What Happy People Do - And You Can Do Too
During my 20+ years of helping clients dealing with stress, depression and other issues what I find really effective is, not only trying to "fix" the problem, but teaching them what happy, calm, successful people do instead. Most people are doing the best they know how but can still feel like they are missing something. When they understand and use these simple strategies they can significantly improve their emotional and physical health and, of course, feel happier. Here are some of the things happy people do:
1. They don't PURSUE happiness - they enjoy it.
A lot of people have probably heard that "you have to choose to be happy". This statement has actually lead to a whole lot of unhappiness, guilt and stress. Many people have tried to "choose" happiness all the time but then feel guilty and like a failure when they go through hard times and feel sad or angry instead of feeling like a "blissed-out hippy". The truth is you can't choose your (initial) emotions in the moment - BUT you can make consistent choices in what you do and how you live your life that support your ongoing happiness.
Also realize that when you hold the idea that you should always be happy what you actually do is get really sensitive to when you're not. This increases your feelings of frustration and actually robs you of the happiness you were pursuing in the first place. Much better to realize that life is full of ups and downs so accept the downs while enjoying the ups.
2. They take risks and use "positive stress".
This may also sound counterintuitive. However, research shows that when you increase your stress/anxiety in the short-term so you can try something new, it actually helps you have more enjoyment out of life and makes you happier in the long-run. Like if you are going out for ice cream - you can play it safe and get what you always get or take a risk on a new flavor. Whether you end up liking what you tried or not, you have just expanded your experiences and can end up feeling happy that you are the kind of person that is willing to experiment.
3. They pay attention to detail but focus on the big picture.
Sometimes happy people can seem gullible because they tend to think the best of everyone and every situation. After getting taken advantage of a few times this outlook can cause bitterness and negativity. Truly happy people are able to pay attention to the truth and details of the immediate situation while realizing what the big picture really looks like. For example, happy people realize if a friend or spouse is irritated with them but don't take it personally because they realize that this person still loves them and that their current mood is probably just temporary.
4. They find healthy outlets for all their negative feelings instead of burying or ignoring them.
This connects with tip #1. Realize that you will have sad, angry or and frustrated feelings. These heavier emotions are part of a healthy life. Find appropriate places as ways to express these feelings. It's not healthy to go to work and be crying or angry all day, BUT it is appropriate to talk to a supportive friend, spouse or Psychologist to help you work through your feelings. Keeping a journal is also a great tool for this. Just make sure it is secure or destroy your entry after you write it. By the way, if you don't use a healthy outlet for your emotions they tend to stick around and haunt you until eventually leaking out (i.e. crying or being angry all day at work).
So putting these tips into regular practice increases your "happiness quotient", gives you more control over your life and helps protects you from stress, depression and other problems.