Choosing to be happier, and working for that happiness, is a difficult and ongoing process.
Fortunately, it is one that consistently gives back the effort that you invest. Exploring current obstacles to your desired level of life satisfaction, and deciding what additions to your life may increase your overall happiness, is crucial. Working with a therapist to create these life changes – and, to brainstorm other sources of joy, can increase and expedite your results of living a more satisfied and fulfilling life.
Most people want to increase their level of happiness – whether they feel that they are already generally “happy” or not. The good news is that there are ways to be happier in your life overall and day to day. The challenge is putting in the work to get there.
Here are four steps to utilize in your journey to greater overall happiness:
1. Explore what is causing current unhappiness in your life. As you dissect different areas of your life, your sources of unhappiness may be several small factors that are adding up, a single situation or a combination of both. Try to single out the pieces that are most upsetting and notice the similarities between them. For example, is it a specific friend you feel uncomfortable around or social situations in general?
2. Learn what would make you happy in the future. Changing the circumstances you identified as causing unhappiness is a logical place to start determining what will make you happy in the future. Go a step further—what would you accomplish, complete, acquire or contribute if you had no limits?
3. Investigate what is currently stalling you from making changes. Perhaps memories of past experiences, fear of failure, a relationship or even your own personality traits and habits are impeding you from making the changes that you have identified as essential to lessen unhappiness and add happiness in your life.
4. Plan a course of action to take the necessary steps towards achieving a greater level of happiness. While it may seem overwhelming at first, each small step in the right direction is an improvement! Break down your action steps as much as possible so that it feels easier to get started and you have a better visual of your improvement as you move forward.
Working on improving your general state of happiness takes effort and time. As you work through the above steps practice consciously choosing to be happier each day. This practice will help with your journey to improving overall happiness as well as to make each individual day feel better.
Here are three steps to maintaining happiness and choosing to be happy each day:
1. Limit how much and how often you compare yourself to others. We are bombarded with advertisements and societal inferences that detail the things that we need, how we should look and what it takes to be “successful.” Often, these messages are ideals and neither realistic nor attainable, which leaves us feeling left out and deprived. Compare yourself to your internal values and goals while being selective about what outside messages you accept.
2. Practice being aware of and grateful for the people, circumstances and things in your life. We often forget how many positive things there already are in our lives. Make a conscious decision to be aware of the things that you do have and to be grateful for those things. Some people keep a log of things they are grateful for or even challenge themselves to think of a few things each night before falling asleep.
3. Focus on positive things around you. What we focus on becomes heightened in our personal reality. Our perception of the day, or even life in general, can often be shifted simply by changing our focus. For example, focusing on a friend’s great sense of humor and kindness will help your mood more than focusing on the fact he was ten minutes late for your lunch together. There will be frustrations and set-backs during the day but focusing on the more positive, or even neutral, side of situations will help you maintain a higher level of happiness.
Working through the four steps to greater overall happiness, as well as choosing to be happier each day, can be very difficult. Speaking with a therapist can provide you with the support you need in your transition to a happier life.
Sara Klusas, LISW-S