How to increase your happiness even if you're a pessimist
Most of us believe that once that good thing happens or we overcome that problem or achieve that goal, then we'll be happy. You may have noticed that this kind of happiness is fleeting. You may get that thing or solve that problem and the happiness fades and then the bar is raised again.
Cutting-edge research reveals that it actually works the other way around. People who have a positive mindset perform better in the face of a challenge and are more successful in life.
Being happy is easy when things are going well. But what about when you're dealing with a lot of stressful things in your life? For some people, the stress is going on in their minds. They may have a lot of doubt, worry, and critical self-talk.
The good news is that you can train your brain to become more positive. It's been discovered that the brain is neuroplastic. This means it can continue to grow and be molded at any age. When you develop new habits, it rewires and changes your brain.
Even if you are genetically disposed to be a pessimistic person or have gone through severe ups and downs in your life, you can develop habits that rewire how your brain functions so your brain can work like that of an optimistic person.
Shawn Achor is the author of Before Happiness: The 5 Hidden Keys to Achieving Success, Spreading Happiness, and Sustaining Positive Change. He lectures at Harvard University and he has the most popular class on positive psychology. He is teaching others how to be happy. The bottom line of his message is that optimism and hope come before happiness.
Luckily, training your brain to be more positive is no different than training your muscles to become stronger.
Some of the benefits of a positive mindset are improved energy, higher productivity, more likely to be promoted, less likely to burn out, improved health and longevity, and increased happiness and resiliency to face life challenges.
Shawn discovered that your attitude towards stress can dramatically change how stress affects you. If you think of 5 experiences that most shaped who you are, many of these involved high stress situations. So not all stress is bad. Stress can be the catalyst to personal growth. Think of all those people who have gone through hard times and became stronger as a result. Maybe it was you!
Do you think of yourself as a glass half full or glass half empty person? Well, the good news is that if the glass is half empty, you can fill it up, if you know how. Shawn found that our happiness is not dependent on what's going on in the world, it's depends on how our brain processes what's going on.
So if you're feeling like your cup is not as full as you'd like it to be, let's look at how you can fill it up.
Happiness hygiene tips:
Write down 3 things you were grateful for in the last 24 hours.
Say something positive to someone - through email, text, face to face or offer support to someone who is struggling.
Mediate for 2 minutes. This could simply be paying attention to your breath going in and out.
Exercise for 10-15 minutes.
Take 2 minutes to describe in a journal your most meaningful experience in the past 24 hours.
Shawn said practicing these 5 habits can even have an impact on an 85 year old person who is genetically inclined to be a pessimist. So our habits outshine our genetic make up.
The way you view the world changes your actions in it.
All it takes is a commitment of 21 days to start on this path and you'll likely want to make it a permanent lifestyle change because you'll want to continue the happy feelings.
Shawn points out that happiness is NOT the belief that everything is great. Happiness is the belief that change is possible. It means striving for your potential and making small gains, especially when times are rough.
We all have a choice - to focus on the negatives or use our mind's resources to see the options, the opportunities, and the positives that are already there.
So don't wait for happiness to show up. You may be waiting for a long time. Are you ready to begin a happiness experiment? I invite you to join me in practicing at least 3 of the 5 happiness hygiene tips for the next 21 days to boost your happiness level. I'd love to hear about your experience. Let me know - firstname.lastname@example.org
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Beth Matthews is a Registered Psychologist who is driven to help people feel better about themselves. She can help you if you are struggling in your life. You can learn easy-to-use strategies to help you cope with anything that comes your way.