By Crystal Hubbell, LPCC-S
“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” —Abraham Lincoln
I have lived a while now, 50+ years. I have some experience and several years of counseling myself. However, I wasn’t always happy. In fact, it would have seemed I enjoyed my sadness. When I was young, maybe even a child, I experienced shame, hate and even some physical and emotional abuses. It isn’t that I didn’t want to be happy, but I just wasn’t, I was sad, unhappy, and even mad.
People with happy brains have their parents to thank, to a certain extent, not only for happy genes, but also for loving childhoods. Studies have shown that angry or critical parents can alter a child's happiness level until it's set around age 16. But can adults adjust their own feelings of happiness (Mendelsohn, 2018)?
In our current society, researchers have found medications such as anti-depressants do what? Not make us happy, but to make us less sad. With the recent studies in Positive Psychology, we are finding methods to change the way our brain thinks to help promote more happiness in our lives.
University of California-Riverside psychology professor Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, in her new book, "The How of Happiness," argues that as much as 40 percent of our happiness "is left for the intentional activities that we can choose to engage in -- the things that we do and think every day of our lives." (How happy are you? CLICK HERE to see where you fall on Lyubomirisky's Subjective Happiness Scale (Mendelsohn, 2018).
Now I have learned that despite some of the negative things I experienced when younger, I could change my brain and be happier. I was a complainer, very unhappy, always unsettled, worried, anxious, waiting for something bad to happen pretty much describes my every day till around age 40. I began making subtle changes in my life along with changing the way I view things, my response to things and my choice to be happy about things.
Consider this list of 12 Intentional Actions to Choose Happiness Today. Embrace one new action item… practice all of them… or simply use them as inspiration to discover your own. (Baker, 2015)
1. Count your blessings. Happy people choose to focus on the positive aspects of life rather than the negative. They set their minds on specific reasons to be grateful. They express it when possible. And they quickly discover there is always, something to be grateful for.
2. Carry a smile. A smile is a wonderful beautifier. Our facial expression can influence our brain in just the same way our brains influence our face. In other words, you can program yourself to experience happiness by choosing to smile.
3. Speak daily affirmation into your life. Affirmations are positive thoughts accompanied with affirmative beliefs and personal statements of truth. Affirmations used daily can release stress, build confidence, and improve outlook.
4. Wake up on your terms. Most of us have alarm clocks programmed because of the expectations of others: a workplace, a school, or a waking child. That’s probably not going to change. But that doesn’t mean we have to lose control over our mornings in the process. Wake up just a little bit early and establish empowering, meaningful, morning routine. Start each day on your terms.
5. Hold back a complaint. The next time you want to lash out in verbal complaint towards a person, a situation, or yourself, don’t. Instead, humbly keep it to yourself. You’ll likely diffuse an unhealthy, unhappy environment. But more than that, you’ll experience joy by choosing peace in a difficult situation.
6. Practice one life-improving discipline. Embrace and practice at least one act of self-discipline each day. This could be exercise, budgeting, or guided-learning… whatever your life needs today to continue growing. Find it. Practice it. Celebrate it.
7. Use your strengths. Each of us have natural talents, strengths, and abilities. And when we use them effectively, we feel alive and comfortable in our skin. They help us find joy in our being and happiness in our design. So, embrace your strengths and choose to operate within your giftedness each day.
8. Accomplish one important task. Choose one important task that you can accomplish each day. And find joy in your contribution.
9. Eat a healthy meal/snack. One simple action to choose happiness today is to eat healthy foods. Your physical body will thank you… and so will your emotional well-being.
10. Treat others well. Treat everyone you meet with kindness, patience, and grace. The Golden Rule is a powerful standard. It benefits the receiver. But also brings growing satisfaction in yourself as you seek to treat others as you would like to be treated
11. Meditate. Find time alone in solitude. So, take time to make time and use meditation to search inward, connect spiritually, and improve your happiness today.
12. Search for benefit in your pain. When you encounter pain, remind yourself again that the trials may be difficult, but they will pass. And search deep to find meaning in the pain. Choose to look for the benefits that can be found in your trial. At the very least, perseverance is being built. And most likely, an ability to comfort others in their pain is also being developed.
Go today. Choose joy and be happy. That will make two of us.
MENDELSOHN, M. (2018). Pursuit of Happiness: Your Behavior. [online] ABC News. Available at: http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=4115033&page=1 [Accessed 12 Feb. 2018].
Baker, J. (2015). 12 Intentional Actions to Choose Happiness Today. [Online] Available at: https://www.becomingminimalist.com/choose-happy/