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Is there a secret to happiness?
Why am I always sad?
What can I do to improve my mood?
Is there hope for a happy tomorrow?
We all want to be happy. There is no emotion more sought after than happiness. It is surprising to me that, although we all want it, most of us do not take the time to research ways to obtain happiness. What if I told you it isn’t that hard to achieve? I am going to ask you to read this post, commit to trying some of the simple exercises outlined, and spend some time each day working on your happiness.
I made happiness one of my New Year’s resolutions a few years back. I bought some books, read them, and tried to make Mike a happier person. It was well worth the effort. It has been life-changing for me.
My goal is to make all of my readers happier and healthier. I hope you enjoy what you are about to learn.
Start to be more conscious of your surroundings. Enjoy the beauty of nature and pay attention to the pleasant colors and smells you encounter during the day. Smile as you realize how blessed you are to be part of this gorgeous planet. Be aware of your surroundings without judging.
Spend more time concentrating on the positive aspects of your day. Take a few minutes each day to focus on your breathing. Use this time to relax and relieve any stress you may be feeling. Be aware of your senses by watching a bird in flight, feeling the warmth of the sun on your face, tasting and appreciating fresh water.
Being mindful helps put things in perspective. It may help change the way you think. Make it a priority to practice this several times daily. Set the alarm on your phone to remind you. This is the first step to the new you!
Re-Frame Perceived "Negative" Circumstances and Smile
Have you heard the
“If it won’t matter in five years, don’t spend more than five minutes being upset about it”?
This little tidbit can save you from countless hours of frustration and decreased mood. There are many things beyond our control. I used to get very upset about traffic and, to be honest, still do at times. I have tried to start using this time in a positive way.
You can, too, by listening to your favorite song or downloading some books to listen to. Always remember, things could be a lot worse. If you can turn negative situations into positive ones, happiness will be more plentiful in your life.
If you have no control over what is happening to you, try to find a positive spin to it. This can take practice, but it can improve your level of happiness.
Force yourself to smile in times of sadness. This helps in two different ways. First, your brain perceives you as being happy when you are smiling. Secondly, people who are around you will tend to smile back. This helps reinforce a positive mood. Try it, smiling works!
Eat Whole Foods
The main thing I learned while on the Whole30 diet was that if you eat only whole foods, you will feel much better. Your diet has more to do with how you feel than you might think as it can affect your entire body in many ways. If you read my post on the Gut-Brain Axis, you already know how important this is.
I am not advocating staying on a restricted diet such as the Whole30 forever, but try to consume more whole foods and less processed foods. Stay away from fast food, drink a lot of water, and try to get several servings of fruits and vegetables each day. A little planning goes a long way.
You really are what you eat in more ways than one. If you want to know how much better you can feel, try the Whole30 diet. It is not easy but will give you an appreciation of how better eating choices can improve various aspects of your life. I highly recommend the Whole30 experience!
I have written about happiness elements several times. We are all different. What makes me happy likely will not make you as happy.
I am going to give you a simple exercise. Take some time to think about the five things that make you the happiest. These can be people, places, activities, etc. Do not list material things on this list.
After you have identified your five happiness elements, devise a strategy to spend more time experiencing them. This one small activity can boost your mood. The more time you spend with the elements that make you happy, the better! This seems simple, but many of us don’t take advantage of it.
Most of us are happy spending time with the people and pets we love. Dogs, especially, will give you unconditional love. They can make a difference in your mood. I believe strongly in this process as it has helped me in my quest for happiness.
Surround Yourself with Positive, Happy People
If you can avoid hanging out with pessimistic, negative people, do it. The negativity will rub off on you.
We have all worked with this type of person. Everything is terrible, complaints never stop, and they wear you down.
If you do have to work with this personality type, remind them that their life isn’t that bad. Better yet, if they are that unhappy, maybe they should be doing something else. Life is too short to be miserable.
Perhaps you can be the catalyst that makes them change for the better.
It is known that optimists are happier than pessimists. It is possible to change your mindset to become more optimistic. Optimists also live longer. Always try to find the positive aspects of a situation.
When you start feeling pessimistic, practice the mindfulness techniques described above. It takes some work, but you can make yourself happier!
Start A Gratitude Journal
One of the best perks of working on a psychiatry unit is getting tips from therapists. These professionals are always able to come up with a solution to any problem you might be facing. I was recently reminded of the benefits of a gratitude journal. Just thinking about the things you are grateful for can change your mood.
Each night before bed, write a few things in your journal that you are thankful for. This is also a good thing to discuss at the dinner table. Go around the table and have each person talk about something they were grateful for that day. Concentrating on the positive aspects of your life is a great mood booster.
Money Only Takes You So Far
Studies show that money only increases happiness until you reach about $75,000 per year. This is likely because once basic needs are met, material things only make people happy for a brief period.
Many individuals who win the lottery fall back to their baseline happiness level within five years.
Most people believe being rich will make them happy but the studies do not support this notion. Think about how you felt when you bought a new car. It feels great at first, but over time, it is just a car. Read this sentence carefully;
Money does not make you happy!
There is an exception to this. If you give money to an organization you believe in, this can make you happy. More money only increases happiness after a point if you give it away!
Do not be fooled by the marketing of the large companies brainwashing you into thinking you need “stuff” to make you happy. Possessions lead to clutter, which increases anxiety!
Help Those less Fortunate
Early in my career, I worked as a nuclear pharmacist. Our boss liked to hire delivery drivers that were retired. One of these drivers was born with no legs so he used ones made of wood and got around the best he could.
One summer day after work, I was walking to my car and saw this driver laying on the ground trying to change a flat tire on his car. His hair was all messed up, and his face was sweaty and dirty. Even though I was in a hurry, I had to help. I changed the tire for him. He was delighted with the help and thanked me many times.
I remember how that small act of kindness made me feel great. There is something about helping others that makes me happy.
I think this is the main reason I enjoy working in healthcare. Not a day goes by that I don’t feel like I helped someone less fortunate than I. You don’t have to work in a hospital to do this. Make it a point to help someone daily. Something small like giving them directions, buying them a cup of coffee, or just asking how their day is going can make a wonderful difference in both your lives.
Find a Job You Love
We spend a lot of time working and if you hate your job, being happy is going to be difficult. Remember, money only takes you so far on the happiness scale.
I love being a pharmacist. It is mentally challenging, and I help people daily. I work with psychiatric patients who have a difficult life. Many have dementia and assisting this population makes me feel good.
My wife loves to stay at home with our kids. She enjoys taking them to ballet, basketball, horseback riding, and whatever activities they choose to be involved in. She is much more social than I am and likes to visit with the other parents. She would not do well with my job, and I would not do well with hers. We are two different people who enjoy various activities.
Even if the pay isn’t as good, find a job that makes you feel good. If you think you need more money, revisit the section on money above!
We were all put on this earth for a reason. Look in the mirror each morning, and appreciate what you have to offer.
Exercise and Stay in Shape
Keep yourself physically fit. Find an exercise routine you enjoy and stay active. You may enjoy playing tennis or racquetball, swimming, weight lifting, running, or basketball.
Exercise will release endorphins, which will improve mood. Staying in shape also enhances your view of yourself. If you are unhappy with your body, you are unlikely to be happy in general. You don’t have to look like a supermodel, but being in shape makes you feel better and improves overall health.
If you pick a form of exercise you enjoy, you are more likely to stick with it.
This is something I need to work on. If you can spend less time on electronic devices, and more time interacting with people in the old–fashioned way, you will likely be happier. Schedule some time each day to turn your cell phone, iPad, or tablet off and interact with your family and friends. Write a letter, read a book, exercise, take a walk. The world will still be there when you turn your phone back on. Many of us have become addicted to our electronics.
Read My Anxiety Post
The last thing I am going to ask you to do is read my post on anxiety. Pay close attention to the section on thinking errors. This is one of the fastest, easiest ways to improve mood. Thinking errors will cause your mood to deteriorate. Once you learn how to detect thinking errors and practice dealing with them, you can train your mind to think differently. Follow the instructions in the anxiety post to train your brain to squash thinking errors.
Happiness is one of my favorite topics. I have spent many hours reading about it, talking about it, and trying different techniques to improve my mood. For me, spending some time alone, visiting the beach, and going to concerts are some of my happiness elements. Visiting the beach with my wife is my favorite.
I also enjoy spending time with my family, writing, playing music, and cooking. Helping people gives my life purpose. Caring for the poor and vulnerable is what I believe I was put on the earth to do.
I want to warn you that if you feel depressed often, don’t have energy, have problems sleeping or sleep too much, cry more than usual, or think about hurting yourself, you need to visit your physician.
Although this post is meant to help people live a happy life, depression is real and, at times, needs to be treated by a professional.
If you think you might be depressed, get help. Mood disorders are no different than any other disease. There are people who specialize in helping those who suffer from depression.