This guy up here? He’s name is Tim Bono and he is a professor at Washington University in St. Louis. His boyish grin hints that life is good. And how else can it be when you’re a … happiness expert?
His courses on the Psychology of Young Adulthood and the Science of Happiness draw flock of students and he just published his first book, “When Likes Aren’t Enough: A Crash Course in the Science of Happiness.”
Interestingly enough, he wrote it with his not-so-cheerful young self in mind:
“My transition to adulthood had been marked by anxiety, loneliness, and yearning […] Through my studies I eventually learned that these struggles and emotions are common in young adulthood. I hadn’t been alone. And there were strategies available that could break open hope, optimism and meaning in my life. I just hadn’t had access to them.”
Here are some strategies Bono uses to get himself out of a funk:
1. Practice gratitude.
It’s easy to get bogged down with life’s inevitable hassles, so I make an effort to direct attention to things that are still going well. On the way home from work, I fill the time that could go toward ruminating over bad parts of my day with the things that went well, like the meetings or classes I felt good about, or the interactions with students and colleagues that brought a smile to my face.
2. Get outside and move around.
A simple 10-minute trek around campus is sometimes all I need to put the brakes on a negative thinking cycle or catch a second wind to tackle projects remaining on my to-do list. I also hit the gym or go running in a local park several times per week. Exercise is foundational for our psychological health because it releases the brain’s “feel good” chemicals. On a nice day, I’ll do those activities outside—exposure to the sun provides an added mood booster.
3. Get a full night’s sleep.
I manage my schedule to prioritize a full eight hours of sleep each night. The brain does a lot of important work when we sleep: It sharpens our mental acuity and helps us stay on task toward the next day’s goals, and it helps us regulate our emotions and maintain a positive mood throughout the day. I find a good night’s sleep to be like hitting the reset button on a bad day.
4. Limit time on social media.
Social comparison is one of the biggest barriers to happiness, so I’ve set my internet browser at work to block access to Facebook, and I don’t have social media apps on my phone. By putting up these simple barriers I waste less time looking at others’ posts and getting caught up in how I measure up.
5. Call a friend and make plans to get together.
The single strongest predictor of our happiness is the strength of our social relationships. Spending time with a friend or loved one is the best way I know to extend the positivity of a good day or redirect attention away from a bad one. Instead of scrolling through social media when I want to feel better about something, I scroll through my list of contacts and call someone I love.
Snack On This:
Follow Bono on Twitter, but first listen to him explain how he dealt with a major academic rejection.