Choose to be happy > The secret of happiness may be a combination of simply choosing to be happy and having the right genes. Your talent for happiness is mostly determined by your genes while trying to be happier is like trying to be taller. And yet psychologists believe you can still pursue happiness by overcoming negative emotions such as pessimism, anger and resentment. At the same time you should pursue positive emotions such as empathy, serenity and, in particular, gratitude.
The best way of achieving your goal is to have a strategy…
The first step is to make a decision to boost your happiness. In his book The ‘, philosopher Bertrand Russell said, “Happiness is not, except in very rare cases, something that drops into the mouth like a ripe fruit… Happiness must be, for most men and women, an achievement rather than a gift of the gods, and in this achievement, effort, both inward and outward, must play a great part.“
For example, re-programme your beliefs and values. Learn good interpersonal and self-management skills, plus choose to be in environments and around people that increase your probability of happiness.
Secondly, try to be more forgiving and grateful. Learn to identify negative thoughts so that you can challenge them. For example when someone crosses you, do not build a case against that person as the ‘let’s get even’ approach is damaging. So learn to shut up your inner lawyer and stop building cases against your enemies.
Then why not perform a daily gratitude exercise? You could list things that make you grateful.
Next foster forgiveness. Holding a grudge and nursing grievances can affect your physical as well as your mental health. One way to curtail these kinds of feelings is to foster forgiveness. This reduces the power of bad events to create bitterness and resentment. So try to understand the wrong act from the perpetrator’s point of view. Be altruistic by recalling a time in your life when you were forgiven. Commit to putting your forgiveness into words. You can do this either in a letter to the person you are forgiving or in your private diary. Finally try to hold on to the forgiveness. Don’t dwell on your anger and desire for vengeance. Don’t forget that the alternative to forgiveness is mulling over a transgression, which inevitable results in chronic stress.
It is also important to counteract negative thoughts and feelings. For example practise meditation, phone Tonic once a week (yes, we would say that!), try rhythmic breathing, yoga or relaxation techniques to promote serenity and thus reduce anxiety. If you learn techniques for identifying negative thoughts, then it’s easier to challenge them.
Your strategy should also include a ‘Reminder To Self’ that money can’t buy happiness; or certainly, as told us by the Beatles … “money can’t buy love”.
Once income climbs above the poverty level, more money brings little extra happiness. Yet we keep assuming that because things are not bringing us happiness, they are the wrong things, rather than recognising that the pursuit itself is futile.
Next foster friendship as there are few better antidotes to unhappiness than close friendships with people who care about you. Sadly our increasingly individualistic society suffers from impoverished social connections, which some psychologists believe is a cause of today’s epidemic levels of depression.
Final item in your strategy should be a determination to engage in meaningful activities. You are at your happiest when your mind becomes thoroughly absorbed in a worthwhile task that challenges your abilities. Yet our favourite leisure occupation – watching TV – produces some of the lowest levels of happiness. To get more out of life we need to put more into it.
So think happy to be happy. Good thinking …