Don’t Worry; Be Happy
“Happiness is not ready made. It comes from your own actions.” –Dalai Lama
April is National Stress Awareness Month. Even as we all try to do more with less, eat healthy, get more sleep, spend time with friends, and fit it all into our busy days, we also get bombarded with messages to “be happy!” It just seems like another thing to do – to try to be in a good mood when stress is nipping at our heels wherever we go, at home, at work, in the grocery store. Happiness is based on happenstance, though. It’s fleeting. Why not strive for joy in our lives which will result with a lasting, more invigorating peak of emotion? Here are some tips to bring more joy into your life and lower your stress levels.
Make a conscious commitment to make joy your priority. Once you have the intent to create joy in your life, you can begin strategizing how to achieve that. To make your goal more attainable, think about what being joyful means to you. What makes your feelings soar? When you make your “end point” concrete, you can better implement some of the suggestions below and think of your own strategies.
Make a list of what you are grateful for. This helps shift your mind away from negative thoughts and keep your focus on happiness. For example, I schedule a monthly gratitude list; on the fifteenth of each month, I see my reminder pop up on my calendar to take a few minutes and write a list of fifteen things for which I am grateful in a designated gratitude notebook. I have a concrete schedule, a reminder, and a place to carry out my strategy.
Counteract Negative Thoughts
When you notice yourself thinking negative thoughts, try doing something to change your mindset. Relaxation techniques such as meditation and yoga are great for suppressing anxiety and promoting serenity. Even setting reminders to take a few deep breaths throughout the day can help you have a better sense of calm and objectivity about negative thoughts.
Money Can’t Buy Happiness
You may have heard this one before, but it’s tried and true. Lasting happiness doesn’t come from material things, it comes from within. A new shirt may only bring you a short burst of happiness, but spending a little money (not breaking the bank!) on a new experience is proven to bring you lasting memories and value.
Social ties are one of the best unhappiness antidotes. There’s comfort in knowing you have someone to share your accomplishments with and help you when things get tough. Make sure your friends know how much they mean to you. As a corollary, also evaluate which friendships truly lift you up and which ones leave you feeling drained. Protect your time and joy by choosing enriching friendships.
Engage in Meaningful Activities
To get more out of life, you have to put more into it. Discover activities that fulfill your mind and body. It may be something you haven’t tried yet, but once you invest yourself in something you love you tend to be happier. Make two lists: things you enjoy doing already, and things you’d like to try but seem out of reach. Then make a third list: when can you incorporate things you already enjoy into your existing schedule, and when might you be able to attempt things on your “reach” list.
With these strategies, you can counteract the negative effects of stress by building up your own joyful thoughts and experiences.