Can you train yourself to be happier?

According to this new study, using the 'Heal' method is a way to train yourself to have a more positive mindset

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(Image credit: Getty Images / Louise Helmfrid)

Well-being and self-care are crucial—especially during the winter months when the SAD and winter blues are real. It can feel really hard to boost your mood up and keep your outlook positive but according to a new study, you can actually train your brain to be happier.

Now, there’s never a quick, foolproof road to happiness, but there are a few things you can do to alleviate stress and control your anxiety, such as journaling or reading the best self-care books

However, according to researchers at the University of California Berkley, you can actually train your mind to enjoy positive experiences more and so develop your resilience and self-worth. It’s called the ‘Heal’ method.

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(Image credit: Getty Images / Westend61)

What is the HEAL method?

Many of us will know that confusing feeling of being in a place or event that is supposed to be fun and positive but finding ourselves unable to enjoy it. Whether it’s anxiety or feeling sad even when you have lots of exciting things on your calendar. It's then usually followed by frustration, and beating yourself up because you didn't enjoy it or appreciate it while it was happening.

Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D. explains in Psychology Today that the ‘Heal’ method is a ‘four-pronged approach to dialing up your happiness.’ The method encourages you to learn ways to activate your feelings of engagement in a positive experience.

Put simply, it trains you to recognize when something was positive and makes your mind engage with it—whether it’s remembering a past moment or enjoying a current one. Or while you’re feeling anxious and low you make yourself focus on something positive that is happening around you—like the best binge-worthy 90s movies.

Researchers say: “The positive should ultimately drown out the negative in this step.” Once you start to do this, it should help you build resilience and a better sense of self-worth. 

They say: “These feelings help to create an “upward spiral” in which good times build on themselves, further enhancing your happiness.

“Even when external supports and familiar activities are less available, such as those restrictions in effect during the Covid-19 pandemic, you ‘are left internally with whatever psychological resources’ you’ve managed to acquire.”

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(Image credit: Getty Images / Gary John Norman)

How to do the Heal method: 

The Heal method is compromised of four key steps which range from having a positive experience to linking certain experiences together. Here are the fours stages to keep in mind for practice. 

  • Step one: Have a positive experience.
    Or even think about a past one.
  • Step two: Enrich the experience.
    Keep it active in your mind and focus on it for as long and possible. Focus on all the parts of the experience and how it makes you feel. While doing this close your eyes or sit quietly  Sit with the memory or, take a moment while you’re in the experience, to focus on how you feel about it.
  • Step Three: Absorb the experience.
    Make an effort to internalize it so it ‘feels like part of you’, and then turn your attention inward to what you’re feeling. Highlight how the experience is rewarding to you.
  • Step Four: Link positive and negative material.
    They say: “Focus on something positive even while you’re aware of negative material in the background

Naomi is a trainee News Writer with the Women's Lifestyle team. She has a background in design, having studied Illustration at Plymouth University but has taken a leap into the world of journalism after always having a passion for writing. She currently writes pieces on fashion, wellbeing, and entertainment for GoodTo and My Imperfect Life and is training for an NCTJ Qualification. 

Before working for Future Publishing’s Lifestyle News team, she worked in the Ad production team. Here she wrote and designed adverts on all sorts of things, which then went into print magazines across all genres. Now, when she isn’t writing articles on celebs, fashion trends, or the newest shows on Netflix, you can find her drinking copious cups of coffee, drawing and probably online shopping.