Therapeutic Strategies for Happiness & Understanding
Life ebbs and flows, and we all go through hard times. Sometimes, stress weighs us down, or we feel insecure about ourselves or our decisions. To make matters worse, these complex feelings can intensify if you don’t take care of yourself.
Fortunately, you can learn how to be happy. Happiness, to some extent, is a choice, and you can prioritize this choice every day. Here are some tips to consider.
Be Mindful of Your Complaining
We all need the cathartic release of venting sometimes. But if you’re guilty of chronic complaining, you aren’t doing yourself (or your loved ones) any favors. Instead, you are perpetuating your own misery.
Cultivating insight is the first step toward breaking your complaining habit. The next time you find yourself whining or commiserating, pause. Think about the bigger picture. Then, take several deep breaths. Ask yourself if this issue will be relevant in the next week.
Finally, try to reframe the situation. If, for example, you catch yourself complaining about the bad weather, you might say, I’m not a big fan of rain, but I’m grateful that I have a waterproof jacket and warm shelter.
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Prioritize Your Close Relationships
Research shows that close, intimate relationships are one of the most important tenants of true happiness. These relationships may be even more important than one’s physical health when it comes to emotional well-being and longevity. In fact, there’s a common notion that the impact of loneliness may be even more dangerous than smoking cigarettes.
Remember that relationships require an active effort. That means you must commit to staying connected- whether that’s through spending quality time together or communicating consistently through phone calls or texts.
Finally, don’t close yourself off from the possibility of new friendships. Even if you feel like you have a solid support system, staying open to connection is a good idea.
Spend Time With People Who Are Happy
As mentioned, your close relationships play a crucial role in your happiness. But how happy are your loved ones? And how are their moods affecting yours?
We’ve all heard the saying, misery loves company. When it comes to your relationships, it certainly holds some truth. It’s hard to feel positive or uplifted if you spend a great deal of time with pessimistic people.
Take a moment and think about your closest friends. Are they generally in good moods? Do they take things in stride? Are they willing to see the bigger picture when life gets tough? If so, that means they’re probably good for your mental health!
Embrace Purpose and Meaning
Deep happiness is often the result of feeling like life matters. And to feel like life matters, you need to maintain a sense of personal fulfillment.
Some people turn to their religion to fill this need. Others turn to personal hobbies, nature, or their own form of spirituality. If you aren’t sure which will work for you, be curious and take some time to experiment!
Spend Plenty of Time Outside
It’s no secret that we tend to spend most of our days sitting indoors in front of a screen. And while some of those habits are inevitable, it may be time to reevaluate some of your priorities.
Spending time in nature is associated with numerous mental health benefits. Even taking a walk outside can reduce stress, enhance your mood, and foster high levels of empathy.
If you’re pressed for time, consider prioritizing small spurts of time outside. For example, you might decide to drink your morning coffee on the patio or take a quick bike ride around the block with your kids after dinner.
Do What You Loved When You Were Young
Think back to when you were a small child. What made you happy then? What activities gave you joy, purpose, and laughter- before you cared what anyone else thought.
Let your inner child guide you here. Maybe it’s time to bring out the hula-hoop or jump rope or sidewalk chalk. Perhaps you need to spend some time running around with a soccer ball or dancing in front of your mirror.
The point here isn’t to necessarily replicate the joy you felt in childhood (that may not be possible!). But by letting your guard down and tapping into your child-like spirit, you will be reminded that life doesn’t always have to feel so heavy.
Do Random Acts of Kindness
Grand donations or charitable acts feel good, but regularly engaging in small gestures offers a positive daily boost. The best part is you don’t need excess time or money to reap the benefits.
Some easy acts of kindness include:
- Bringing treats to share in the office
- Helping a shopper unload groceries into their trunk
- Paying for someone’s cup of coffee
- Letting someone cut in front of you in line
- Genuinely complimenting someone you love
- Writing a rave review after having a positive experience somewhere
- Doing a chore you know your partner hates doing
Clean Your House
Nobody loves the idea of doing chores, but your home can represent your mood. A cluttered, messy home can certainly exacerbate a stressful, negative mindset.
The opposite, however, is also true. If you spend a weekend decluttering your house, you may experience a sense of relief and motivation. Aim to keep the items that truly make you happy and donate or discard the rest.
Nourish Your Body
How and what you eat can have a profound impact on your mood. Well-rounded meals with complex carbohydrates, lean proteins, and colorful produce support optimal mental health. They’re linked with dopamine and norepinephrine, both of which are associated with happiness.
With that, you should also be mindful of consuming foods with lower nutritional value. Even if they provide temporary energy, they may cause a crash effect soon after. Try to eat fried, sugary, and other processed foods in moderation.
Give Your Bedroom an Upgrade
You spend a third of your life asleep, but how well do you take care of your bedroom? Is it a sacred space for relaxation and rest? If it’s not, time to reassess.
In making an ideal bedroom, you should consider:
- Treating it like a luxurious, fancy hotel suite
- Investing in a high-quality mattress, set of sheets, and pillows
- Removing distractions and TV
- Only using it for sex, rest, and sleep
- Ensuring that the room remains cool and dark
Make sure that you are also prioritizing excellent sleep hygiene. That means going to bed around the same time and waking up at the same time each day. It also means avoiding caffeine or heavy meals late in the day and following healthy unwinding rituals.
Be Mindful of Short-Term Happiness Traps
Altering your mood with drugs or alcohol may feel good. But these effects are short-lived, and regularly partaking in such habits can cause more problems in the long run. The same can be said for other potential vices like gambling, overeating, shopping, or sex.
Before you engage in a particular habit, it might be helpful to ask yourself, Is this habit helping or harming my emotional well-being? If you aren’t sure, it might be worth stopping the particular habit for a few weeks. See how the absence feels. If you notice yourself feeling depressed or anxious, it may be a sign of a deeper issue.
Create Gratitude Rituals
You’re probably aware of the benefits of gratitude. But even if you know recognizing your appreciation is important, how consistently are you implementing this skill?
Gratitude rituals can help cement your good intentions into actual practice. The key is to make gratitude part of your normal routine. Once you can do that, the work feels more automatic.
For example, you already brush your teeth every night. Why not use those two minutes to focus on all that went well that day? Or, you always drive to the grocery store on Wednesdays. Consider using that drive as a chance to reflect on all the blessings in your life.
Practice More Self-Compassion
How do you speak to yourself when you make a mistake? When you look into the mirror, what thoughts come to mind? If others compliment you, how do you typically react?
Maybe loving yourself feels like an impossible goal, but you should certainly strive to accept yourself. Self-compassion means recognizing that you’re only human and that you’re bound to be flawed and make mistakes in life. Likewise, self-compassion also means understanding that we have a shared human experience of pain and suffering. You aren’t alone in your struggles.
Treat Your Burnout
Do you feel a pervasive sense of dread each day? Do you feel increasingly overwhelmed by all that you have to do?
Many people feel burnt out at their jobs or juggling other important responsibilities. And while some stress is inevitable, complete mental exhaustion is taxing. It requires immediate attention if you want to feel better.
Unfortunately, there isn’t a single strategy for fixing burnout. If the burnout is more external, you may need to consider changing positions, taking some time off work, or asking your manager for new projects. If the burnout is more internal, you might need to focus on healthier stress management or work-life balance.
Smile More Frequently
How often do you think you smile each day? You probably don’t know, but if you’re pursuing happiness, it’s worth trying to increase that amount!
Although the suggestion may come across as condescending, even fake smiling can promote higher levels of happiness. So, when the opportunity presents itself, smile!
If you need more inspiration, seek out things that you know will put you in a good mood. It can be as simple as listening to your favorite song or watching a funny video online.
How deep and heavy are the resentments that you carry? That anger festers, and holding a grudge will often hurt you far more than it hurts anyone else.
Negative emotions are unavoidable, but if you consciously decide to stay upset with someone, you’re priming yourself to feel a sense of rage whenever you think of them. And if they’re an important person in your life, you’re going to keep experiencing that rage over and over again.
Letting go isn’t the same as forgiveness. You aren’t obligated to forgive people who hurt you. Letting go simply means that you’re choosing to release the weight of your emotions. You’re no longer allowing this person- or their actions- to take space.
Move Your Body Often
Regular exercise benefits both your physical and mental health. Physical activity releases stress hormones and also promotes feel-good neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin. Subsequently, these benefits can persist for up to 12 hours after exercise.
Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to matter what exercise you do. Try to find an enjoyable activity that you can commit to regularly doing. If you get bored or uninspired, commit to trying something else.
The key isn’t to work out as hard as possible. Instead, the takeaway is to get your heart rate up and have a good time while you’re doing it.
Remember It Passes
Hard times pass. Hard feelings also pass. But when you’re stuck in difficult moments, it can be challenging to remember this. However, it’s important to remind yourself of the fleeting nature of life often.
We all have a baseline setpoint of happiness. The really good days (and the really bad days) shake the equilibrium, but we quickly return to homeostasis. This simply means that even the toughest of moments lose their intensity over time.
Happiness isn’t a fixed state. It’s a feeling that ebbs and flows, and it’s also an intentional mindset that you can choose to embrace.
It’s important to remember that happiness isn’t random. By routinely doing things that make you feel good- and limiting things that don’t- you position yourself to experience more pleasure and joy in your life.