5 Be an unconditional friend

It has been my experience that people who have more good quality relationships tend to think the best of others more often.
Until you have evidence to the contrary, I recommend you try to assume the best in others. In Australia we've always had a ‘fair go' philosophy; it's far better to occasionally be proved wrong, and possibly to have someone take advantage of you or mistreat you, than to spend your life experiencing the unpleasant emotions that accompany constant mistrust of others.

When a suspicious or negative thought toward a friend springs up in your mind, challenge it, and construct an opposing thought. Give that person the benefit of the doubt. Start off all your interactions with a degree of unconditional positive regard and embed this in all your relationships. By doing so, you'll experience much more positivity in the connections you make.

6 Think positive

Our brains are amazingly complex organs - far more complex than any super-computer. Discovering the subtleties of how our brains function can be a subject to which psychologists devote their entire careers. However enigmatic the human mind may prove, simply by appreciating its complexity we can gain power over the millions of thoughts we have each day. Positive psychology allows us to take back some of the power our intellects have over our everyday lives by altering the way we arrive at conclusions. It is also a potent tool for maximising the happiness that we do experience.

7 Take each goal at a time

Recently I came across a definition of kaizen, a Japanese strategy for continuous improvement that can be applied in the workplace and is driven by both management and employees, the main principle of which is efficiency and the elimination of waste. It struck me immediately that a similar philosophy would be just as relevant for individuals trying to achieve self-improvement and a better, happier life. So here's my slightly modified version of kaizen: ‘Happiness kaizen' is a realistic, positive-psychology strategy for incremental, everyday improvement, driven by individuals and their significant others.

As a motto for living, I quite like the idea that you don't have to change everything all at once and you don't have to achieve all your goals right away; you can, instead, take small steps every day and eventually they'll accumulate and lead you towards a significant and positive change. You could apply this motto to your thoughts to start with - work toward eliminating one type of negative thought. For example, the ‘I am not good enough' thought can be ignored or challenged each time it comes up. Alternatively, try and introduce consciously positive thoughts into your routine. An example might be to start your work day by visualising yourself dealing with the workload, and breaking the day down into small ‘chunks' of different tasks.

8 Happiness is not a given

With the exception of a lucky few, most people are not blessed with intrinsic happiness; for most of us, happiness is not a beam of light that shines down from above, basking our lives in the soft glow of good fortune and chance circumstance. Rather, achieving happiness is more akin to fishing, in my mind. Those who take the time to thread their hook thoughtfully, and seek the kind of fish that swim in their particular river, are far more likely to find that they have a ‘catch' at the end of the day. Happiness is something you can create right now, by adding some light and laughter to your life, and dealing effectively and wisely with adversity. It is also something that can be planned for, by putting in place strategies that will ‘hook' a happy outcome or more positive mindset in the future.

9 Act like a child

One day, during the writing of this book, I returned home from work and asked my son (who was five years old at the time), ‘What did you do today?'
He responded with something along the lines of, ‘I played in the park with Henry [his best mate] and Max.'

Wanting to keep the conversation going longer than six seconds, I asked, ‘Did you have fun?'
He immediately responded, ‘Why wouldn't I, Dad?' with a hint of disbelief that I would even ask such a question. Surprised by the simplicity of his response, I laughed. Unsure about my reaction he reiterated, ‘Well, why wouldn't I have fun, Dad?'

Like many young children, my son has a fantastic ability to have fun, wherever he is - in fact, he approaches most situations as opportunities to have fun. He expects each and every day to be a fun, happy one. What a wonderful way to approach life!

Now I know we (that's us adults) have responsibilities and chores, but I couldn't help but wonder what it would be like if we all approached each day with an attitude similar to that of my son's. Not, ‘Will I have fun?' but ‘Why wouldn't I have fun?'

So act like a five-year-old sometimes. Adults have an amazing ability to overcomplicate things, and often we imagine life is far more difficult than it needs to be. Being happy doesn't result from solving the world's problems - it is a state of mind with which you confront the world's problems. Why don't you try it out and see what happens?