The following post is from Todd D. Giardina from Coral Gables Counseling Center.
Although there may be times in our lives we feel overwhelmed and surrounded by negativity or bad luck, it can sometimes become difficult to see what we should be grateful for. Regardless of current situations, everyone always has something to be grateful for. It’s important to re-focus on the positive, which is not always easy when you’re blinded by stressors and daily struggles. One exercise I like to implement in my sessions with clients facing these conditions is to write down at least 5 things in their lives they can be grateful for. There are always at least 5 things one can find, even in the toughest of times that we can appreciate. I find that my patients end up coming back to sessions with much longer lists once they get the ball rolling. After one realizes how many good things they actually have in their lives their focus tends to shift from a negative perspective to a more positive one. Once the mind set shifts, the outlook improves and things tend to follow suit.
Remembering this fact can be difficult in this world of instant gratification where, oddly, gratitude remains elusive. Patients often indicate their gratefulness in terms of either abundance or scarcity. Our appraisal of wealth is frequently based on material things instead of experiences or being appreciative for what we do have. We tend to turn a blind eye over what we have accomplished or realized and perpetually delude ourselves to look towards the next thing that may make us feel better.
Instead of spending so much time, energy and money on possessions why not invest in experience? A recent Harvard study discovered that 75% of people feel happier when they devote their resources to travel. Similar results were recorded for individuals who elected educational or informative courses to advance, foster, or promote individual growth. The reality is that happiness is a state of being, not a pile of stuff.
Our interactions, both environmental and personal also play a role in our capacity to be happy. We can find ourselves in frustrating situations and exchanges, but if we can remember to be patient and cut each other some slack we can better deal with these stressors and thus allow others and ourselves to be happier. Always be aware of your attitude towards others – always be polite and kind. A smile goes along way. Being able to offer a sunny disposition to the world, regardless of your inner state, actually encourages you to physically feel better. Be humble and grateful; researchers have found that your level of gratitude is inversely proportional to your level of depressed feelings or sadness; meaning that the more grateful you are in life, the better the chances are that you will actually enjoy it.
It’s important to remember that happiness starts from within… if you’re expecting the world to make you happy, it simply isn’t going to happen. The following are some ways to help you get started:
- Improve your perspective by focusing on the positive.
- Be grateful! We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather by recognizing and appreciating what we do have.
- Care for yourself- have breakfast, make your bed, listen to music, light the candles, get the massage. Enjoy and pamper yourself as much as possible.
- Get dolled up! Nothing gives you a confidence boost like feeling like you look your best. Being confident and assertive means we have less insecurities, which plays a major role in keeping stress and anxiety levels down.
- Posture! The way you walk affects your mood. Good posture with your shoulders back and your head high also helps you feel confident and remain positive.
- Surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself. Positive relationships reflect positive attitudes.
- Face your fears, the more we procrastinate the more we increase our stress and anxiety. Keep track! Making weekly to do lists with small goals helps us work towards bigger objectives. Accomplishing these will help keep us motivated along the way.
- Don’t sweat the small stuff. Let go of things and don’t be afraid to make mistarks (see what I did there?)
- Simplify your life! Wear comfortable shoes! If you’re feet hurt, you get in a bad mood, which can put a damper on your entire day. Anything we can do to improve our mood will help us have a positive attitude, which can have a huge constructive impact on our daily lives.
- Smile! When someone else is turning to you for help to deal with their problems, smiling at them will help you let go of your frustration and exhaustion and be present for them in an awesome way.
While this brief list is in no way exhaustive, you might realize the value of instilling some of these behaviors to positively influence your own satisfaction with life – as well as of the lives of those around you! Happy people enjoy less stressful lives!