There are numerous ways that we can help ourselves to be happier every day. In fact, there are so many ways that a looking at too comprehensive a list could cause someone to be overwhelmed, leading instead to unhappiness.
In order to avoid the overwhelm that I just mentioned, the first thing I want you to do is to adopt the following habit, which will help you with all future habits you want to adopt in your life. Ready? Here it is: Slow down.
What I mean is this: Instead of experiencing the failure, frustration, and stress that comes with trying to do too much each year via New Year’s resolutions, maintain a running list of life improvement goals and break them down into pieces that are small enough to turn into new habits one at a time, over the 21 days that it takes to make a new habit stick.
Below are a few ideas for you to consider adopting. Break them down into smaller goals, specific to your situation. Work on a goal for 21 days. When it becomes a habit, consider adding another. Making small, meaningful changes will add up, moving you towards the big goals you want to achieve.
1. Measure your progress not your distance to the goal. Human nature causes us to be more inclined to reflect on negatives than positives. To counter that natural tendency, be sure to make it a daily practice to celebrate your achievements. And when looking at your goals, remember to look at how far you have come towards achieving them. When you measure yourself against your goals, you will always come up short. When you measure yourself against where you started, you will be recognizing your achievements, and those deserve to be celebrated.
2. Make gratitude lists. You’ve probably heard this before. Expressing your appreciation for what you have helps to take away your focus on what you don’t have, and is an acknowledged happiness strategy. It’s one that is worth doing on a daily basis. Short of that, try doing it at least weekly, starting today. If you’re having trouble thinking of things, you may be thinking too small. Widen your view. Think about nature: the trees, the sun, the sound of a running stream. Think about people: family and friends with whom you are grateful to have a relationship. We all have much to be grateful for, even in what might be difficult times.
3. Help other people. There are many benefits that come from giving of yourself, whether helping someone you know or volunteering for a community service activity. Volunteering is proven to be good for your health and your happiness. Studies have shown that people who volunteer live longer. Volunteering is also a great tool in the fight against depression because it’s easier to temporarily forget about your own problems when you shift your focus to helping others. And it’s an extremely gratifying activity.
4. Recognize the power of negative thinking. Most of us have heard of “the power of positive thinking.” While“the power of negative thinking” isn’t a well-known phrase, we are all familiar with the results of negative thinking—stewing over minor slights and inconveniences, being snippy with the ones we love, and general unhappiness. When we learn that our thinking has everything to do with our emotions, we can be happier by recognizing when our thoughts are running away from us, bringing ourselves back into the present moment, and reminding ourselves not to sweat the small stuff.
5. Look at the glass as half full. We’ve all heard that saying, but do we really know what it means? Maybe this will help you. If you heard that someone you loved was in a car accident. What would your first question be? I bet it would be, “Is he/she okay?” And then, if the answer was “yes,” you would express relief. You would be looking at the glass as half full. You would be happy that your loved one was okay, despite the bad news about the accident. On the other hand, if you were in a car accident and your car was badly damaged, but you were okay, you might spend time and energy kicking yourself for getting into the accident. If so, you would be looking at the glass as half empty instead of being grateful for being okay.
6. Recognize how much you can accomplish if you break your big goals down into small pieces. This is so important that I’m going to repeat this point from this article’s introduction. It takes 21 days to form a habit. If you use that fact to make small improvements, rather than trying for too much, too fast (like so many of us do with New Year’s resolutions), you can accomplish incredible things. Use this strategy in all areas of your life, including putting into action the first five items on this list. The results will be a happier life!
What are some of your experience making changes to be happier? Join the conversation with your comments…