Here’s a test for you:
Your co-worker receives a promotion at work. What’s your first reaction? Happiness? Jealousy?
You encounter difficulties in your week, whether big or small. What’s your first reaction? Dwelling on your problems? Or acknowledging them, but knowing that you will get the best of them, and not your problems getting the best of you?
You may not know it, but how you responded to those two questions sums up a two-part strategy for living a happier life.
The last couple of weeks, I’ve focused on happiness enhancing strategies.
You can read about the first strategy in my article, Live Life to the Full.
You can read about the second strategy in my article, Optimism: Key to Success.
Don’t Practice These Unhappy Habits
Dr. Sonya Lyubomirsky, a positive psychology researcher, and author of The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want, has outlined a couple of habits that cause to misery.
Comparing Ourselves To Others
“If you compare yourself to others, you may become vain and bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”
— Max Ehrmann (Desiderata: A Poem for a Way of Life)
This is the practice of comparing ourselves negatively to others: in terms of who they are, traits they have, amount of money they make, the home they live in, and so on, and so on. I think we all get the idea. And we’ve all been there.
If you’re not aware of this habit, you may want to notice its presence in your life. In negatively comparing ourselves to others, we become focused on what we don’t have, and on traits we feel we lack. This pattern of thinking lends itself to unhappiness, discontent, and helplessness.
Worry never robs tomorrow of its sorrow, it only saps today of its joy. ~Leo Buscaglia
Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere. ~Glenn Turner
Dwelling on self and on problems is the second negative habit of unhappy people. They are constantly thinking of worst case scenarios, and asking themselves “What if” questions that have negative answers.
If you’re struggling with worry, you may want to read my article called, Warning! Worrying May Be Good For Your Career.
Here’s Your Two Step Strategy for Living Happy
Train Your Thoughts
- I recommend that you get a copy of a workbook I often use in my counseling practice. Thoughts & Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life (Workbook)is a great resource for learning your particular distorted thinking patterns and finding ways to challenge them. In doing so, you will be learning more constructive ways to think about life.
- Practice thought stopping.Thought stopping is just a fancy way of saying, “Stop It!” to yourself when you find yourself either comparing yourself negatively to others, or excessively ruminating on your problems.
Solve Your Problems
One of the best things you can do to lessen worry is to schedule a problem solving appointment with yourself.
- Pick a specific time during the week where you will spend at least 30 minutes writing down your specific worries.
- Use the Thoughts & Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life (Workbook) chapters on worry to work through the worries that are most paralyzing.
- I recommend checking out some of the resources at this Cognitive Behavior Therapy Self Help Resources site. There are a lot of free materials here that you’ll find helpful.
- Practice thinking about positive What If scenarios. You’ll want to take time to put together your own personal development plan. Then, spend time ruminating on the positive outcomes you will create. It’s worry in reverse! By thinking intently about the positive outcomes you’ll be creating, you’ll be counter-acting those worry thoughts.
Check Out These Happiness Enhancing Books
You can start out by reading my top motivational books.
Here are some books specific to this topic:
The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want, by Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD.
The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness, by Zindal V. Segal.
photo credit: ranahki on Flickr
I hope you enjoyed this two-step strategy to enhance happiness. What are your thoughts?
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