Cultivate Happiness in the Garden of Life
"Happiness must be cultivated in life's garden." Okay, so it's a slogan often found on sappy flower-bedecked coffee mugs in airport gift shops, but the saying still holds true. Clichés are clichés for a reason. They have a nugget of truth that still resounds today.
Happiness is not something that randomly happens or something that happens only to other people. While individuals may be born with an inner happiness thermostat that is set high or low, the happiness mindset – the thoughts, words, actions and attributes of happy people – can be cultivated.
Seven Steps to Happiness
Hannah Booth, a journalist writing for The Guardian, a U.K.-based publication, interviewed experts and identified these seven keys to happiness. Grab one or all of these keys and unlock your own happiness potential!
1. Be positive: Focus on the positive. Positive thinking not only makes you more happy, it increases your resilience and spills over into everything you do, making your more attractive. That in and of itself tends to attract more positive things in life, which builds and builds until we are in an "upward spiral of positivity", according to Barbara Frederickson, a professor of psychology at the University of North Carolina.
2. Be brave: You'll regret the things you didn't do more than things you did. If you try and fail, understand that few – if anyone – will remember your failure later on. Unless you are the Secretary of State and someone mistranslates your reset button, your failures won't make it onto the late night talk shows. So take a big bold step outside of your comfort zone.
3. Meditate: Meditation not only reduces stress, it calms and quiets the mind. It helps people recover from stress more quickly, too. While anyone can begin to meditate, regular, consistent practice yields the best results.
4. Be gentle and kind to yourself: So who's wielding that mental baseball bat? Chances are you're so good at beating up on yourself that you do it reflexively. If you're a perfectionist, always ready to clobber yourself for the slightest transgression, it's time to cultivate new mental habits. Let it go. Make time for beauty, pleasure and fun. If your inner critic is so loud it constantly drowns out your inner coach, it may be time to seek some professional guidance. Affirmations and other mental tools can help. Whatever you do, though, learn to be kind to yourself. If you're not kind to yourself, who will be?
5. Use pessimism wisely: There's something called "defensive pessimism" which, like defensive driving, helps guard you against the worst. If you're prone to worrying, defensive pessimism can help you imagine the worst case scenario of anything you are worrying about and figure out that no matter what, you'll live. If you're worrying about an upcoming job interview, you may imagine the worst thing; you show up and your fly is unzipped, you forget your resume, you trip on your face when you enter the interviewer's office. How will you handle each? Get it out of the way, then move on. That's the recommendation of Julie Norem, a professor of psychology at Wellesley College, Massachusetts.
6. Find your calling in life: If work is just a job, you may have lost sight of your calling. People who enter teaching, for example, usually enter because they have a calling or vocation to be with children or share knowledge. What is your true vocation? Once you find something noble about your work, its burdens and joys become easier to bear. Can't find anything redeeming about your job, but can't quit? Seek activities outside of work that fulfill your heart's longing. Whether that's volunteering at the local bird sanctuary or mentoring young people, you need to have work that's true to your heart and soul.
7. Act happy: There's an old saying in 12-step programs that you should "act as is". Acting as if you were happy even when you don't feel particularly jolly can lift your mood and spirits. So find a way to be around happy people. Smile. If you don't feel like smiling, put on a movie or a song that makes you laugh.
Other tools cited by the psychologists interviewed in the article include making time for friends and fun, learning to forgive others, and expressing your feelings.
Even if you are struggling with a great burden, life's joys are also yours to savor. Release your inner optimist and claim your happiness today.
Written by: Jeanne Grunert
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