Friends” fame (aka Matthew LeBlanc), “How YOU doin’?”

It’s that time of the year I like to call “Blah Season.” Well, I don’t like it but it does seem appropriate, nonetheless.

Hmpf.

January in northeast Ohio is not for the faint of heart, my friends. It’s gloomy, cold and either freezing rain-ish or somewhat snowy at any given point.

To me, this adds up to blah – maybe even blech.

In an effort to catapult myself out of the dumps, I did a little leg work on how to happy yourself up in no time. Here’s some of what I found.

Emiliana Simon-Thomas, the science director at UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center and the co-instructor of a course entitled “Science of Happiness” says it’s all in how societal you choose to be.

Apparently, she has spent decades studying emotion and says her work repeatedly spits out the same conclusion: the more people feel “prosocial emotions” the happier they are.

She was recently featured in an article in USA TODAY entitled: “How to be happy: No, really. We have the science.”

It defines being prosocial as acting in a way that is “positive, helpful, and intended to promote social acceptance and friendship.” Thomas references gratitude, compassion, awe, love, friendliness, affiliation and trust as examples of these types of emotions.

Well, I could’ve told you that. In fact, I feel I have on many occasions.

Either way.

“The best opportunity that most humans have to increase their own happiness comes from investing in their prosocial experiences and behavior,” Thomas says. She goes on to mention that you can make more money, and strive towards achievement, but there’s a cap on how much that will improve your long-term happiness.

“No one is saying forget about trying to be successful and make money, the argument is to do your best to pursue meaningful goals and once you have your basic needs met, you’re better off redirecting your priorities towards investing in relationships,” Thomas argues.

Again, well duh.

Anyway, what does that look like in practical application? The answer is split into three buckets.

Bucket 1: Social connection skills

This is essentially the art of conversation. Listen actively, Thomas instructs, and don’t get distracted by thinking up your response. Empathy, trust and true connection are predicated on unselfish listening.

Bucket 2: Positivity

Thomas describes this as having a “style of emotional experience” that allows for you to savor when things are going well, and tuck into those moments even if they are small or mundane. Being in nature might help, she says. Engaging with the natural world can sew a sense of wonder into our day-to-day.

Bucket 3: Resilience

Practicing resilience starts with mindfulness, Thomas says. The more we can be aware of ourselves, the easier it will be to recognize our harmful tendencies like being hyper-critical or seeing others as a threat.

To summarize, it’s a ‘this too shall pass’ approach. Boom, there it is, the bottom line is basically the Bobby Ferrin song “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.”

Hang in there, friends, Valentine’s Day and the long President’s Day weekend are just a short blip on the radar away! Y’all got this.

Kimerer is a columnist who’s just trying to get through the gray days intact. Contact her with sunshiny thoughts at pkimerer@zoominternet.net.

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