There will be few people today who aren't going to miss the feel-good factor of the Games.
If you weren't moved to tears by the achievements of medal winners, broken by the humility of athletes apologising for coming 'second' and motivated by the commitment of sports men and women who have sacrificed friendships and family time in order to break world records, well, you might not be of this planet.
Of course, we've still got the Paralympics to go. But, if you're not sure those daily doses of sport will be enough, Elaine Fox, author of Rainy Brain, Sunny Brain, suggests now is the time to for a little 'brain training'.
With a little practise, you'll be able to enjoy some serious life highs of your own, without the help of London 2012, says the professor of cognitive psychology from the University of Essex.
"When I was studying psychology and neuroscience in the 1980s, we were taught that after the age of about seven or eight our brains were more or less set in their ways and, from that point on, it was virtually impossible to change.
"In recent years, however, there has been a revolution in brain science and we now know that the brain is actually much more malleable and open to change than we ever imagined."
According to Fox, the burgeoning field of neuroplasticity tells us that with some effort we really can continue to learn and change until the day we die.
1. Shifting Perspective
This is crucial. If how we feel was determined directly by the things that happen to us, then we would all react in exactly the same way to life events. This is obviously not the case. Each and every one of us differs in how we react to stress - we all vary. This is because we filter the world around us through the lens of our own history, perspective and personality. So, to change how we feel we need to change how we interpret things. In my own lab we run various "cognitive bias modification" techniques that can shift potentially "toxic" and subliminal habits of mind. There are simple things you can do in everyday life to try and shift your perspective - which ultimately should start shifting the subliminal biases and brain states that underpin pessimism. It's all about identifying and challenging negative assumptions and interpretations. If a criticism at work lays you low, you need to ask yourself why it made you feel that way. Was your boss really trying to put you down or was she being constructive? Is your friend not calling because he's not interested, or because he is very busy and keeps meaning to? It's all about changing our fundamental habits of mind.
2. Engage with something meaningful
One of the things that clearly relates to happiness and well-being is getting fully engaged and committed to something that is really important to you. It may be a hobby, it may be a job - it doesn't really matter. What does matter is that it's important to you.
3. Experience more positive emotions
The research shows that no matter how many negative emotions you are experiencing, as long as you have some positives to counteract them your overall wellbeing will not suffer too much. Even in the aftermath of terrorist attacks like September 11th in New York, those who managed to find some humour or joy in tiny moments (like cuddling your baby, or playing with your dog) coped best with the trauma. The minimum ratio to aim for is 3:1. In other words, for every argument you have with your partner - may sure you do at least three nice things together to keep things on an even keel.
4. Count your blessings
People who are deeply pessimistic, especially those prone to depression have a genuine selectivity in what they can remember and what they notice in the world around them. Negative things literally loom larger in the minds of the anxious and depressed. Keeping a simple diary of all the things that happen to you during a day (went to a movie; had a fun lunch with a friend; missed your train; finished an assignment; won at squash ; got caught in the rain etc). If you are depressed, you might only remember getting caught in the rain and missing your train a couple of days later. Looking at the diary reminds you of the nice things that happened and this can gradually override the fundamental bias in memory that we know plays a leading role in the development of depression.
5. Seize control of your life
A key feature of optimists is that they have a deep sense of being in control of the things that happen to them. In contrast, pessimism is associated with a feeling that external things just happen and there is not much you can do about them. This may be true in many situations, but there are always small ways in which you can seize control. If you want to lose weight, for instance, rather than feeling helpless you can decide to have just one less snack between meals or cut out some carbs from your evening meal. Studies show that even taking a small degree of control can make a big difference.
6. Get Active!
Optimists don't sit around waiting for the world to come to them, they get out into the world and try their best to make things happen. We need a healthy dose of realism in this as some times we can end up banging our heads against a brick wall. However, on balance planning a goal and deciding what actions are important to achieve that goal are key features of an optimistic mindset.
7.Take time out
A growing body of research tells us that techniques like mindfulness meditation can make a real difference to how we feel. The very real changes that take place in our brain help ensure that the positive benefits of strengthening control of your stress reactions - improving your ability to regulate emotions, especially negative ones - are long lasting. If meditation is not your thing - just taking a 10-15 minute break out of your day can work wonders. Turn of the mobile phone and get outside (preferably in nature) and chill. Time to yourself allows the clutter in your head to die down and many of the problems will not seem as great afterwards.
8. Mix it up
It's all too easy to get set in our ways. Doing the same things and thinking in the same way are the best friends of bad habits of mind. The more you think and act in a similar way the more difficult it is to change. So, take a different route to work. Do something unexpected. Ring up a friend out of the blue. Cook something you have never tried before. Start learning a new language. All of these things will keep your mind sharp and active, allowing you to adapt to changing circumstances. This is a key ability for a resilient mind that can bounce back from adversity.
9. Exceed your comfort zone
Push yourself beyond your limits. This is vital to really grow and flourish. This is related in some ways to the above (mix it up) but even things you do constantly can always be pushed to a new limit. If you run, for instance, why not try and add an extra mile to your usual distance. Or, run a bit shorter but faster. If you are learning a new language, push yourself a bit and try a conversation with some native speakers. It's important here not to overdo it - if you try something that is way beyond your current level of ability you are likely to fail (or injure yourself!) and the whole endeavour will become stressful. However, moving just a bit beyond your comfort zone can work wonders.
10. Get Social
Happiness research shows us that having a supportive network of friends and colleagues is vital for wellbeing. Spending time building up a strong group of people you can rely on and whose company you enjoy is time well spent. Not only will interacting with these people help to keep your ratio of positive emotions in a good balance, they will also be there for you when times get tough. When a crisis happens, having strong friendships and people who can help out in practical (e.g., looking after the kids, dog, cat etc when you need to be elsewhere) as well as emotional ways is vital. By the same token, it's important not to spend too much time with people who drain you. We also know people who are constantly negative, never seeing the good in anything. These people can really drag you down. Make an effort to spend more time with people whose company you enjoy and who cheer you up and less time with people that irritate you or make you angry or depressed.
It might be boring advice, but Fox says that research shows us time and time again that taking regular exercise, eating well and getting plenty of sleep are vital for wellbeing and good health, both mental and physical.
We're also creatures of habit.
"A brain will quite happily get set in its ways if we don’t make efforts to continually learn and grow.
"Analysing the world around us is no different, our brain gets used to seeing the negative in situations or the positive. These habits of mind get deeply entrenched and comfortable allowing us to relax in the certainty that things conform to what we believe – the well known 'confirmation bias'," says Fox.
While a healthy dose of pessimism every now and again does not do us any harm, a more optimistic take on life is associated with a variety of genuine benefits to our health, wellbeing and, yes, even wealth, says Fox.
In her latest book, Rainy Brain Sunny Brain, Fox describes how optimism is actually a much more complex phenomenon with several different components – like positive actions; a sense of perceived control over the things that happen to us; a deep-rooted persistence; and a high degree of energy and enthusiasm.
Still not feeling it? Here are more tips from life coach Sophia Davis.
Be Aware Of Your Thoughts
"Feelings don't exist without thoughts, so if you want to feel good, think good things! Its really as simple as that. Think about the people you love the most, your best holiday, or the last time you really had a good old belly laugh. You'll notice a smile creep on your face," says life coach, <strong>Sophia Davis</strong>.
Stimulate Your Senses
"One great way to boost your mood is through music or touch. Listen to an uplifting album and dance around like you've never heard music before or go and get a relaxing massage and relish in the fact that you are being pampered. You will notice your stresses disappearing and your mood lift instantly."
"If you sit still for even 5 minutes a day, you will notice the change in your mood. You will take life in your stride and everything will seem lighter and happier. Try it."
Step Away From The Drama
"Its easy to think ourselves into a frenzy without even realising we are doing it. My advice is. If your feeling a little worse for wear, try to gain some perspective on the situation by trying to look at it for what it really is. Then, try to think of a bigger picture and write a list of all the positives in your life."
Do Something Nice For Yourself
"Buy a new outfit, take yourself to lunch, or call an old friend. Treat yourself like your own best friend, and you are guaranteed to feel great all of the time!"