Everyone wants to be happy, right? But how do you learn to be happy in the here and now? The pursuit of happiness is a process and must be intentional. So here are some tips:
First, Stop Judging!
Stop judging yourself, others, and circumstances. Judging will steal your joy and happiness.
If you often criticize yourself, you will never measure up to your own standards. Learn to be empathetic toward yourself and learn to love yourself for who you are, what gifts and talents you have, and what you offer the world that no one else does.
Stop judging others. When you judge others, you will find yourself in a negative mindset and often feeling disappointed and distressed. We may be quick in judging our colleagues, managers, or clients, but we are only judging a small snapshot of their entire lives. There is so much behind their story. Learning to be empathetic toward others will help you stay in a positive mindset, resulting in overall happiness. Stop judging circumstances. You know everything will not go your way all the time. There will be many times when you are in tough situations and undesired circumstances. When we label these times as “bad,” you better bet they will be “bad,” and you will have stolen any opportunity of happiness.
BUT, if you learn to make it a practice to live in that undesired circumstance and CHOOSE to look for the gift and opportunity in it, your happiness can not be stolen. Even in yucky circumstances, you can learn to experience the joy in it. *We don’t have to passively accept and stay in the circumstance, instead, we simply look for the gift and opportunity while we are there. A great example of being in crazy-unfortunate circumstances time after time is in the life of Joseph, found in the book of Genesis. Joseph’s joy was never stolen.
Next, Stop Playing the “When…Then…” Game!
We’ve all done it. We’ve all said something similar to the following: “When I get my driver’s license…then life will be great!” “When I get my degree and start working as a therapist, then I’ll be happy.” “When I become rehab manager, then I can breathe.” “When I set up my own clinic, then I’ll feel successful.” Think back on your own life. Make a list of the “when…then…” declarations you’ve made. Do you see a trend? Friend, if you are never satisfied in your current situation when you move on to the next, you’ll only be happy for a brief time before more dissatisfaction seeps in.
Why is that? Hedonic adaptation and bias impact. Once we acquire that goal that we feel will make us happy (driver’s license, degree, a specific job, own clinic, etc.), we experience hedonic adaptation. Despite how good we feel and how happy we are about that accomplishment, that happiness level will return to our previous state of happiness over time. Then there is bias impact, a term coined by Gilbert & colleagues, where we overestimate the emotional impact of an event in two ways: intensity & duration. We expect that good (or bad) event to make us happier (or sadder) than what we really feel once the goal is acquired, AND we expect that feeling to last longer than it will actually last. Thus, that license, degree, or job doesn’t make us happy as we thought it would and that feeling doesn’t last as long as we expected.
Always Practice Gratitude
Research is clear about how being grateful leads to overall happiness and life satisfaction. Practicing gratitude daily leads to a more positive assessment of one’s life, fewer physical symptoms, increased positive affect and optimism, increased connection with others, and an increased incidence of helping others. (Emmons & McCullough, 2003).
You know that colleague or patient that tends to get on your last nerve? Practice gratitude. Think of one thing you can appreciate about that person. This may be quite difficult. But consider: could it be their easy-going spirit? Their great speaking voice? Their willingness to show up? Their stubbornness, (which can be an amazing attribute in certain situations)?
You know how it feels to be stuck in a job and you just want to escape? Practice gratitude, so that where you are now will be perceived as better until you find your best next step. There is no need to be totally miserable in the meantime. Every day before leaving work, write down 5 positive things about that day at work. Perhaps you are grateful for a temperature-controlled climate in which to work, for that one patient that brightens your day, for that unexpected word of encouragement, for that smile from the custodian, or for that small breakthrough in progress that a patient made.
Learn to Be Present
Mindfulness is defined as “the basic human ability to be fully present, aware of where we are and what we’re doing, and not overly reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.” (mindful.org) Learning to be present, being mindful, if practiced 7-15 minutes per day, will actually help the survival brain quiet and promote more activity in the “thrive” part of your brain–prefrontal cortex, empathy circuitry, and your parts of your right brain. Using this part of your brain will help you become more clear-headed, focused, creative, and more positive overall.
Most of us are familiar with the Latin expression, “Carpe Diem,” seize the day. But it sounds like our happiness depends on how well we “carpe momentum,” seize the moment, or “praesenti momento adesto” (be in the present moment). There are many strategies to learn to be present and enjoy the moment, even if you are in an undesirable situation. You can even learn techniques to help you be present “on the fly!”
The Good News!
Ok, so yes, some of these tips sound easier said than done. But there is good news!
YOU have one powerful, but a mostly untapped, tool to be happy! Your MIND! You have a choice to respond to challenging situations with negativity or positivity. And your mind’s role in that choice is powerful. You have been given an incredible mind that if trained properly, can help you stop the judgment and the “when…then…” game as well as guide you to develop a heart of gratitude and mindfulness to accept the gift and opportunity in each moment.
Challenge: What action steps are you willing to take TODAY to add more tools to your toolbox of being happy in the here and now?
If you desire to live more intentionally and enjoy happiness at this moment, check out The Mental Fitness Bootcamp provided by The Other Side of Gray to help you with these four elements (and more) of happiness. Click HERE to learn more.
Rehab business owners: Click HERE for an invitation to apply for a seat in a beta program called “Mindset Mastery Training for Rehab Business Owners.” The deadline to apply is February 25th, 2021.
“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”