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Seek happiness as if your life depended on it – it does!
Life hurts! What is the cure?
But how can we feel good about life or ourselves when everything keeps going wrong? How can we assume a happy disposition when we are always feeling angry or frustrated or scared inside? I have problems to solve – I don’t have time to try and be happy!
Why it is so important to develop a happy disposition
Psychology teaches us that happy people are usually smarter and more creative.
- They use their energy to produce a reliable income and are generous with others.
- They are more stable and typically have happy marriages.
- They are usually mindful, which reduces stress and improves moods. Their emotions are mostly on the positive side.
- They are normally healthier and live longer. While constant worry, anxiety, and fear can raise the risk for major health concerns, optimism reduces heart attacks and even the risk of cancer.
Pretty good reasons, I think, to develop happiness.
Negative vs. positive emotions
Negative emotions advance anger, fear, and despair. We want to fight or run away or somehow survive by becoming meek or compliant.
Positive emotions, on the other hand, typically promote curiosity, interest, and delight, which in turn help cultivate compassion and love. Optimistic and positive solutions are sought after.
While negative emotions might help us survive in the moment, it is positive emotions that allow us to live fulfilling lives.
So, how do we make happiness happen?
Martin E.P. Seligman, Ph.D., a renowned psychologist who wrote the book, Authentic Happiness, illustrated the following points about happiness.
- It’s an attitude – a mindset – make a decision to do this every day.
- Choose to look at both sides of your situation. We want to only dwell on the negative side. Look for the positive, as well as things you can be grateful for.
- Take time each week (I know, I know, you are already busy and have too many things to do) to find a way to express yourself in positive ways through a project, art, gardening, building, etc. This could be as simple as giving yourself permission to read a book, begin painting, take a nature walk, etc. Look at your schedule and see where wasted time exists. Replace it with a satisfying project.
- Thank someone each day for a kindness they have done to you – even if it is the harried grocery clerk.
- Before leaving the house, smile, raise your hands up over your head then extend them out. Take in a big breath and tell yourself, “Thank you God. I am ready for this day.”
Gratitude plays a huge role
“If the only prayer you said in life was ‘thank you’ that would suffice.”
As kids, we were taught to say thank you and to say prayers before dinner. Research shows that finding ways to cultivate gratitude is more than saying prayers at dinner or before bed, but rather is a proven intervention for depression. It, too, expands happiness.
“Gratitude produced the most purely joyful moments that have been known to man.”
Jot down the names of people who have been kind to you or expressed gratitude in some way. Perhaps there might be an opportunity to let them know how much that meant to you. Then write down the names of people who you are grateful for and think about ways you can express that to them.
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.”
Ongoing optimism and gratitude
You may already be doing this, but if not, begin keeping a gratitude diary or journal. It is a way to remember all the blessings you have received.
When we write down the things we like or are grateful for, we can go back and read them, which is especially helpful when we’re having a rough day.
Optimism motivates us to continue trying when we run into snags or barriers.
And we know that we will.
Make optimism and gratitude a mindset, along with happiness.
When we do, we know that even when things get tough, it won’t last forever. But an optimistic attitude will. Good will overcome bad, just as love overcomes hate.
Put up a big smiley face on your refrigerator door or the mirror in your bathroom and every time you see it, smile. As you smile, remember happy times or something you are grateful for.
Allow that gratefulness to sink into your mind as you continue with your day.