I love what this blog has to say. I think it is a worthwhile read and easy to implement. Instead of grandiose resolutions that can be difficult and doomed to fail, here is a simple straight-forward approach that could turn out to be ever so helpful in being happy. - Cathy
Maybe instead of trying to trim away all the symptoms of our dissatisfaction,
we can accept that what we really want is happiness—
and that true happiness comes and goes.
We can never trap it like a butterfly in a jar.
No amount of medication or meditation can change the fact that we will sometimes get caught up in thoughts and emotions.
What we can do is work to improve the ratio of happy-to-unhappy moments. We can learn to identify when we’re spiraling and pull ourselves back with the things we enjoy and want to do in this world.
Instead of scolding ourselves for all the things we’re doing wrong and making long to-do lists to stop doing them, we can focus on doing the things that feel right to us.
This may sound familiar if you’ve read about positive psychology.
I’m no posi-psy expert, and to my knowledge no one is- since the industry is unregulated. But it doesn’t take an expert to know it feels a lot better to choose to nurture positive moments than it does to berate myself for things I’ve done that might seem negative—all while plotting to give them all up when the clock strikes tabula rasa.
4 Simple Steps to Increase Your Happiness Ratio
This is something I’ve been working on for years, so it comes from my personal experience. As I have worked to increase my levels of satisfaction, meaning, and happiness, I have given up a number of unhealthy habits, including smoking, overeating, and chronically dwelling and complaining.
That all required deliberate intention, but it was impossible until I addressed the underlying feelings. I still have some unhealthy habits, but I know releasing them starts with understanding why I turn to them. Starting today, and every day, regardless of the calendar:
- Recognize the places where you feel helpless…
…the housing situation, the job, the relationship, that sense of meaningless. Then plan to do something small to change that starting right now. Acknowledge that you have the power to do at least one small thing to empower yourself.
Don’t commit to major outcomes just yet. Just find the courage to take one small step knowing that you’ll learn as you go where it’s heading. As you add up little successes, the bigger picture will become clearer. This isn’t major transformation over a night. It’s a small seed of change that can grow.
- Identify the different events that lead to feelings that seem negative.
Like gossiping with your coworker, overextending yourself at work, not getting enough sleep, drinking too much.
Whatever it is that generally leaves you with unhappy feelings, note it down. Work to reduce these, making a conscious effort to do them on one fewer day per week, then two, and then three. The key isn’t to completely cut out these things, but rather to minimize their occurrence.
- Identify the things that create positive feelings.
Like going to the park, painting, looking at photo albums, or singing. Whatever creates feel-good chemicals in your head, note them down and make a promise to yourself to integrate them into your day. As you feel your way through your joy, add to this. Learn the formula for your bliss.
Know that these moments of joy are a priority, and you deserve to receive them. When you’re fully immersed within a happy moment of your own choosing, you’re a lot less likely to get lost dwelling, obsessing, comparing, judging, and wishing you were better.
- Stay mindful of the ratio.
If you’ve had an entire week that’s been overwhelming, dark, or negative, instead of getting down on yourself for falling that low, remind yourself that only your kindness can pull you out. Tell yourself that you deserve to restore a sense of balance—to maintain a healthy ratio.
Then give yourself what you need. Take a personal day at work and take a day trip. Go to the park to relax and reflect. Remind yourself only you can let go of what’s been and come back to what can be.
It’s not about perfection or a complete release from all the causes of unhappiness. It’s about accepting that being human involves a little unhappiness—but how often it consumes us is up to us.
This might not be a lengthy list of unhealthy behaviors you can give up, and how, or a long list of suggestions for adventure and excitement in the new year. But all those things mean nothing if you’re not in the right head space to release the bad and enjoy the good.
Resolve what you will this year, but know that happiness is the ultimate goal. It starts in daily choices, not lofty resolutions—on any day you decide to start.