Wednesday, January 28, 2009
"What sunshine is to flowers, smiles are to humanity. They are but trifles, to be sure, but, scattered along life's pathway, The good they do is inconceivable." - Joseph Addison
Want to be happier? Just smile. A smile is usually contagious and will often be returned, so that the positive feelings flow both ways. Cheerfulness is a state of mind in which we feel content and confident and are free of stress, anxieties and fear. A prolonged state of being cheerful is called happiness. And you can choose it, no matter what is going on on your life.
Jon Haidt, author of The Happiness Hypothesis, teaches positive psychology. He actually assigns his students to make themselves happier during the semester.
"They have to say exactly what technique they will use," says Haidt, a professor at the University of Virginia, in Charlottesville. "They may choose to be more forgiving or more grateful. They may learn to identify negative thoughts so they can challenge them. For example, when someone crosses you, in your mind you build a case against that person, but that's very damaging to relationships. So they may learn to shut up their inner lawyer and stop building these cases against people."
Be grateful for life's simple pleasures, and be accepting of life as it is in this moment. Focus on what is beautiful, miraculous, magical. Simply by cultivating an attitude of gratitude and non-judgement you will be so much happier! Once you've decided to be happier, you can choose strategies for achieving happiness. I recommend performing a daily "gratitude exercise." It involves listing a few simple things that you are grateful for. This shifts your energy away from draining negativity and promotes a wellspring happiness vibes. It is most often our response to a situation—not the situation itself— that is responsible for our unhappiness.
Unhappiness doesn’t lead to anything positive. It does lead to negative feelings of powerlessness. The more unhappy you believe you are, the greater your feelings of powerlessness. This contributes to even greater unhappiness. The cycle goes on and on, getting stronger with each go-around.
We don’t have to spend our lives troubled by feelings of unhappiness, sadness, powerlessness or low self-esteem. We can learn to take greater control of our thoughts and feelings, and thus to exercise greater control over our lives. We can choose to be happy.
Holding a grudge and nursing grievances can affect physical as well as mental health, according to a rapidly growing body of research. One way to curtail these kinds of feelings is to foster forgiveness. This reduces the power of life's challenges and the people who perpertrate negativity to drain you of your happiness.
In his book, Five Steps to Forgiveness, clinical psychologist Everett Worthington Jr. offers a 5-step process he calls REACH. First, recall the hurt. Then empathize and try to understand the act from the perpetrator's point of view. Be altruistic by recalling a time in your life when you were forgiven. Commit to putting your forgiveness into words. You can do this either in a letter to the person you're forgiving or in your journal. Finally, try to hold on to the forgiveness. Don't dwell on your anger, hurt, and desire for vengeance.
The alternative to forgiveness is mulling over a transgression. This is a form of chronic stress, says Worthington.
"It's associated with almost everything bad in the mental health field includiung obsessive-compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety, probably hives, too."
Who wants hives?
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