Yes, you can make yourself happy
If you have ever been to a self-help seminar or a talk by any of the gurus of happiness, you have heard how important positive thinking is, the value of positivity, etc. Well, back in 2004 Barbara L Fredrickson from University of Michigan wrote a paper on the theory of positive emotions. During her research, she discovered how negative emotions affect peoples’ minds. Her results indicated that:
“Positive emotions: (i) broaden people’s attention and thinking, (ii) undo lingering negative emotional arousal, (iii) fuel psychological resilience, (iv) build consequential personal resources, (v) trigger upward spirals towards greater well-being in the future, and (vi) seed human flourishing.”
She also suggested that negative emotions narrow our mind, making us choose from increasingly limited options. What that means is that when you are “trapped” with a reducing number of choices because of your emotions, you make wrong and regrettable choices.
I think that we all get it on some level or another. It is really important to think positively. There are literally thousands of books, from quotes by Marcus Aurelius to Tony Robbins, teaching us how to think positively. From academic to cliché’, there is something for everyone, e.g., manage your thoughts, cheer up, remember the power of a smile, Just look on the positive side, yada, yada, yada….
So I thought I would take a minute and give you some simple, really uncomplicated little tips on how to remain positive. Some of them are going to make you laugh, but I promise that if you try it, you will be amazed. Now take care; don’t try them all in a row as you might become too happy.
Start with how you site—your posture.
Sit up straight
I can hear it now. What the heck does how I sit have to do with my mood? Well, guess what; sitting up straight isn’t irrelevant to positivity. In fact, that people are more likely to have positive thoughts and remember positive things when they sit up straight! Like your mom said, it is often the little things that count. This one you probably didn’t even notice. So, like your teacher said—“sit up!”
What’s in your pocket?
Keep a pebble in your pocket
The research project used a teaspoon, but that sounded silly, so I used a pebble and it worked just the same. William Peynsaert, a therapist and author, wrote a blog about using a teaspoon to get rid of negative thoughts. I just couldn’t imagine carrying a teaspoon around in my pocket. At any rate, it helps you avoid negative thinking. When you start to have a negative thought, he said to take the teaspoon out of one pocket and put it in the pocket on the other side, or another pocket. The principle behind it is that the action of moving the object occupies your mind so that you don’t have the ability to bring up negative thoughts. Your mind really can only do one thing at a time, and since negative thoughts are usually impulsive, by the time you have moved the spoon—in my case the pebble—the urge to have that negative thought is gone. Poof!
You will have to do it over and over again for a while, but soon it becomes a habit and you develop the reflexive skill to dismiss your negative thoughts. Trust me…it works.
Your morning routine….
Read positive things when you wake
Rather than watching morning news reports, whether or not you are Fox news or MSNBC type, skip it in the morning. We all do it. We all want to stay in touch and not shut ourselves off from the outside world. But think about it; what do you see when you turn it on…
- Car crashes
- Terrorist attacks
- Airline crashes
- Political upheaval
- Natural disasters
I am not suggesting that you stick your head in the sand, but rather make a trade. Give up some of your early morning to something uplifting, something positive. Set up a kind of daily confidence programming habit. Instead of that oh-so-ugly exchange on TV, how about you spend a few minutes reading a chapter or two in some kind of empowering book, or listening to a recording? If you are religious, it is a fabulous time to read your favorite devotional or the bible.
If you struggle with the right books, just reach out to me at [email protected] and I can suggest a few.
What are you grateful for?
Start a gratitude journal
Hey, this one is an easy one. When you rise in the morning, make a list of the first three things you can think of to be grateful for. Research indicates that that there are numerous benefits associated with expressing gratitude on a daily basis. As you go through the day, take your list and add one thing and cross out another that was less important. By the end of the day, you will have a list of many of the things you were grateful for as you passed your day. Read it before you retire in the evening; it will surprise you.
It’s true that you can always find something that makes you unhappy or dissatisfied. The same with satisfaction. The trick is what you train yourself to see. It is easier than you think to find things to be happy about. You are still living in an amazing world, even if you can only be grateful for your clean sheets, or that your AC works in your car. It’s a place to start. You are still alive, right? There will always be both negative and positive things passing through your mind. How about learning to look for the good things and let the negative ones walk on by?
Glued to your phone?
Find an app like “happify”
Happify is an app designed specifically to help you handle negative emotions. It gives you proven tools and techniques that will promote your emotional well-being.
With a list of short things to do, such as games, etc., it helps you relearn situations and become better at noticing things to be grateful for. (There’s that gratitude thing again.) This little app is one of the few that I have seen that helps you cultivate positivity. Go for it…why not?
Something always works out.
Celebrate those little achievements each day
Take time, just like with your gratitude journal, and write down all of your little wins. You know, the ones that perhaps only you notice. Research indicates over and over again that it will make a difference to your positivity. Making progress is not only just getting close to your goal, to your future success. It is made up of lots of little, sometimes baby steps. If you keep track of your progress, no matter how little it might be, you instantly receive a boost.
Research indicates that any accomplishment activates the reward center in your mind and once activated, dopamine is released and you feel pride and achievement. Cool, right? Even more important, the chemical motivates you to take on additional challenges and duplicate the event each time. This forms a positive habit that will help you become more successful in the long run.
So, keep track of those little improvements, and not just the rousing successes. They all count. Cultivate those positive emotions in your life and in the lives of people around you not just because it makes you and them feel good in the moment but because when you to that it transforms people for the better and sets them on a path towards success.
How are you coming along at making yourself happy? If you have any questions or just want to talk about being happy, feel free to schedule a time and lets chat.
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| The Royal Society: The broaden-and-build theory of positive emotions
| SFGATE: How posture influences mood, energy, thoughts
| Quora: How do I get rid of negative thinking?
| Harvard Health Publications: Giving thanks can make you happier