I read this article about 13 things that improve happiness. It got me thinking about how I tackle these happiness tactics.
The article says “technology has exposed us to so much and made the world so much smaller. Yet, there’s a downside that isn’t spoken of much: exposure raises the bar on what it takes to be awestricken.” So true. I do not find myself easily phased by much these days, or easily impressed either. I could probably maximize my awe-inducing moments by spending more time outdoors. Experiencing awe in nature (in person rather than through photos) is a unique experience. According to another article, people who spend more time in nature feel more alive. Win-win.
2. Being social
“Socializing, even when you don’t enjoy it, is great for your mood.” I needed to hear this quote! I am the kind of girl who loves to hole up with a good book. If I am in sweatpants and cozy on the couch at 8pm and a friend asks me to go out for a drink, I usually decline. I also have some social anxiety, which doesn’t always make me look forward to socializing. I’m also someone who likes the idea of making plans, but when it comes to do the thing that was planned, I don’t want to do it anymore. Socializing isn’t something I consistently look forward to, which can cause me to isolate myself. I’m not completely sure of the best way to handle this, but one idea is spontaneity, for example inviting someone to do something with me if I’m out and about. I should also remind myself to say yes. If someone invites me to do something, I should go. I don’t have to stay very long, but I will remind myself of the quote above about socializing being a mood booster, even if I don’t enjoy it at the time.
3. Taking responsibility
“We need to feel in control of our lives in order to be happy.” I’ve certainly fallen into this trap. I think “oh if this or that were different, I would be happier.” Or “I’ll be happier when I have more money/more friends/a significant other/ lose 10 lbs…” The list goes on. I can’t place blame on other people or circumstances for my state of happiness. I need to find ways to create happiness here and now. For me, that means consistently doing the things I enjoy AND trying new things. Pushing myself to do something that makes me uncomfortable improves my confidence. I didn’t ever think I’d hang glide in Switzerland (especially because I have a fear of heights), but I did it. It’s something I will cherish forever and honestly one of the coolest things I’ve done. On that trip I also traveled alone, which also pushed me. Sometimes I was uncomfortable, but I certainly don’t regret it.
4. Going with the flow
“You can make yourself unhappy if you’re trying to exert too much control.” I’m actually pretty good about this. In fact, some people might argue I’m a little too go-with-the-flow and could stand to be more decisive.
5. Limiting criticizing.
It’s easy for me to think my way of doing or thinking about something is the right way. I think most people do, otherwise they’d do or think differently. Thinking too firmly that I’m right can lead me to criticize others, even if it’s just in my head. One thing that has helped me limit criticism is knowing that when I have a strong reaction to someone’s behavior, it’s because I’m responding to some part of it that I see in myself and don’t like. That insight has helped me let go of a lot of negativity. Knowing why I feel a certain way helps me feel more in control of my emotions. Aside from limiting criticism of other, I could certainly reduce my self-criticism. Sometimes I say things to myself that I would never say to a friend. Self-criticism can be equally mood-sapping.
6. Not complaining
“Complaining is a self-reinforcing behavior. By constantly talking—and therefore thinking—about how bad things are, you reaffirm your negative beliefs.” I could certainly complain less. In fact, I gave myself a challenge to go a few consecutive days without complaining, but mysteriously never got around to completing that challenge. Go figure. I try to remind myself that I should work on whatever is within my control and let the rest go.
7. Giving zero flying foxes about what others think
I’m surprisingly good at not caring about what others think. I credit getting some mental health counseling with having a strong sense of self, which in turn makes me care less about what others think. I can be insecure, but I think that has more to do with worrying if I’m good enough than worrying what other people think. I typically trust my judgment and opinions above others and it has served me well.
I have mixed feeling about positivity. There is some science behind the “act the way you want to feel” mantra, but people who are excessively positive strike me as fake. Life is tough. There are a lot of bad things going on in the world. It’s hard to move past the that and focus on the positive. I wouldn’t call myself a pessimist, but sometimes I get bogged down by negativity and could stand to work on gratitude. That would certainly have a positive influence.
9. Keeping good (positive) company
“Complainers and negative people are bad news because they wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They want people to join their pity party so that they can feel better about themselves.” I should probably strive to surround myself with more people who inspire me and who make me want to be better. Much of the company I keep is in a similar stage of life as me. We sometimes feel unfulfilled and don’t really know how to fix it. While positivity has a place, I appreciate when my friends are real and vulnerable. There’s a line between expressing feelings and wallowing. I certainly wouldn’t say any of my friends drag me down. I try to be aware of when someone is causing me to indulge in less than productive behavior and create some distance from that person when it happens.
10. Not comparing yourself to others
I’ve cut back on time spent on Facebook because I it causes me to fall into the comparison game. Facebook only includes the highlight reels and can give a skewed sense of how other people’s lives are in reality. I have a quote on the wall in my office that says “comparison is the thief of joy.” It serves as a reminder that if someone is doing well, it doesn’t discount my success. We are all following our own paths and I am trying to trust my story. I don’t always know where I’m going in life, but I know that comparison won’t improve things.
11. Setting goals
According to the article “having goals gives you hope and the ability to look forward to a better future, and working towards those goals makes you feel good about yourself and your abilities.” My 31×31 list incorporates this concept and it has generally been enjoyable to chip away at that list.
12. Facing fear.
I’m fairly good at facing my fears. However, I still have an intense fear of public speaking I’d like to conquer. As the article points out, “fear is nothing more than a lingering emotion that’s fueled by your imagination. Danger is real. Fear is a choice. Happy people know this better than anyone does, so they flip fear on its head. They are addicted to the euphoric feeling they get from conquering their fears.” I’ve worked on conquering fears by skydiving, zip lining, traveling alone, and hang-gliding, but could stand to face some fears on a smaller scale, like public speaking.
I could certainly work on my mindfulness. The article says “it’s impossible to reach your full potential if you’re constantly somewhere else, unable to fully embrace the reality (good or bad) of the very moment. To live in the moment, you must do two things:
- Accept your past. If you don’t make peace with your past, it will never leave you and it will create your future. Happy people know that the only good reason to look at the past is to see how far you’ve come.
- Accept the uncertainty of the future, and don’t place unnecessary expectations upon yourself. Worry has no place in the here and now. As Mark Twain once said, ‘Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe.'”
Wise words Mark. I often find myself worrying, focusing more than necessary on the future, or mulling over my past. I try to remind myself that worrying is a waste of energy because it can’t affect an outcome. Mindfulness and presence are tough work. I know meditating is a good practice, but I find it tedious. I’ve heard the Insight Timer app is a good place to start, so I added it to my 31×31 list of goals.
Let me know if you have any thoughts on these 13 ways to improve happiness. I’d love to hear them. Have a good Monday. I’d say have a great Monday, but lets me real, Mondays are Mondays. Wait, is that just me being negative? 😉