8 Skills to Boost Happiness and Banish Stress

One small act of kindness a day can help relieve stress and anxiety. Dmytro Zinkevych/Shutterstock

Everybody has stress. Whether it's a bad day at work or some harrowing moments with the kids, there are times when you turn to deep breathing, yoga or stress eating to deal with anxiety.

But new research says you can learn the skills to be more positive, and having a positive outlook can make an impact on those negative feelings of stress and anxiety.

The study involved people who are in the very stressful position of caring for family members with dementia. After learning these eight skills, they not only had less stress and anxiety, but they were also more physically healthy. The findings were published in the journal Health Psychology.

"In the context of stress, it can be hard to see the positive things," lead study author Judith Moskowitz, professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, tells NPR. "So taking a moment to notice things you're grateful for is really beneficial."

Moskowitz says these strategies can be helpful for anyone experiencing a stressful situation. They aren't hard to learn, but you need to make them a habit in order for them to work.

Happiness strategies

Photo: Erika Crawford/Shutterstock

Choose from this "buffet of skills," as Moskowitz calls them, to find the ones that help make you happy:

1. Recognize a positive event each day. Sometimes it's easy to be consumed with all the stressful things going on in your life, but take time to find at least one good thing. Maybe it's something as simple as a pretty flower or a good cup of coffee.

2. Savor positive events. Tell someone about them, log them in a journal or share them on social media. Sharing can help you enjoy good things longer.

3. Start a daily gratitude journal. Keep track of the things that you're thankful for. Writing them down makes you realize how many good things you have in your life, and you can revisit them at any time.

4. Identify one of your personal strengths. Do this every day and think about how you've used that strength recently.

5. Set a reachable goal each day and make sure to keep track of your progress. Don't make the goal too extreme, so you won't get frustrated if you're not there yet.

6. Think of a relatively minor stressor that happened. Then come up with ways that it can be reframed in a new way. This is called "positive reappraisal" and it's basically a way to find the silver lining in a situation. For example, if you forgot your lunch, think that it's an excuse to spend time eating out with a friend. If you're stuck in traffic, consider it quiet time to think.

7. Practice a small act of kindness each day. Research shows there are so many emotional and physical benefits from being nice to other people.

8. Practice mindfulness by paying attention to daily experiences. You can also try a daily 10-minute breathing exercise, concentrating on your breathing to help focus and calm your mind.