ARE YOU ALWAYS harping on how you were wronged in the past or complaining about what’s happening in your life? You may not realize it, but your ‘Negative Nancy’ attitude may be the reason your friends and family are avoiding you like the plague! Take control of your own happiness by letting go of bad memories from the past, attempting to control the future and learning to enjoy the present. Here’s how:
Hit the road! Just taking a short, brisk walk will give you an instant energy boost. Studies have shown that the more people walk each day, the more energetic they become. An increase in mood has been shown to correspond to higher energy levels. In fact, a 2005 study conducted at California State University, Long Beach found that the more people walk, the better their self-esteem and perceived happiness level.
Take Control of Your Thoughts
It may sound a bit cliché, but happiness really is just a state of mind. Ultimately, you (and only you) determine if you choose to see the glass half empty or half full and how you react to things happening around you.
Todd Patkin, author of Finding Happiness: One Man’s Quest to Beat Depression and Anxiety and – Finally – Let the Sunshine In, says, “If you want your thoughts and attitudes to be positive, you must fill your brain with encouraging ideas.” He recommends making motivational books and audio recordings part of your daily ritual and admits that while it may sound “hokey,” it can work wonders towards putting you in a positive mental space. Don’t knock it ‘til you try it!
Give Yourself a Break
No one is perfect. We all make mistakes, but we are far more kind to others when they misstep than we are to ourselves when we stumble. It’s time to lighten up and give ourselves permission to be human. Numerous studies show that practicing self-compassion (defined by psychologists as being kind to yourself when things go wrong) is linked to better emotional well-being. Start focusing on what you do well, stop blaming yourself when things go wrong and watch your happiness level soar.
Evaluate the Company You Keep
Spending time with loved ones can provide a huge happiness boost, so can socializing with your optimistic friends. You know that saying, “Birds of a feather flock together?” If you and your workplace pals spend all day complaining about a co-worker or a super-demanding boss to one another, you are likely to drag that negative attitude into other aspects of your life. If you are serious about building a happier life, Patkin suggests that you “gravitate more toward the positives and distance yourself from the negatives.” Tough? You bet. Worth it in the grand scheme of life? Without a doubt!
Are people who practice gratitude happier and healthier? It’s true. Research shows that grateful people report better physiological health, lower level of depression, less stress and increased satisfaction with life overall. This one is easy enough to try. Simply begin each day with the intention of looking for things to be grateful for. Say “thank you” when someone holds a door open for you or shows you kindness in another small way. Positive invites positive. Go out into the world with this new attitude and see how it changes your day-to-day.
Live in the Moment
How much time do you spend dwelling on the past or worrying about the future? News flash: you can’t change what has already happened and unless you have a superpower, you can’t predict the future. Happiness is a choice. If you are focusing your energies on what happened in the past or what may be, you aren’t noticing the good things going on all around you.
“In order to practice being in the present, you’ll have to do a little bit of homework,” Patkin instructs. “Specifically, you’ll need to look at your past and forgive others for any wrongs you might be holding on to,” he continues.
As far future worries are concerned, imagine the worst-case scenario and how you would deal with it. Once you feel a bit more in control of your fate, you’ll find it easier to relax and just appreciate what is.
Stress is a known contributor to mood disorders like depression, so it stands to reason that more life stress would also lead to decreased happiness. Psychologists studied the relationship between stress and happiness on 100 college students. Not surprisingly, they found those who perceived higher stress levels reported they were less happy than their peers who experienced less stress.
While it’s not possible to put an end to all types of stress all of the time (you’re only human, right?), it is beneficial to identify common stressors that you can control and do something about them.
For example, if you are always running late in the morning, eliminate something from your morning routine or wake up half an hour earlier. Again, once you feel as if you have a handle on things, a huge weight is lifted.
Get a Little Closer
The quality of the relationships you have with your kids, your parents, your partner and your BFFs can make all the difference in how fulfilled you feel in your life. Don’t get so caught up in work or other obligations that you isolate yourself from the people who really matter. Instead of posting a quick “Happy Birthday” on your sister’s Facebook wall, send her a thoughtful birthday card. Show up for your friend’s 50th birthday celebration or your niece’s wedding. Life is short. Make it count!
Five Ways To Find Fulfillment & Happiness in Your Life, NOW!
1. Do a good deed. Be that person who lets someone merge in front of you in traffic or pays the toll for the guy behind him. Unlike doing something for yourself or “retail therapy,” the feel-good vibes you get from doing something nice for another person last way longer.
2. Smile. Just putting a smile on your face has been shown to improve mood and reduce stress, even if your smile isn’t genuine. Stand in front of the mirror and give it a try.
3. Go Outside. Researchers have found that the chemical-release from a freshly mowed lawn can help people feel more happy and relaxed. Another bonus: it may also help prevent mental decline associated with aging.
4. Happiness? There’s an app for that! Strengthen your happiness skills with games and activities from Happify (my.happify.com). This app taps into the latest happiness research to help you create habits for increasing your joy and leading a more fulfilling life.
5. Listen to music. Turn on some upbeat tunes. A study published in the “Journal of Positive Psychology” found that subjects who listened to happy music with the intention of trying to become happier reaped the rewards of improved well-being.
By Karen Morse