Science tells us that we become more capable of solving our problems when we are in a state of happiness than under stress, and that we also elevate our levels of resiliency when things don’t happen as we expected and we then need to enlist our coping skills. Being happier makes us better people.
Regardless of our life circumstances, what we all really want is to be happy. Unfortunatelly we often think that external conditions like making more money, losing weight or finding our soulmate will lead us to happiness. But research shows that happiness is an internal choice built on practice. In other words, happiness is achievable by practicing certain tools, or practices that change our mindset and, over time, develop new neural pathways. We have control over what we choose to think and what we choose to do with our lives.
Here’s some practices that can help us improve our mood and can help us have a different mind set. These practices can help us feel better about ourselves especially when we feel depressed or anxious.
Sit in silence
Sometimes the fear of feeling depressed and anxious forces us to fill our lives with being busy or fill up the silence with unnecessary noise, but getting quiet with our thoughts can be a remedy for our depression and anxiety. Silence can foster a state of calm and often give us enough mental space to have insights about our own life.
Disconnect from the external world
Realize that we always have a choice when it comes to our thoughts and outlook is a great thing. We need to stop focusing on the things that we can’t control such as how our work day is going, or how much we get accomplished in a day. When we make the choice to stay positive despite what may be going on around us, we start to feel better about our life.
Schedule a favorite activity into our calendar
When we are busy, we usually postpone our favorite activities like going for outside walks, having lunch dates with friends or even something easy like listening to music. Our favorite activities are more than a luxury, they are powerful ways to recharge. We need to make time in our schedule for our favorite activities every week.
Boundaries are protective borders, boundaries are the things that are acceptable to us and what isn’t. When we set boundaries we are declaring that we will not let people exploit us, and that we are in charge of our own feelings and emotions. A boundary can be as simple as saying “No.”
Don’t take things personally
It is so hard not to take things personal. But as humans we have the capacity to take a step back and realize that what other people do and say, even if it is a negative comment and if that comment is aimed at us, more than likely this has more to do with the other individuals' situations than our own.
Change the channel
Persevering people have the talent of changing the situation when they are heading towards depression or a desire to quit. Try getting into the habit of posting positive messages and meaningful images around your home or office that you can turn to anytime. Make a happy, uplifting playlist on your phone that you can access when you are having a bad day, or you are stuck in traffic.
Choose whom we spend our time with regularly
The people that we associate the most affect us more than we might realize. We need to consciously spend time with people who are kind and uplifting. Some studies show that many of our emotions and character traits including the positive and negative are contagious. Those who have more grit are less likely to fall into a depression spiral, and we can increase our grit by being around people who model better ways of dealing with impatience, challenges and pessimistic thinking.
Rewrite our story
In the best-selling book Emotional Intelligence, writer Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., writes that we can change our relationships to our thoughts and feelings by paying close attention to the dialogues that stream through our minds. The stories we tell ourselves give us implicit limits and possibilities. If our story is holding us back, we should rewrite it with what’s possible.
Be aware of our body
We need to learn how to recognize when our body is trying to tell us that something isn’t unfolding in the way we hoped. When we are more aware of what our bodies are telling us, and learn to understand what is making us feel uncomfortable. That’s when we make informed and conscious choices about how we can lean into the situation and learn how to change it for our own benefit.
Getting in the habit of journaling our thoughts
Journaling is a very beneficial process because it helps us gain awareness of both our thoughts and feelings. When we journal, we connect with ourselves and express our emotions. Journaling is an emotionally healthy practice and it helps us get out of a dark or anxious place.
Whether we reach out to a family member, good friend, our network or a licensed professional. We need to give ourselves permission to seek help. It’s brave to face darkness head on and be self-aware enough to know when we need help.
Take care of our our needs Many of us are guilty of meeting everyone’s needs except our own. For example, moms are very guilty of this. The only problem is, if our needs are always coming last, they are probably not being met at all. No one can operate positively including taking care of others. When his or her own physical and emotional needs are taking the backseat, we need to learn to activate our own needs. For example, if we start taking time to exercise, we invest in our own physical and mental health and we increase our own energy. Or, if we make space to read a good book or the activities that we love, our outlook and perspective is more positive because we are taking time to recharge with our own personal interests.
Recognize our strengths
In order to build our resilience, we have to be able to recognize our strengths. Some experts suggest making a list of our strengths and giving ourselves credit for everything that we do every time we can. Also we should get in the habit of making a list of wins every week. These habits really help us focus on the good things and also help us build gratitude and resilience.
Don’t seek escape
By nature, many of us avoid negative feelings and some people try to distract themselves with alcohol, drugs, food or other self-destructive tendencies. Experts recommend leaning into our uneasy feelings. This may force us to gently challenge the stories we are telling ourselves about what is happening or what might happen, and choose the story that serves us best, and use our strengths to take constructive action. Avoidance of pain or discomfort leaves no room for learning or growth.
Shake up the status quo
Take time to deeply reflect on our life. Sometimes a major life event can cause this kind of introspection, other times all it takes is a question. Increased self-awareness can lead to a happier and more fulfilling path. Use these questions to start.
Am I really HAPPY right now?
What do I want my LEGACY to be?
When should I say “NO”?
If I had all the MONEY in the world. How would I SPEND my time?
How is my STORY holding me back?
What did I LOVE to do as a child?
What is a RECURRING problem in my life and how can I solve it?
What are my top five STRENGTHS?
How can I turn REGRET into motivation?
How can I look at LIFE through a lens of GRATITUDE?
We need to Incorporate some type of exercise into our life. Endorphins is a group of hormones secreted within the brain and nervous system. These hormones have a number of psychological functions. When we exercise we activate our body’s opiate receptor causing an analgesic effect. Experts recommend a workout that is sweat-induced because that’s when we really experience all of the physiological and mental benefits.
Make positive choices
Every choice we make from dawn to dusk impacts how we feel about ourselves. Even the tiniest decisions matter. Every decision that we make has the ability to uplift or the ability to detract how we feel. Talking nicely about someone when that person isn’t even in the room. Follow through on a commitment that we made to someone. Smiling at a stranger walking by. Share dessert. Showing kindness. All of those choices truly have an impact in our life and impact us in a positive way.
Stop comparing ourselves to others
We all fall into the comparison game. Facebook, Instagram, and all of the social media channels make the comparisons of life’s highlight reels easy to do. Instead of making ourselves feel bad because we think others have it better than us. We need to realize that all that we are doing is idealizing people. Everybody, I mean EVERYBODY has some type of struggle, but the reality is that the challenges and struggles never make it to our newsfeeds. We have to choose to be happy for the success of other people and their good news while keeping a foot in reality. Everyone has something they are shouldering, and this is a reality. We have to conciously work to see the best in ourselves and the best in others and hope for a brighter future .
Give up the disease to please
If we set our self-worth, or outlook on whether others like us, our mood will go up and down like a rollercoaster ride. By accepting that not everyone is going to like us and that it is not our job to seek approval from others, we are allowing ourselves to live a life that is not ruled by what others think of us. We need to learn to listen to our gut and give our own opinions more value than the opinions of others.
Count blessings rather than dwell on the negative
We always have a choice. The next time a negative thought tries to settle in, we need to start listing all the things in our life that we are thankful for. This practice helps us boost our mood. Gratitude is very important. We need to practice gratitude everyday. When we choose gratitude daily, we are making a conscious choice to live a more positive life. This helps us find happiness regardless of our circumstances. We have control over what we choose and what we think. The best way to feel mentally strong and ready to fight for our own happiness is to see ourselves as a work in progress and build up our emotional toolkit with what we have learned from past experiences. Remember that there is only one person who can ever make you happy, and that person is YOU.