Monday, April 28, 2014

Develop a Habit of Happiness

"Happiness is a habit… cultivate it!" - Elbert Hubbard 
Embrace life’s smallest joys. A few weeks ago I was walking up to the house with one arm was full of groceries and the other guiding Cupcake along beside me.  She was dragging behind and tugging at my hand.  I was tempted to be impatient and quickly asked her what she was doing.  When I looked down her little face was glowing with joy.  “Mommy, flower!” she exclaimed.  I had not noticed the small yellow weed sprouting through a crack in the driveway.  She was so excited to find such a treasure.  I opened the front door, placed the bags inside, and went back out to look at Cupcake’s “flower".  It was indeed a beautiful weed.  We shared a special moment and soaked in this tiny opportunity to experience joy. 

Moments like this are all around us, yet we rarely stop to enjoy them.  We get so busy that we forget to appreciate all the beauty around us.  By allowing ourselves to get caught up in these moments we are developing a habit of happiness.  I am glad that I have the tiniest joy-finder to remind me of the important things in life.

Practice daily gratitude. Studies indicate that those who cultivate an attitude of gratitude are better equipped to maintain a positive mood and experience emotional well-being. By truly taking a moment to express gratitude each day, you can dramatically improve your level of happiness. Gratitude often does not come naturally.  However, anyone can develop a habit of being truly thankful.  I highly recommend keeping a gratitude journal in which you jot down several things you are thankful for each and everyday.  This is a fantastic tool that allows you to focus on the positive aspect of your life.  In fact, those who wrote in a gratitude journal for a period of six month reported an increase of happiness of 10% (based on self-report surveys).  Express gratitude.  Everyday.

Cultivate positive automatic thoughts & avoid over-thinking. Take circumstance in your life and the actions of others at face-value.  Do not attempt to analyze or give them a deeper meaning.  If you are unclear about why someone reacted a particular way simply ask them to clarify.  If you allow yourself to assume that you know the underlying motives of others or reasons situations occurred you will often find yourself worrying over issues that may not even exist. 

What are you automatic thoughts when something bad happens? Do they lead you to try to analyze what the situation means about your self-worth or ability?  If so, you are setting yourself up for unhappiness.  If your thoughts help you to use the situation as an opportunity to brainstorm solutions, you are setting yourself up for success and happiness.

What are your automatic thoughts when you see an old friend while you are grocery shopping,  you wave only to have them turn away without acknowledging your greeting? If your thoughts cause you to dwell on this situation for long enough, you will probably come up with a list of reasons why they are being outright rude or why they might be angry at you.  In reality, they may have not seen you, or they may be merely having a bad day.  

Note: Automatic thoughts are those that initially pop into your mind before you have the chance to “filter” them.  People have a predisposition to have either negative or positive automatic thoughts.  However, they CAN be changed over time.

Stop comparing yourself to others.
If you are competitive by nature this will take some practice.  However, it is an essential aspect of happiness that can be learned.  I will be brief on this aspect of happiness because I have an entire post dedicate to this very subject.  Click here to read more.

Value yourself.
There is no shame in being proud of yourself for a job well-done.  As with all things, moderation is key.  However, many of us are afraid to truly allow ourselves to value the many things that make us special and unique.  We may feel guilty or uncomfortable when thinking about ourselves in a affirmative manner.  Each and every person has incredible talents and aspects that make them indispensable   It is not only acceptable, but it is imperative to develop a habit of valuing yourself. 

Give yourself permission to value the beautiful, unique person that only you were created to be, and you will be well on your way to developing the habit of happiness.

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