What is happiness? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, happiness is “the state of pleasurable contentment of mind; deep pleasure in or contentment with one’s circumstances.” Happiness includes many things: satisfaction with how your life is going, your ability to cope with unforeseen and sometimes negative outcomes, and the overall positive emotions you feel. Research shows the happier you are, the more resilient you can be when facing adversity.
Happiness is a predictor of many things we can achieve in life, including financial and relationship success, mental and physical health, and how long we live. While it may seem like something easy to attain for some, for others, happiness can seem elusive. Life happens, and when it does, circumstances can make us feel down.
No matter what, your feelings are valid. You can’t help life’s little curveballs. None of us can. However, you can change the way you shape your outlook and attitudes in the face of mishaps and struggles.
Developing Coping Skills
Sometimes we lack the coping resources we need to deal with the roadblocks we face in life. There are many coping skills we have at our disposal. A coping strategy that we can always use is being able to talk to someone about the problems we face, like with a counselor or clinician. Another way to cope can be to engage in simple exercises that help us gain a more positive outlook on life.
It can be important when we encounter negative experiences in life to remember we are not alone. We are in a world full of people. Even when we don’t see it, there are people who are selflessly looking out for us.
Our doctors, counselors, firemen, and public service workers spend their daily lives working to keep us safe and secure. There may be people closer to you, friends or family, who are there to lift you up when you need them, and who you are there for when they encounter bumps on the road of life.
One way to look for happiness wherever you are is to adopt a “happiness paradigm.” How can you do this? Try these exercises and find out.
The Optimum Exercise
Sit down and write about how you see yourself in the future. This is your best possible self, the you that you can and will be. You have the potential inside of you to become this future person. Knowing that you can and will be that individual, write down who this future self is and visualize that person for yourself.
The Gratitude Exercise
Sit down and think of the things that have happened in your life recently and the people who have lifted you up. Now write letters to them, expressing your gratitude to them for what they have done. Don’t forget to write one for yourself too! You are an important part of lifting yourself up.
Finding Ways to Be Grateful Everyday
Researchers have also identified these other ways that you can feel gratitude and increase overall feelings of happiness:
- Keeping a journal of the things you can be thankful for
- Thinking about a person you are thankful for during trying circumstances
- Writing letters of gratitude to those with whom you have had uplifting experiences
- Grateful meditation, or meditating on gratitude in the present moment
- Writing down three things you are thankful for at the end of each week (also known as the “Count Your Blessings” exercise)
- Practicing and saying “thank you” sincerely and often
- Responding to others with thank you notes in appreciation for what they have done
- If you are religious, praying about how thankful you are
Happiness and the Language of Gratitude
Sometimes it can be challenging to think of someone who you can thank. Sometimes we feel alone or like no one else understands how we feel. Your feelings are valid when you feel alone too.
However, we can still express gratitude. If you are an animal lover, perhaps you can write a letter to the local animal shelter thanking them for their work in saving homeless pets and finding them new homes. You can try writing a letter of gratitude to your local fire department, thanking them for placing themselves in danger to save lives.
We can always be grateful, even to ourselves. Give yourself a big pat on the back. You are a big part of getting through life’s negative circumstances. You picked yourself back up, and that is a big deal too. Don’t forget to be mindful of how thankful you are to yourself.
We are not alone. Psychotherapy practice incorporates techniques designed to enhance gratitude in clients. Sometimes we need to be grateful that counseling resources are available to help us on the journey to thankfulness.
Gratitude is not just being thankful for others. It is learning how to appreciate the things you find valuable and meaningful. What those things and who those people are may differ from person to person, but in the end, they are the things that lift us up and have the potential to make us happy.
Sometimes life’s circumstances can be challenging, but you don’t have to face those bad situations alone. Choosing to seek help is another way to show appreciation and gratitude for the people around you by acknowledging they are there to help. It is okay if you have had a bad day. The important thing is that you know there are people out in the world whose goal is to help you reach that best possible future self you see in your mind. Do you want to learn about techniques in mindfulness to help you cope with roadblocks in life? Are you or someone you know interested in learning new self-care and coping skills? The caring and knowledgeable professionals at SoCal Mental Health are dedicated to helping you find the path forward with a brighter outlook and a focus on your greatest happiness. Call (949) 502-2041 today to learn more.