Hi! It's Karen from Karen Vincent Solutions.
Too often there are situations where people think they will be happy if something happens to bring them happiness. When I get the promotion, I will be happy. When I find my soulmate, I will be happy. When I start a family, I will be happy. When I finish school, I will be happy. When I have better living accommodations, I will be happy. When I land my dream job, I will be happy. When I can finally take a vacation, I will be happy. The list could go on, but hopefully you get my point. Can you relate to any of these scenarios? Many of us have thought this at times in our lives.
While each of the scenarios above could make us happy (at least in the moment), bring more comfort to our lives or positively impact our lives in some way, thinking like this diminishes the idea that we are in control of our happiness and that we have the ability to be happy, despite our circumstances.
I understand that life happens, sometimes really hard things happen, but we can still choose to find joy and be happy overall, despite the hard times. When we take charge of our happiness, and see our power in creating our own happiness, we find ourselves being more resilient during the hard times.
Let’s break this down a bit more…happiness is a feeling and our thoughts create our feelings, either consciously or unconsciously. So, our thoughts create our feelings and then our feelings drive our actions and our actions then drive our results.
If we want to be happy, we need to be conscious of the thoughts going on in our minds, how they are making us feel, how we act based on those feelings and then assess the results we get based on our actions. The idea that we get to choose how we want to feel is both empowering and freeing.
This can take some time and practice and many people who are struggling with finding happiness benefit greatly from either coaching or counseling to support them in changing their thought patters. It is worth the work because once figured out, it is so incredibly powerful.
Since mastering this will vary based on someone’s current situation and awareness of their thought patterns, my goal here is to give you some “quick wins”. I am going to provide some concrete actions you can take to help you start tapping into the happiness that is available to you right now.
Try one or more of the suggestions below and notice how they can impact how you feel. It is hard sometimes, but we must remember we are not victims of our circumstances. We have internal power and when we tap into it, we can change how we feel and thus how we respond to situations.
Actions to increase happiness:
1. Practice gratitude. I am sure many of you have heard this suggestion before but in case some have not, I am going to explain why this is important. When we are grateful, we are joyful. When we are grateful, we feel good inside. When we are grateful, we are positive. Who would not want to feel those things each day? Even during hard times, there are things we can be grateful for, we just need to find them.
We see what we are looking for. If you buy a new car it is likely that you will then see many cars exactly like it when you are driving. This is not because all of the sudden everyone went and bought your same car, it is because you are thinking about your new car and thus noticing the other cars like it that have been there all along. The cars on the road have not changed, but your mind has. This is the same with gratitude.
If every day you write down five to ten things you are grateful for that happened recently, you will start to see more things to be grateful for. You are not looking for big things, just the little day to day things like the way the sunshine felt on your body when you went outside, the thirty minutes you had at night to read and unwind, the dinner someone else cooked for you, the hug you got from your child, the small thing a coworker did that helped you…this can really be anything.
I write down things like a warm cup of tea on the cold day, the smell of a candle, hearing a song I really like, spending time talking with my husband, a pretty sunset, a good meal or the friendliness of the cashier in the checkout line. This is called a gratitude practice, because it requires consistency and commitment…but it does not require a lot of time. Every morning or evening take a few minutes and write down five to ten things that happened in the last day or two that you are grateful for. It won’t take long before you start noticing more and more things because your brain will automatically start to notice things for which you should be grateful…and when we are grateful, we are joyful.
2. Exercise. I know…why would doing something that most people don’t like to do bring happiness? Stick with me here…I wasn’t always a believer either. The short version is that exercise results in endorphins being released and endorphins (brain chemicals) make us feel better. Plain and simple that is why it is important. Many believe that exercise is one of the best ways to treat depression that is not chronic or severe.
Exercise can be structured and intense, but it can also be moving your body in a way that you don’t normally do. If you already exercise, try pushing yourself a bit harder to get more of an endorphin release. If you are not used to exercising, do something small that results in your moving your body in a way you are not used to and build from there, if you wish. For more information on how to start an exercise routine from scratch, see my blog How to Create Healthy Habits.
3. Assume positive intent. This one can be tricky at times, but it is important. When we walk around all day thinking that the world is a bad place and that people are out to get us, how can we possibly feel happy? If I go into interactions with others, assuming they are going to try to take something from me, cut me down or use me in some way, I cannot be happy.
If I go into interactions with others with the assumption that they are good people who are wanting to do the right thing, I am going to feel much better about it. This can be especially helpful with work relationships, even if you don’t always see eye to eye with others. When I have gone into interactions with the assumption that we are all working for the same positive outcome, even if our ideas about how to get there differ, I would always feel much better than if I assumed that people were trying to sabotage me or make my job harder.
Remember what I said before about our thoughts controlling our emotions? When we assume positive intent, we are choosing to have more positive emotions. If someone has wronged you or hurt you in the past, this may not apply and based on such situations, you need to make a decision about what you need to do to protect yourself from that happening again.
I am also not suggesting that we assume positive intent right away when meeting a stranger in a dark alley. However, outside of such situations, I choose to assume that most people out there are good people who are trying to do the right thing and that results in my having a much more joyful outlook of the world. Over the course of the next week, notice if you tend to assume positive or negative intent in your interactions with others.
4. See failure as positive. This can be really hard when you are in the midst of feeling like you failed at something. Whether you lost a job, did not get a promotion, gained weight, had a fight with a child or a partner, lost a sporting event, did not do as well in school as you wanted or filed for bankruptcy, there can be growth in failure…if you choose it.
Again, as a reminder, our thoughts control our feelings so if we fail and continue to beat ourselves up about it, we will feel terrible. However, if we fail and we process it in a way to try to learn from it, we grow. As humans, we are wired to want to grow and evolve ongoing, regardless of our age. Because of this, framing failures as opportunities of growth, can actually bring out positive emotions. We will know better, so we will do better next time.
You have complete control in how you process your failures if you are willing to be thoughtful and intentional about it. You can choose to fail and beat yourself up about it, or to “fail forward” where you will learn and grow from challenging situations.
5. Be aware of what and who you are allowing into your inner circle. You have probably heard that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with. Take a moment to think about this. Who are your five people and are they happy and positive people or are they negative or mean or hurtful people?
It will be really challenging for you to be happy ongoing if you are around unhappy people. If you are in a situation where you do not have many (or any) positive people in your immediate circle, go find some. They can even be people you follow online who have positive messages or online communities that focus on the positive and on people supporting one another. If you are wanting to engage with a positive and uplifting community online, check out my Karen Vincent Solutions Facebook page for ongoing tips, strategies and inspiration.
It is also challenging to be happy if you consume media that is negative. The news does not make money by airing stories of hope and happiness on the evening news. They make money and gain viewer attention by airing all the things that are going wrong in the world.
If you consume too much of that type of media or are not aware of how it impacts your thoughts, it will be very challenging for you to maintain happiness. It will also be more challenging for you to follow some of these action items like assuming positive intent and practicing gratitude if you are choosing to tune into negativity each day.
Be thoughtful of what kind of media you are consuming and notice if it is having a negative impact on your mindset. If so, take control of your consumption and make the changes needed so that you feel better.
Live your best Boss Lady life!