We all want to be happy, undeniably.
For some people happiness comes easier than others, but what we’re starting to understand is that happiness—that sense of connection and ease of appreciating the good moments and being more graceful and resilient during the difficult ones—is a skill and strength that we can all build.
Note: Set all judgments aside when you read this, practice these techniques for yourself, and let experience be your teacher.
1. Practice happiness for other people’s happiness – When you see others doing good things for themselves such as exercising, laughing with a group of friends, or experiencing an accomplishment, practice being supportive of them in your mind. Say things like, “good for you for taking care of yourself” or “glad you’re having a moment of joy.” Smile in your mind at them or just say, “Yes!”
2. Practice non-violent communication toward yourself – We’ve known for a long time we’re our own worst critics, and the way we talk to ourselves has a major impact on how we feel. Being a little self-critical is okay, but most of us experience it all too regularly. That has to be nipped in the bud. See if you can label any of that self-judgment, and in that moment flip it to actively thinking about things you like about yourself.
See if you can label any of that self-judgment, and in that moment flip it to actively thinking about things you like about yourself.
3. Practice non-violent communication toward others – It’s natural for us to practice sarcasm, contempt, or to manipulate other people in order to get what we want. All of this type of communication toward others is like poison for our well-being. Whenever you notice any of this poison arising, take some deep breaths and exercise restraint. You’ll thank yourself later.
4. Relax your nervous system – We happen to live in a world that is more rapid than ever. It’s no wonder that stress and anxiety are on the rise. It’s important to literally relax your body a few times a day. Take a deep breath, scan your body, and soften or stretch the muscles that are tense. Make this a practice. You’ll be surprised how much this can help.
5. Be aware of the good – There’s a lot of “bad” news out there that dials up our nervous systems and makes us want to keep coming back to hear more, which only maintains a “nervous” system. Instead, create some balance. Your brain is less likely to see all the good, so you have to intentionally pay attention to it. When you notice a good moment, say, “This is a good moment, in life there are good moments, can I allow myself to linger in this for a few seconds.” Let the neurons fire together and wire together.
Your brain is less likely to see all the good, so you have to intentionally pay attention to it.
Of course, there are all kinds of other things to support happiness, such as sleep, exercise, getting out in nature, play, etc. Although these are all important, and it’s good to know there are many things to support our well-being, the five we’re focusing on here are all habits that take no extra time out of your life.
It becomes not so much about time management, but attention management.
Here’s the simple instructions that come with this formula:
Practice this for one workweek. Go down the list and just focus on one each day. Then see what you notice at the end of the week. As a bonus, emotional contagion is a real science, and so as you do this, imagine the ripple effects.
Adapted from Mindfulness & Psychotherapy
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elisha Goldstein, Ph.D., is a clinical psychologist and conducts a private practice in West Los Angeles. He is founder of the Mindful Living Collective—a free leading global network for mindful living and learning, author of Uncovering Happiness: Overcoming Depression with Mindfulness and Self-Compassion (Atria Books, 2015), The Now Effect (Atria Books, 2012), Mindfulness Meditations for the Anxious Traveler (Atria Books, 2013), and co-author of A Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Workbook (New Harbinger, 2010).