by Megan McDonough

Popular advertising depicts that happiness comes in the form of flat abs, wrinkle-free skin or the right clothes that make you cool, hip and happening. A day of happiness is as simple as buying the right diet pills, skin cream or skinny jeans. Thankfully, none are necessary for happiness. On this day, designated by the United Nations as an International Day of Happiness, how about celebrating your body just as it is — a perfect doorway to happiness? Here are four simple tools to do just that:

Notice natural movement.
Self-perception theory in psychology says that we develop our feelings and attitudes by noticing our behavior and drawing conclusions about ourselves. What we do shapes who we think we are. When we choose to dance with abandon, giggle and play wholeheartedly with our child, or take a long walk with the dog, this repeated behavior can inform a conclusion that we enjoy physical activity. Notice today when movement is natural and joyful. No matter your size, shape or age, honor your body’s ability.

Focus on what’s working.
Positive Psychology is the scientific study of what’s working, an approach that can also be applied to how you view your body. Rather than focusing on what’s wrong — the stiff muscles in the neck, the extra pounds around the waist, the menopausal mind that forgets — notice what is working. If you are reading these words, your eyes are working. It also means you’re breathing, so your lungs are working. Understanding these words means your brain is working. There are thousands of things working well in your body. Focus today on how well your body is doing.

Practice gratitude.
Research suggests that something as simple as recounting five things that you are grateful for makes you happier, healthier, more optimistic, more likely to achieve goals, and more likely to behave benevolently and kindly towards others. Today, consciously cultivate an attitude of appreciation for your body. Alongside the standard list of to-do’s that you’re asking it to perform, make a “grateful-for” list of your body’s gifts.

Move the way you want to feel.
Mind and body are more than connected. They are an integral whole and an exquisite system. This intimacy and immediacy between body and mind is what psychologists call “embodied cognition.” Moving your body in the position of a desired feeling can help that emotion arise. For example, smiling makes you happier and standing tall makes you feel more confident. Pay attention today to your posture. What does it say about your emotional state? Experiment with smiling big and often.

Let this official Day of Happiness be a beginning to a yearlong, lifelong habit of happiness, using each moment to cultivate well-being through your marvelous physicality.


Find out about the mind-body connection and embodied cognition at the Embodied Positive Psychology Summit, April 24-29.

This post was originally published in The Huffington Post.

MeganMegan McDonough is CEO of Wholebeing Institute, an educational organization co-founded with Dr. Tal Ben-Shahar. WBI is committed to spreading ideas and practices that can help individuals and groups live life to its fullest.
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