Mental health, emotional wellbeing & personal development

How to improve your mood now

How to improve your mood now
happy person photo
Photo by jwerkman

It seems we are conditioned from a young age to look for happiness outside ourselves. There are presents at Christmas time, summer holidays and our favourite treats when we behave. As we grow older we are enticed by consumer goods, fashion and a plethora of external ‘carrots’ to strive for in our pursuit of achievement, status, power and ultimately happiness.

All too often I hear clients tell me “I’ll be happy when…” It’s as if happiness is conditional upon certain elements being in place. Research was conducted asking people what top five things they needed to be happy. Most identified an average of five items, such as a house, car, relationship, holiday once a year and enough money in the bank. When asked how many of these they already had, most had three on the list.

These same people were asked again a few years later. The list had grown but there were still 2 or 3 items that they all wanted and didn’t have yet. So, in effect, they still weren’t completely happy. This supports the idea that no matter what we have in life, the list will keep growing and we will always want more. We get stuck in a never ending cycle. We mistakenly think that possessions and other people will make us happy.  I am not saying that these things don’t help – they certainly contribute but the truth is only YOU can make you happy. I know people who own sports cars who are miserable. I also know people who go on holiday regularly and have many friends who are unhappy.

Once you realize that happiness is within your grasp irrespective of what you have, or your situation, it becomes so much more accessible.

Here are tips to improve happiness now:

  • Attitude of gratitude. Don’t compare where you are in life and what you have to what others have. This is self defeating. Look at what you DO have and cultivate a thankful attitude – there is always good if you look for it.
  • Practise mindfulness. Live in the moment as much as possible. As Eckhart Tolle said- “The power is in the moment. It is all we have.”
  • Be aware of your negative filtering. Do you look for the negatives and overlook the positives? Why do you do this? Make your thinking work for you – embrace the positives in your situation rather than focusing on what you don’t have. This is so much more valuable in terms of lifting your mood.
  • Make a conscious decision to be happy. Choose thoughts that colour your world in pleasant hues. It may seem a case of fooling yourself on some levels but if it works, do it.
  • Be aware when you are comparing your ‘behind the scenes footage’ with someone else’s ‘highlight reel’ (Facebook is one culprit that encourages this type of comparing). This is irrational as you don’t really know what’s going on in other people’s lives. Use that energy to focus on you and your family. If you must compare – look at your own progress: how far you have already come. Where you were before and where you are now.
  • Monitor your ‘inner critic’. We all have a harsh inner critic that criticizes us and makes us feel inferior at times. Be aware of it and challenge the automatic negative thoughts. They are just that – thoughts, they are not facts. Talk to yourself as you would your best friend. If you knew the power of your thoughts, you would never think another negative thought again.
  • Spend time with friends and family. Research has shown that contentment comes from spending time with others and enjoying life experiences as opposed to accumulating possessions.
  • Remember that we perceive the world according to how we think about it. There are always other ways to look at life and experiences. When you find yourself feeling uptight or distressed, find balanced alternative  ways to look at whatever it is that is bothering you. I always ask myself “What can I tell myself about this situation that will make me feel less stressed?”

As a final note: I am not denying that there is misery and sadness in the world and that we are all affected by this but you can lessen the impact and build up ‘internal buffers’ if you use the above tips. The thoughts you pay attention to and believe create and shape your world.

Mandy

Photo by jwerkman