Happiness tips

Happiness tips

Don’t worry: Tell yourself the ‘happy-me’ story


Published August 16, 2007 in issue 0633 of the HooK.

Advice for getting happier: Instead of focusing on what’s wrong with colleagues or managers, try focusing on what’s right– what makes people happy, successful, and productive. That’s what positive psychologists do.

Here are some ways to make headway in improving your life.

1. Increase our positive thinking.

The key to thinking positively is being optimistic. Determine if you’re optimistic or pessimistic by how you explain things. When the copy machine doesn’t work, is the world out to get you? Do the copy machine never work? Or is this something that sometimes happens and you can deal with it by calling a repair person?

You can teach yourself to be optimistic by reframing situations by telling different stories. The stories we tell shape how we see the world. If you tell stories about your ability to get what you want, then you’re more likely to believe you can do it.

2. Increase positive emotions.

When you’re feeling good, you can come up with more solutions to your problems. So the world looks more like something you can affect to get what you want. The less positive you’re feeling, the fewer possibilities you see for creating success.

Also, if you practice feeling positive, then when bad things happen, you’re accustomed to going to a wide solution space, so you’ll go there reflexively. This means you’ll get out of a bad spot faster and more effectively.

One way to increase positive feelings is to write a list of things you’re grateful for every night before you go to bed. Doing this actually changes how you think.

3. Increase your authenticity and your strength.

It’s very hard to figure out what you’re really good at. And by the time most of us figure out what we’re good at, we think it’s too late to change. So we just pretend we’re doing what we’re really good at.

Don’t do that. You’ll be happier if you’re true to your strengths. To figure out what you’re best at, try taking the strengths assessment at the University of Pennsylvania Positive Psychology Center or try taking the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator.

Then believe the results. Act on them. Don’t make excuses for continuing to do something you’re not great at.

4. Increase your positive choices and decisions

First of all, having lots of choices doesn’t make us happier. It makes the decision-making process less positive because we spend too much time obsessing over what we should do. You don’t need 15 Chinese restaurants to choose from in order to have a nice Chinese dinner.

Another way to think about choices is that if you train yourself how to be at decision points, then you can simplify your life in a way that makes you choose better. Take going to the gym. If you tell yourself there’s no choice but go to the gym, then there’s not a huge process of deciding what’s most important each evening after work.

Telling stories helps here, too. If you remind yourself of all the bad things that happened with a bad decision, you’ll be less likely to feel that that’s a decision point going forward.

5. Increase positive habits.

If you do one positive thing in your life, there’s spillover into other aspects of your life. This can explain why if you’re living in poverty and you enter into a loving relationship, you’re likely to get out of poverty.

In a recent study, college students who were asked to take better care of their finances for a few weeks found that they unexpectedly found themselves going to the gym more often, eating better, and getting better grades.

But you should remove temptation, because you can only withstand it so many times before it wears you down. This means you should get the M&M’s off your desk.

Creating one positive habit encourages you to live your life more consciously and more positively all around.