3 Steps to Greater Happiness

Why do we feel happy, sad, angry, excited in response to things that happen to us? It’s not the event itself. You receiving a pay rise doesn’t elicit the same happy response from your colleague who did not receive a pay rise. Our own children throwing a tantrum in the middle of the supermarket doesn’t make other shoppers feel embarrassed. Another parent, in the same situation with their child may not feel the same embarrassment. They may feel anger, or disappointment, or nothing at all. Our emotions are a result of what we focus on, or expect, and what we believe to be true about that area of focus. That is, the thing we find ourselves thinking about and our conditioned associations with that thing.

By way of example, take the child having a tantrum. Parent A associates tantrums with disobedience. Due to what they have been exposed to in their life they believe that a child should do what they’re told and so they assume that having a tantrum is blatant disobedience on the part of the child. Parent B, on the other hand, only notices that their child has tantrums, and believes that it is because of their poor parenting skills and therefore feels ashamed that their poor parenting is now being made public to everyone within earshot. Yet another parent, Parent C, may believe that children should learn to express their emotions and that a public tantrum is evidence that their child can do this effectively and therefore feels a sense of pride at the tantrum.

Exactly the same scenario but due to the individual beliefs, the emotion experienced by each parent is vastly different.

What this means is that whilst we may not be able to change what happens to us, we can change either what we choose to focus on, or how we appraise what we choose to focus on. But it takes practice and persistence so below are three things you can start doing right now to increase your happiness.

  1. Thought stopping – this sound like a really simple thing to do but it’s a bit like when someone tells you to not think about a pink elephant and all of a sudden it’s all you can think of, but the idea behind thought stopping is taking stock of yourself when you notice negative thoughts or emotions creeping in and very consciously pushing them to the side. Some people find it easier to write those thoughts down so that you can physically put them aside but if you stop yourself every time, pretty soon you’ll find it becomes much easier.

  2. Reframing – what you’re doing here is again noticing when you experience negative thoughts or emotions but then re-evaluating them. For example, perhaps your boss has called you into a meeting and you find yourself becoming anxious about it. Think about why you’re feeling anxious. It may be that you fear that the boss has called you for a meeting because you’re doing something wrong. Here is when you basically have an argument with yourself like you would if a friend was putting themselves down and it might go something like this: ‘Why would you think you’ve done something wrong, has there been anything recently you felt didn’t go well? No. out of all the meetings you’ve had with your boss, how many of them have been about poor performance? Possibly none. Is there anything positive she may want to meet with you about? Well, I did deliver that project early last week…’ You get the idea.

  3. Failure as an opportunity – this deserves a whole post of itself but it’s such an important factor I thought it worth including here. We are all going to fail sometimes in life. Nobody ever got anything right the first time. It’s not failure, it’s how we learn. Have you ever seen an infant get up on two feet and just start walking without ever falling? Of course not and we would never expect that to happen. We’re hard-wired to expect to fail. Have you ever seen an infant try to walk a few times and then just stop trying and choose to crawl for the rest of their life? They just keep trying. They don’t understand failure as that’s socialised into us a few years later. Failure is not a bad thing. It means we’re stepping out of our comfort zone and trying something new. If we’re not failing, we’re not learning. So whenever something doesn’t work out and you find the familiar feelings of despair and hopelessness creeping in, stop, and instead focus on what you just learnt from that failure, and what you might do differently next time. With practice, the emotions associated with failure should change from disappointment to excitement that you are one step closer to success.

Let me know how you go implementing these simple steps and if you would like more help in increasing your happiness please book in for a free 15 minute consultation so we can discuss other tools you can implement.

#Happiness #positivepsychology