A female enjoying a day at the beach.
10 ways to increase happiness
Accept responsibility for yourself
When you accept that you are where your are in life due to your own choices and stop blaming others for your situation, you begin to feel back in control of your life. You, and you alone must be responsible for your own life. If you are doing things that make you unhappy, look at why you are doing them – what is the pay off? Do you like seeming like a victim? You don’t have to be a victim, you can choose to create a better life for yourself by changing what you are doing and making new decisions. Be hopeful about where this new-found power can lead you.
Be flexible towards life
“Musts” and “shoulds” create inflexible rules for life and the more rigid our rules for living are, the quicker we stress out when they don’t remain as we wish. Instead of using “must” and “should” in your vocabulary, try “could” or “it would be preferable”. The minute you adopt a more easy going approach to life, is the moment your stress levels reduce. There are very few things in life that MUST be a certain way…always ask yourself why it MUST be that way. Who said? Where’s the big rule book of life that tells you so? You will find you have a lot more choice and freedom as to the “musts” and “shoulds” you want to live by in life. You do get to choose.
Acceptance plays a big part in our levels of contentment and happiness. We don’t have to like reality but dealing with what is rather than resisting reality will save a lot of unnecessary effort in the long run. Instead of lamenting endlessly with statements such as “why me?” or ?It’s so unfair!”, look at ways to problem solve. Fair enough – we all deserve a little bit of ‘poor me’ time but put a time limit on it and then try to find ways to improve what is happening..or just wait a while and it might pass all on it;s own. The point is – stop resisting what life throws at you. If you’re stuck in a traffic jam, you’re stuck in a traffic jam. You can work yourself up into a froth or you can chill and listen to some music. There’s not much else you can do. Always distinguish between what you can and can’t control and then let go of what you can do nothing about.
Develop a high tolerance for frustration
If you procrastinate, lead an undisciplined lifestyle, frequently fail to stick with tasks that would be in your best interests to complete or go out of your way to avoid hassle in life, you may be someone with a low tolerance for frustration. Perhaps you have become caught in the “comfort trap”. Ask yourself whether your current approach is likely to get the best out of you and help you find out what you are really made of? It may feel okay now as long as you don’t want to be someone who wakes up one day and wishes they had engaged more in life. You will be left with a lot of “what ifs” which isn’t conducive to happiness or contentment. Challenge your “I can’t stand it” philosophy. You may not always like it but most likely you can stand it..that temporary upheaval for long term satisfaction. Don’t hide form life. See frustration as proof that you are really living and engaging.
Love and respect yourself
I love the personal statement “Always wear your invisible crown”-it’s a reminder to me to like myself and see myself as a good person who deserves love and care. You teach others how to treat you whether you realise it or not, vocalise it or not so it pays to treat yourself well – other will follow your lead.
Allow yourself to be feel negative emotions
How many times have you watched the runner up in a competition say “Well I am so grateful just to get this far..blah blah”. Sure – if that’s genuine, but it really is okay to be fecked off when things don’t go your way. We can’t always be positive, we can’t always be dynamic etc and that is okay. Watch those “musts” and “shoulds” again – I must always be happy, I must always cope – not necessarily. It is a normal and healthy part of life to be fed up, to have had enough and to want to check out and go live on a desert island somewhere. Feel the emotions – they are normal, don’t suppress them. It isn’t healthy to always put on a brave face irrespective of how you feel.
Be a critical thinker
Be a healthy sceptic. Don’t believe everything you are told.Whether that’s what parents and authority figures told you about who you are or whether it’s a media outlet trying to persuade you to think something new. Does the new message fit in with how you see yourself? A famous American psychiatrist, Aaron Beck – the founder of Cognitive Therapy argued that when people are in distress, they frequently show distortions on the way they think. Some of the major distortions we engage in which can be very unhelpful are:
black and white thinking (all or nothing thinking – nothing in life is ever all or nothing); mind reading – where we make assumptions about what other people think and feel (actually we don’t really know unless we ask them directly); catastrophising – when we make a mountain out of a molehill and work ourselves into a froth unnecessarily and personalising – where we blame ourselves for things that often have nothing to do with us.
Develop a problem solving attitude and get comfy with making your own decisions about yourself and your life. You don’t need the approval of others.
Be curious about the world and others
Be adventurous and be true to yourself when it comes to following your interests. A fulfilled, happy person is a kinder and more tolerant person and we could definitely use more of those on this planet. Make time for your own pleasurable pursuits and learn every day.
Focus on relationships
As I explained in one of my recent blog posts about oxytocin – the cuddle drug is wonderful when it comes to providing feelings of contentment. Oxytocin is produced by our bodies when we engage with others. Learn to trust others and let them in – you may be pleasantly surprised. Those with a supportive network tend to cope better in life when they are stressed and seem to be more resilient. Take a genuine interest in others – we all want to be loved and accepted and if you welcome others, you will find they seek you out. We really aren’t all that different from one another.
Do you ever say to yourself, “I will do X/Y/Z when I have…” ? Get into the habit of just doing, instead of waiting for the right moment – there is never a better time than right now. Sometimes we need to engage in the behaviour before it feels right – acting as if we are confident can often lead the confidence to emerge. Try not to think fearfully about your option – be curious and adventurous and embrace the trial and error nature of life.
There is no foolproof formula to be happy but the above ten pointers will definitely help to increase contentment if you get used to applying them!