“How can I be happier?” It’s a simple question but the answer eludes so many different kinds of people.
Some people think that if only they were rich, beautiful or successful they’d be happy. But there are countless examples of rich, beautiful and/or successful people who are still unhappy (I won’t name them here but pick up any magazine, newspaper and you can read all about them).
Other people think that if they could only accomplish their biggest challenge or significant goal (get that promotion, run a marathon, lose 50 pounds) they’d finally be happy. But the work we do to accomplish the goal can actually be more satisfying than finally achieving the goal. Once the goal is accomplished, most people cannot say that they finally became happy and that their happiness lasted forever.
Before we get too depressed and think that happiness is out of our reach, there is good news ahead. Being happier is a lot simpler than we all think. In fact, according to research studies, happy people do several things in common that all of us can do too.
Happy people know how to:
1. Be Grateful
Happy people make a conscious effort to appreciate and seek out the good things in life. They try not to get too caught up in complaining and worrying.
So, one thing we can start doing is expressing gratitude for the good things in our lives. Every night, try to make it a habit to write down five things that you are grateful for (I type them right into my iPhone so I can glance at them whenever I feel down or upset). Reflect on that list and make sure you express your appreciation to any people who make it on your list. I think you’ll find that after you keep up with your gratitude lists, you will begin to truly value who and what you have in your life.
Happy people develop strong, loving relationships and make sure those relationships stay at the center of their lives.
So, we should make a conscious effort to take care of our relationships (with our spouse, significant other, children, parents, friends). This may sound easy but nurturing these important relationships takes hard work. We all lead busy lives with work, parenting, entertaining to name just a few. We need to actively take care of the relationships that are most important to us by making it a priority to spend time doing things we enjoy with the people we love.
3. Do Meaningful Work
Happy people pursue goals that are meaningful to them and that are in line with their values and priorities.
So, we should try to engage in work that is meaningful to us and in line with our values. That doesn’t mean we all need to quit our day jobs. If we can’t engage in that kind of work as a full-time job, we should try to do this work as a parent or as a volunteer (offer to help at your church, volunteer at a local soup kitchen, work at a pet shelter). Again, we all live pretty hectic lives, so choose goals that you will enjoy pursuing.
4. Take Care of Themselves
Happy people make it a priority to exercise regularly, eat well and get enough sleep.
Unfortunately, taking caring of ourselves tends to take a backseat to all of the other demands in our schedule. But don’t sacrifice being good to yourself. We need to make a deliberate effort to exercise on a regular basis, drink a lot of water each day and get sufficient amount of sleep each night. Soon you will feel great and be thinking more clearly. A healthy body can relieve a lot of anxiety and stress that builds up in your life.
Happy people understand that difficult experiences and painful emotions are a part of every day life. They are able to effectively manage their anxiety and stay confident in themselves. They always believe that things will get better.
So how do we better manage our stress and anxiety? One stress reducing strategy you can do is to try to talk openly about your problems or issues with family or friends. Talking will not only distract you from any stressful thoughts that may be roaming around in your head but it can also relieve some of the tension you’ve built up inside because you have to articulate what is bothering you. Once you begin discussing your stressors, you may be able to take a step back and get a fresh perspective on how you can make things better. Or sometimes after talking it out, you may be pleasantly surprised that what was bothering you is not actually that big of a deal after all. Another good stress reducing strategy is to take control. Stress and anxiety can often be triggered by a problem that may seem impossible to solve. Try writing down your problem and then come up with as many possible solutions as you can. Determine the pros and cons of each of your solutions and select the best one. Then write down each step that you need to take as part of the solution: what will be done, how will it be done, when will it be done, who is involved and where will it take place. Learning how to find solutions to your problems can help you feel more in control, which will, in turn, help reduce your stress.
Research shows that if we try to be grateful, cope with difficult situations, nurture our most important relationships, do meaningful work and take care of ourselves, we will be happier for it. If we make a conscious effort to try any or all of these things, they will have a big impact on our level of happiness. I’m ready to give it a try. How about you?