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You Can Be Happier: My Top Nine Tips To Bringing More Happiness Into Your Life

By Sheryl Kraft

Created: 10/28/2010
Last Updated: 11/12/2018

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If you read you’re probably interested in knowing more. After all, isn’t happiness a lifelong quest for most of us?

When you consider that rates of depression today are ten times higher than they were in the 1960s, it makes the pursuit of happiness even more pressing, I think.

So, I’m anxious to share some of the common-sense yet elusive pointers I learned recently on my weekend away listening to Tal Ben-Shahar’s wisdom-filled lectures. I was so busy taking notes that I practically filled an entire notebook; and then I went straight to the bookstore and bought . (Would you say I can’t get enough on the subject of happiness?)

What really surprised me about what I learned was this: I knew all this. It was practically elementary. Then why wasn’t I happy? Why wasn’t I already doing it?

Common sense can often lead you astray. It is frequently the things that are right in front of our eyes that we fail to see.

(THIS IS A LONG POST. IF YOU DON’T FEEL LIKE READING IT ALL, DON’T GIVE UP JUST YET – AT LEAST READ JUST ONE TIP AND PROMISE ME – PLEASE? -  YOU’LL THINK ABOUT IT TODAY. TOMORROW? MAYBE YOU’LL FEEL LIKE PICKING ANOTHER TO THINK ABOUT).

Happiness is an ongoing process – not an overnight transformation. It’s not a quick fix by any means. While some of us are naturally happy people, for many of us happiness becomes a conscious decision. We need to put in the work - not just one time, but every single day. (I can’t help but think of these song lyrics– although I don’t think that’s what they were intended to apply to what I’m saying here:  “Hard work if you can get it, but you can get it if you try.”) The hard work - those small baby steps - adds up to feeling better and looking at the world in a different light.

And to achieve change that is lasting, we need two things: a). action and b). reflection.

While I’d love to share everything I took away from the weekend, both time and space do not allow it. (If you have the time and inclination, though, I’d be happy to sit down with you and discuss it in detail; all we need is proximity – and about 8 hours).

Before I continue, I just want to add one thing: I’m not saying you have to walk around every single day grinning like an idiot, fighting to deny any real pain or sadness. But these tips will, I hope, help you the next time you are having a hard time feeling ANY sort of joy in your life.

ACTION:

  • Before getting out of bed in the morning, stay put for about 5 minutes. Stretch your body. Breathe deeply. (Did you know there are right and wrong ways to breathe? When you take a deep breath in, inflate your stomach like a balloon. When you breathe out, pull your belly button in toward your back as far as it wants to go). NOW you’re ready to get up and face the day.
  • Fake it till you make it. Not sure you can do something? Convinced you’ll fail? Accept the negative emotion (that’s called active acceptance) and then decide what the most appropriate action is. You can back down and continue to doubt yourself and continue to wonder if you could have done it. Or, you can ignore the negative voices and pretend you know how to do it. Step outside your comfort zone. And if you fail? So what? Failing implies you are trying.
  • Realize that you do have choices. While the external circumstances may not always be under your control, what IS under your control is the way you interpret things. And it’s the choices you make that create your own reality. Knowing you have choices is really freeing – try it. It puts a whole different slant on things.
  • Simplify. Turn off your email while you are working at your computer. Put your phone on silent. Nothing will happen if you do either one of these for a few hours – except you WILL get more done and enjoy your time more. Creativity and productivity levels will soar. Reducing multitasking (Link to past post) will increase the quality and the quantity of your time. (Not convinced? A found that people who email while they work lost 10 IQ points; more than if they were smoking marijuana.)
  • Take mini-breaks throughout the day. You might think you can work without a break, and maybe you do. But I guarantee you will feel angry, tired and frustrated by the end of the day. As the wise teacher told us, “Stress is not the problem; it is lack of recovery.” Go refill your tank by taking a walk, calling a friend, playing with your dog.

 

REFLECTION

  • Keep a Gratitude Journal. It takes just three minutes - and you can do it when you get into bed at night. No matter how bad, how lousy, how upsetting and tragic your day might have been, there is something you can find (usually more than one something) that made you happy. Maybe you had a delicious bowl of oatmeal this morning. Or heard a bird singing outside. Perhaps a stranger let you cut in line at the bank. So often we focus on the negatives and forget to look for the positive things in our lives – we all have them. We just have to look a little harder for them.
  • Make a mental list of things – from the smallest to the biggest –that bring you pleasure. You might discover something you have neglected and forgotten about. It’s like finding a pair of shoes hidden deep in your closet that you had forgotten you owned. You used to love those shoes! And you can love them all over again.
  • Realize that you will experience emotional highs and lows. Happiness is not a constant. If you think it is, then it will lead to disappointment and feelings of inadequacy and frustration and…unhappiness. Conversely, focusing on what works and what is right, rather than what doesn’t work and what is wrong, can make you happier.
  • Living a “good enough” life – rather than an ideal life (which may be unrealistic, after all) – can bring you happiness.  Face it, we all have constraints, whether it is time or money or energy. Again, realizing what works puts a positive slant on things; a realistic assessment of what is truly possible.

 

This Matters> We can all be happy if we put in the time and the effort. Being happy IS hard (and harder for some than others), but it’s not impossible .And our happiness will not only spread throughout the people around us – it’s contagious, - it will spread throughout our bodies to maintain health and well-being.

For more on happiness:

Happiness and satisfaction boost health:

Comments

These are great tips. I especially appreciate the idea that happiness must come as a gradual process. I think too often we're made to feel that we have to "snap out of" whatever is impeding our happiness, when in fact, it just takes time.

Yes, true...we're all looking for that quick fix. That is one important thing I realized - it takes hard work. But the payoff is great, don't you think?

These are great tips. I especially appreciate the idea that happiness must come as a gradual process. I think too often we're made to feel that we have to "snap out of" whatever is impeding our happiness, when in fact, it just takes time.

These are great tips--one thing that keeps me happy--physically, mentally, spiritually is exercise. I love to run laps at the gym it just clears my mind. There's an older man at the track who always cheers me on. At first I thought it was kind of annoying and now I really look forward to seeing him every time I go. I call him coach and I report on my progress to him. It makes me happy.

I love this story. How cute; you have a personal cheerleader in your midst! It must make him happy, as well.

Hey, I already do some of these naturally. Hmmm ... maybe I'm happier than I think I am (smirk).

OH, you must be one of those lucky ones with the happiness gene. So THAT must be your secret - lucky you :)

I love all these ideas. As I mentioned in my last comment on your last post, I've been thinking about happiness lately too. Have you read Gretchen Rubin's The Happiness Project? I'd love to hear your thoughts on that book.

Jennifer, I have Gretchen Rubin's book but abandoned it after a few chapters. I have a hard time with self-help books and it felt too formulaic to me; however, I'm definitely going to give it another look. Perhaps hearing all these tips, rather than reading them, was a better way for me, personally, to really absorb and embrace them. I've never been a big fan of self-help books.

Just took the day to recover after a stressful week and it was worth every second. This piece is total reassurance that I've got control of my life, even if it doesn't seem that way all the time.

You get the award, Casey, for knowing what you need. A day off seems like such a luxury, when really, it is a necessity sometimes (NOTE TO SELF!)

Take a minute and take in life. Look at the sunrise, the trees, your dog. It makes you feel good to be alive!

These are great ideas. I think aligning your life with your values and goals helps, too.

You create happiness in the way that you see the world!
Just to awake and be able to breath the cold Fall air, to see the little creatures running free in your backyard, the promise about a new day... one more in ours lives! that make happy.

I can tell, Rosalba, that you are probably a very happy person - you might even have the happiness gene, I suspect.

All good. I'd add: Get enough rest. Worked until 2:30 am, awoken by phone at 8. I'm one grumpy mama.

Well, grumpy mama, hope today finds you better rested! That's a tough one.

What a great post. And it's so true about failing - you only fail if you TRY. If you're not winning OR failing, then you're definitely doing something wrong!

Winning or failing - the only options we should have, right? It would be nice if it was that easy...but it's certainly worth trying for!

Shouldnt happiness be about how grateful you are that you feel good? I lost my brother in law and a very close friend all in one week years ago and it taught me a big lesson. Be grateful for what you have and enjoy each day!

Absolutely agree, Sherry. That is a very important aspect of happiness. Feeling good and realizing how lucky you are to be alive is worth celebrating. I'm so sorry about your brother-in-law and close friend. That is a lot of sadness to take all in one week.

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