Increase your happiness, follow these steps | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Increase your happiness, follow these steps

Lindsay Simon

I love research and the fact that it gives us information to help us live a healthier, more fulfilling life. Many people have tried to find what makes people happy in life, and now a century of research has been compiled and we have some solid answers! For the purpose of this article I will define happiness as one’s satisfaction and meaning in life.

Let’s start with what happiness is not: privilege, money or constant pleasure. Research from the past 100 years shows us that money has little impact on our happiness unless it is taking us from poverty to securely getting our basic needs met. After that, the impact of money and material things on one’s happiness is negligible (it does not matter, we can all think of someone who is well off financially and not happy!).

Now let us focus on what we know does foster happiness:

1. Strengthen you social support network. The number one tip I can give you about how to improve your feelings of happiness in this life, is to improve your social support network. Research tells us that having healthy social relationships is the number one common factor in people who report high levels of satisfaction, purpose, and meaning in their life. So, what can you do today to strengthen your social support network? Call a friend to chat or set up an activity, let someone know you appreciate them, join a social club, attend a community meeting?

2. Practice gratefulness. When we practice gratefulness our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, happy nuerotransmitters! We can literally change the chemical makeup of our brain and our neuronal pathways to leading to a more positive emotional experience by practicing this! Here are two tasks that you can do right now to start practicing:

a. Say out loud or write down 3 things you are grateful for (people, places, situations, things) and the reason in as much detail as possible as to WHY you are grateful for this

b. Think of something you “have to” do and are annoyed that you have to do. Good, now change that sentence to “I am blessed to _____ because_________(example: I am blessed to sit in traffic right now because I have a car to sit in and a job to go to in my car!)

3. Find a way to give back to a community or person/people in need. The behavior of giving and helping others stimulates our mesolimbic dopamine system (the reward system usually connected to addiction), it feels good to give to others!

4. Self-care: take time aside to take care of your emotional, psychological, physical, and spiritual needs. We are all human and all need to find ways to “refill our tank”, it’s not selfish it’s healthy and it lets us be able to give back to others even more! You can go online and google “self-care assessment” to find out in more detail what this might look like and what areas you can work on.

5. Forgive yourself and others. Forgiving does not mean forgetting. It means coming to peace with a behavior you or someone else did in the past. To hold onto a grudge leads to increased distress and health risks. This can prevent you from moving forward and being present in your life and reaching optimal levels of happiness

6. Practice being mindful. Mindfulness is the ability to be non-judgmentally aware and present in the moment. When our minds get stuck in the future (“I have to” “What if”) this is where anxiety can come from. If we get stuck in the past (“I/they should have” “I’m so stupid”) this is where resentment and depression can come from. Ideally we want to learn from the past so we can know what to do better in the here and now, and set goals for the future, so we can know what to do in the here and now to help us reach those goals. Being present is where joy and peace come from. You can start today by listening to a 5 minute guided meditation for relaxation on YouTube. Another option is focusing your attention on your breath. Learning to be present is something you can practice every day wherever you are! The key is to practice it daily and make it part of your everyday life.

I hope these tips helped you out! If you think you could benefit from a professional therapist to help you achieve these or other life goals, then contact us at A Balanced Life by calling 530-544-1748 or emailing us through our contact page on our website http://www.abalancedlifetahoe.com. If we can’t help you we will find out who can!

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