I hope that everyone’s summer has gotten off to a good start and that you enjoyed a fun filled and safe July 4th weekend.
We wait all year for the beauty and relaxation of summer with its’ glorious sun filled days, warmth and bright colors; flowers in bloom, magical sunsets and the sweet smell of honeysuckle. Somehow it is easier to rise in the early morning to awaken to a clear sunny day with the birds singing. Everything seems to take less effort. We tend to feel a bit lighter – a bit happier.
Being happy is important. In fact, as a counselor, the most common question I am asked is how to be happier. However, when one doesn’t feel well or there are emotional, medical or addiction issues going on, it is easy to lose sight of the possibility of being positive; to become over focused on the negatives or the challenges of preventing or recovering from problems and difficulties.
So, this in this issue of Living Well News I’d like to share some thoughts and facts about happiness and how you can increase your level of happiness starting today. Wouldn’t it be great to have the mindset of summer a bit more often?
How to be Happier
Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ has been radio’s most-played song of 2014 – One of those songs that you find yourself singing and dancing to automatically – adding a little levity to your day. You cannot help it because it is a catchy tune.
This uplifting song is about health and vitality, being resilient and positive minded.
As a counselor, my primary job is to listen and understand people – To foster a positive mindset and the skills needed to be effective in life. This makes for feeling better and happier. Regardless of the problem at hand, the main quest that we share with one another as human beings is to be happy.
Happiness is our birthright! Much of the time it is the conditions of our lives and our appraisal of them; however that seem to present difficulties in being able to create and accept contentment and happiness.
As both a professional and a person on life’s journey, I have realized that happiness is something to be learned. For many people, it is not something that just happens – Especially, when a person has had too much stress and adverse experiences – Perhaps, having struggled with depression or anxiety, or having grown up in a chaotic alcoholic home, with few resources. Such situations can create a barrier to feeling healthy pleasure, contentedness and trusting in the process of life to provide what is needed and to learn what needs to be learned in the proper timing.
Adversity can, however, be integrated and worked through to be viewed through a different lens – allowing more positive emotions and gratification to be felt from within. This can be accomplished through the process of self-acceptance, mastery of self and environment, curiosity and lifelong learning. As stated by Positive Psychologist, Christopher Pearson, Ph.D., our health and well- being can be strengthened through developing strong humanistic values which contribute to “good character” and capacity for optimism. These qualities help develop resilience.
In order to grow to be more positive minded we need to get clear about what happiness means and as the song says “What happiness means to you.” This includes asking oneself- “Do I know how to be happy? What is my experience with being positive minded?” Happiness needs to be able to be experienced when it surfaces. Therefore, it needs to be recognized.
Can You Increase your level of Happiness?
Research indicates that the ability to be happy is partly genetic-That each of us has a unique baseline in our ability to feel positive emotions. This is where things can get tricky. As human beings we tend to compare out – Meaning we tend to refer to things like the media, Facebook and outside events and appraising the quality of our own lives as compared to the lives of others. Working from your own baseline and building from there increases our ability to be happier.
Being happier is about building up our lives and stretching our capacity – Moving from surviving to thriving – living well… freely and effectively. This requires being mindful / aware and skillful in navigating through life and its’ challenges without defeating oneself, internalizing negativity and falling into symptoms, often triggered by our judgments. As you may notice, judgments can fuel overwhelming emotions and negative mood states. How we work with our minds, emotions and make choices makes a huge difference in our level of contentment.
Happiness is an overall sense of well-being that is felt regardless of what life presents. When a person is resilient, adversity is approached with acceptance, a solution’s orientation, and optimism.
Cultivating positive traits of kindness, curiosity and ability to connect and operate interdependently with others enables the ability to develop these traits we can actualize our values, interests, talents and abilities more naturally. They are basic expressions of who we are.
We are built to grow and actualize our fullest self and demonstrate our potential. We can only do this through developing positive character and building on it. We cannot develop true happiness through sheer accomplishment in a material sense. In fact, despite the fantasy of winning the lottery, many of people report that winning did not bring the happiness that they thought it would, in fact, winning the money brought on a new set of problems.
Who are the Happiest People?
Facebook and other social media have created much insecurity and difficulty for many people. I hear about this daily in my practice – People feeling that their lives are not good or that there is something wrong with them because they do not have the same events and situations happening for them. There are a few contributing factors to this quandary. Perhaps, yes, many details of people’s lives are showcased like a bit of “Reality T.V.” and, at the same time many people need more relationships of quality and substance.
Technology has a way of creating a false sense of connection that cannot replace good old fashioned friendship and companionship. A Facebook friend is not the same as a lifelong friend, who is there through thick and thin.
The happiest people are those whose lives are populated with quality interpersonal relationships.
I know that this sounds obvious, but if you struggle with social anxiety, self-defeating behavior or trauma, or some other challenge this is easier said than done. Increasing skills and changing old behaviors helps! Sometimes, the skills to be effective – establishing and maintaining relationships need to be learned from scratch. People do it! Why? Because deep down each person who engages in counseling and or the work of change knows that relationships are key to a health and well-being.
The quest for connection and belonging is a powerful motivator towards growing and changing in the interest of feeling content and happy.
Tips and Tools – What You Can do Starting Today to Increase Your Happiness
There are several exercises that you can use on an ongoing basis that can help you become more happy:
Developing gratitude rituals. Make the time each day to reflect on the things for which you are grateful. Establish formal rituals to express your gratitude for what you have or towards the people who have done well by you. Write them down. Through gratitude, we appreciate what we have and not over focus on what we do not have – We notice the acts of kindness and beauty in the world.
Setting your intentions. Make time each morning to get clear on what is important to you – what you value. Set your intention on how you want to express this quality in your day ahead. Make it a priority. Check in with yourself to gauge where you are with your intention for that day. Our intentions help us stay focused on the fact that we have choices about who we are and our actions.
Reflection. At the end of each day reflect back on what you learned over the course of the day. This is in replacement of self-criticism and regret. We can only learn.
Identify good things. At the end of the day identify the good things that happened – both large and small. This helps with noticing the details of the day and the small things that were positive and the feelings that surfaced.
Be Your Best Self. Recognize when you are at your best. Identify a situation whereby you were your best self and modeling a desired quality that you would like to possess on a regular basis. Continue to reflect on this experience and let yourself feel it deeply.
Change takes time. Do these exercises over the course of six plus months and see how you feel. Your general sense of happiness and well-being will improve.
New Services – Increase Your Effectiveness and Self-Mastery
This bi-weekly group will support those who have been in counseling or having engaged in self development and looking for a personal coach to support them in going to the next level. Together, we will create a personalized roadmap for success by helping you get clear on what it is you want, identifying your unique strengths, and examining ways to overcome any potential roadblocks.
Much of the time, “What’s next” in our lives involves integrating or reinventing ones’ self, developing a new lifestyle, relationship changes, career decisions and more.
Some common challenges include:
• Developing new lifestyles
• Negotiating healthy relationships
• Making career decisions
• Organizing finances and handling money
As a group we will further develop skills and resources to:
• Increase personal awareness and sense of self
• Establish new relationships and networks
• Enhance existing relationships and making them better
• Improve communication skills; including self-advocacy and conflict resolution and prevention
• Reduce self-defeating behaviors / remove barriers to goal achievement
• Increase emotional emotion regulation skills and resiliency
Whether it is improving your health, preparing for a relationship, starting a new venture, this group is oriented towards achieving your goals.
Facilitator: Paula Tropiano, LPC, CCDP-Diplomate
Projected Day & Time: Wednesdays, 6:30 – 8:00pm – Bi-weekly
Start date: Mid – September
Cost: $60/ group
Register: Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 610.692.4995 to register.