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Choosing Happiness…

“Be glad of life…because it gives you the chance to love and to work and to play and to look up at the stars.”

(-Henry Van Dyke)

Each year life offers us an endless number of opportunities to be happy…but we seldom see or accept more than a tiny fraction of the exciting possibilities which surround us. Most of us are SO busy doing what we think we HAVE to do, that we don’t have a chance to step back and take time to do what we really WANT to do.

This is your life…and you determine what is possible!

At any stage in life, unhappiness is not a state to which we aspire. Life today presents many challenges; the economy is struggling and the vision of our own prosperity can seem out of reach. In such unstable times, the pursuit of happiness can feel like a true challenge.

This post is to remind you that seeking happiness is worth the effort! Emerging research shows that while trauma has a profound impact on the brain, the brain is not as hard-wired as previously might have believed. We can learn to be happier.

Why Happiness Matters:
Medical evidence suggests being unhappy affects our memory and our capacity to learn, while increasing the risk of illness.

Consider the flip side, happier people are more likely to:

  • be more creative, confident and productive.
  • have a stronger network of allies and friends.
  • be sick less often and get well faster.

If you would like to train your brain for happiness, read on and try to incorporate these points into your daily functioning:

Decide that you want to be happier. When you make that decision, you start to notice choices for happiness that you may have missed before. Those choices may be small, such seeking a peaceful or beautiful moment in the middle of a chaotic workday.

Acknowledge your feelings. When you feel distressed, don’t make it worse by beating yourself up for being upset. Think about your thinking…and try your best to accept your feelings. This is the idea behind mindfulness. When you give your feelings respect and attention, they usually begin to shift on their own, and you start to feel better.

Change your thoughts. If you’re having thoughts that are hurtful to you, try engaging in more positive or comforting “self-talk”. Self-talk is another word for the stories/thoughts that we tell ourselves. For instance, if you’re worried about losing your job, think of something stable in your life, something that makes you feel secure. When your mind returns to the worry, bring it back to the more positive thought. It is important to remember that you are capable of changing your thoughts.

Celebrate success. Whether it’s the achievement of a major goal or something routine (like finally cleaning your closet!), give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back.

Seek meaning. Happiness can come from doing something that gives us positive feelings and reinforces what we value. If your day job doesn’t seem to provide that, take time to find something that does. It could be a hobby, volunteering, fostering an animal, taking a course, reconnecting to someone you love, or allowing time to read a book or cook something that you love. Rember, your life DOES have purpose and meaning…nothing would be the same of you did not exist.

Express gratitude. Be grateful for everything that makes your day better!

Choose your comparisons wisely. Many of our feelings of dissatisfaction have their roots in how we compare ourselves to those around us. Be careful to take a step back, as you don’t know what someone else’s life journey is really about. Focus on yourself and what makes you happy.

Ask the right questions. Do you find yourself engaging in a line of questioning which is not helping your happiness? Examples are: “Why didn’t I…” or “I should have…” Instead, try a more positive approach, where you look at the various steps you can take to stretch yourself and move forward, or what is indeed within your control to change about your present or future. Watch out for these negative statements and try to find meaning from challenges you have overcome.

Happiness is a special combination of your attitude of mindfulness, appreciation, and doing what gives true meaning to your life. As you practice some of these tips in this post, I hope that you will find yourself feeling more positive and happy, even in the midst of challenging times.

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