I thought this post from Michelle Graff Radford from 2018 was worth reposting this week. I hear "I'll be happy when..." a lot. Of course, sometimes after a stressful event or something comes to fruition we were hoping for, we may indeed feel happier (like the pandemic being over, right?) But, often, it isn't about waiting for something to pass, but rather changing our thoughts and mental focus that makes us feel "happy," as Michelle details below. One last thought from me on this topic, it may also be unreasonable to expect to regularly feel "happy." I mean, can you sustain the glowing emotion the folks are showing in the picture above? That state of feeling is just not reasonable to maintain. Rather, it may be more realistic to seek a sense of feeling "content." - MJC
**** Below from MGR in 2018****
We all want to be “happy” but what does that actually mean and what can we do in our daily lives to be happier? Fortunately, researchers have begun to understand what really helps us to be happier and more resilient to life's challenges.
Sonja Lyubomirsky, a researcher in the field of positive psychology, describes happiness in her 2007 book, The How of Happiness, as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
How to find happiness
According to Mayoclinic.org “Only a small percentage of the variation in people's reports of happiness can be explained by differences in their circumstances. It appears that the bulk of what determines happiness is due to personality and—more importantly—thoughts and behaviors that can be changed.”
The good news is that your actions and thoughts can influence your level of happiness. Below are practical activities drawn from scientific studies. Note that all of these take regular practice to be effective:
- Social connection
- Feeling a sense of purpose
- Living in the moment or mindfulness
Gratitude is an attitude – a sense of wonder and appreciation for the gifts in your life. Research shows that practicing gratitude can make you healthier and happier. Focusing on blessings can help ward off depression and build resilience in times of stress and grief.
Here are some techniques to help you to build your sense of gratitude:
- Keep a gratitude journal. Each day write down three things that went well for you. Provide an explanation of why you think it went well. How did this made you feel?
- Count your blessings-- not sheep-- before you go to sleep.
- Review the things you have done that day and the people in your life and feel a sense of gratitude.
- Try a short gratitude meditation exercise by Dr. Amit Sood, a Mayo Clinic expert on happiness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0M-TLhGKgwA
Our connection with other people is basic to our happiness. Meaningful relationships boost happiness, cognitive abilities and health.
- Nurture your relationships with friends and family. Express your appreciation to them for the things that you may take for granted. Try to listen to what they have to say without making judgments.
Compassion is a strong feeling of sympathy and sadness for other people's suffering and a desire to help.
Research shows that we are born with an inherent sense of compassion that is essential for bonding and connecting with others.
Giving or receiving compassion helps you enjoy better mental and physical health.
Here are some techniques to enhance your compassion:
- Try daily to practice random acts of kindness, for example:
- Let someone go ahead of you in the checkout line or in traffic.
- Take time to really listen to someone.
- Give a sincere compliment.
- Be compassionate to yourself. This is not self-pity. You’re simply recognizing that “this is tough, this hurts.” Give the same warmhearted compassion to yourself as you would to any friend grappling with the same challenge. Studies have shown that self-compassion has many benefits including lowering stress and increasing resilience.
Feeling a sense of purpose
Studies show that having a sense of purpose enhances happiness.
- Make a list of activities that bring meaning to your life. Try to do one activity each day.
- Find meaningful use of your talents through volunteer opportunities
- Join an organization with a cause you find important.
Living in the moment or mindfulness
· Focus on the present moment. When not in the present, the mind wanders and tends to ruminate on negative thoughts.
· Accept your emotions. It is vital to have an emotional balance. One cannot experience happiness at the expense of avoiding other important emotions, such as fear, sadness, anger or guilt. Accepting these emotions as a part of life help us live a healthier emotional life.
· Look for opportunities to savor the pleasures of everyday life.
· Spend time in nature.
Invest in your happiness today by trying at least one of the techniques. Comment below to let others know how these techniques work for you.