How to make happiness a habit
-Jan 23, Jenny Paul, Mind -
The chances are that you’re not feeling the happiest that you’ve ever been in your life at the moment: January is notoriously a miserable month, with bad weather, financial issues and an all round feeling of malaise in the air after the joy and festivities of December become a distant memory plus a dent in the bank balance.
Statistics suggest that only one out of every three Americans polled responded that they’re very happy, while in the UK one in five admitted that their happiness levels decrease in the workplace.
Whilst depression is a serious illness which needs to be treated and addressed by medical professionals, if you’re feeling gloomy just a few simple changes to your daily routine can make a significant difference to your overall wellbeing, registered psychotherapist David Wells tells Lumity.
“As people grow older they often become overwhelmed by a sense of feeling as though life hasn’t turned out as they once hoped it would,” David explains. “They look back at the past and deem certain actions to have been mistakes, or they look around them and compare their lives to others’ and become miserable or feel they’ve missed out. There’s no such thing as mistakes, only life lessons, but few people remember that and they’re very hard on themselves. They may feel that they don’t have the spouse, the children, the career, or the house that they think they should have, but in fact none of those things would make them happy if they’re not already happy within.”
Happiness is a choice and feeling happy takes the same effort as feeling miserable does, David explains: “The trick is to stop that internal monologue where you find faults with your life and with those around you. Instead of seeing life as a race against other people, see it as more of an ongoing project of your own, where there are no mistakes, only changes to be made,” he says.
“Make a list of what you’re unhappy with in your life. Let’s say it’s your job, the chances are you only took that job because of the money, or the freedom it gives you. Identify what your motivations were and then change jobs. Or, if you’re unhappy with your relationship, perhaps you’re trapped in an unhappy marriage because neither of you want to be single parents, try to identify what it was you first loved about that person you’re with and what has changed and then vow to make it work again. If you used to go on wonderfully romantic dates then take time out to go off and do that again. All relationships take work, so never forget that and try to argue less and work together as a team more.”
Nobody has a perfect husband or wife, or wonderfully behaved children, so once you learn to accept yours and compromise, rather than sweating the small stuff, you’ll probably find you all get along better, David underlines:
“A good relationship, or marriage, is when people work together as they might do in an office; they figure out who has which strengths and weaknesses and each has a defined role. Instead of getting into the habit of arguing, get into the habit of problem solving.
“When you take emotion out of the picture and stop being fearful of making mistakes in life you start to see incredibly clearly and that empowers you to make lots of little changes. If those changes don’t work, make a different change. Work away at it and before long it will all start to fall into place. If something starts to annoy or upset you, take a deep breath and remind yourself it’s not really important in the great scheme of things, and certainly not worth ruining your entire day, or your whole week.”
Don’t procrastinate or put off doing things because you’re not sure you want to do them David warns: “One of my clients was very worried about money and she had lots of assets that she could sell, but she was worried that selling would be a mistake that she might regret one day, so she did nothing and got into more debt.
Once she took fear of making a wrong decision out of the equation and I reminded her that she could always buy the objects back once she had sorted out her finances, she had them valued and sold them within a week.
Then she was happy, because she had money in the bank wasn’t worried about her finances all the time. And, so many problems that seem huge have simple solutions once you take away fear and worry.
“Another technique I use with clients is to get them to imagine themselves as someone they love that they’re giving advice to. It helps them see clearly and step away from a tricky, or emotional situation and see the bigger picture. The advice we give good friends is often different to the advice we give ourselves. It’s incredible how simple what you need to do becomes once you look at a situation through another’s eyes.”
Finally, David warns not to get angry about things which are beyond your control: “Far too many people get news fatigue, where they’re continually stressed and upset about current affairs and the state of the world.
“Switch off and go and be in nature, see the sun set, enjoy a rainstorm; appreciate all the beauty in the world and you will feel your dismay and anger evaporate.”
Certainly arguing with strangers on Facebook about the American election, isn’t going to make you feel warm and fuzzy. It’s a game you’ll never win; because people will always have different thoughts and opinions so try to just smile, turn your phone or computer off and let things like that go.
“There’s no reason why anyone should go through life feeling deeply unsatisfied or unhappy. Take action, and vow to enjoy as much of your life as you possibly can. If you’re feeling down, go for a walk, or have a long bath, or do something simple which brings you joy. Very few problems last forever – especially if you’re proactive about making changes.”
Have you made any big changes in your life and been happier as a result? Let us know in the comments…