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How To Be Happier

Spring is in the air and for some people the brighter, longer days have them feeling happier and more energized. If that isn’t your experience, or if you wish you could be happier in general, is there anything you can do to change it? Absolutely!

The most important step is to realize that you are responsible for your own happiness. Lots of people think happiness is like luck – it’s just something that happens to you. Research shows that’s really not true, and the happiest people have consistent habits and routines keep them smiling. You can learn to do the same by trying the following strategies:

1. – Focus on the positive. Psychologist Rick Hanson points out our brains are designed to pay attention to the negative because noticing problems like not having enough food or water keeps us alive. The problem is that our brains are so good at it, they often see the negative where it isn’t, and they don’t automatically notice the positive, which causes unhappiness. To balance this out, try Taking in the Good (TIG) – practice deliberately noticing what is good or pleasant in your life, and soak it in with all of your senses until you feel an emotional shift. It can be as simple as pausing to take in the scent of your morning coffee. With practice, TIG becomes automatic, and we are happier as a result.

2 – Spend money on experiences. Research shows people who spend money on enjoyable experiences instead of items tend to be happier. Having experiences with others makes things more fun and reliving the memories allows us to re-experience the joy, whereas items we buy are often not shared and we forget about them quickly.

3 – Nurture your relationships. People with friends are happier, healthier, and tend to live longer. But it’s important to realize it’s the quality of your relationships that matters most — it’s better to have one close friend who is positive and supportive, than 5 friends who focus on the negative or disappoint you. Nurture close relationships that make you happy and set limits on your contact with difficult or draining people in your life, or if possible, let go of those relationships completely.

4 – Practice gratitude. Did you know that experiencing feelings of gratitude often can actually restructure your brain? Studies show people who make it a habit to count their blessing are happier and healthier than those who don’t. To give it a try, start by listing 3 good things that happen to you every day for at least one week. It’s important to actually feel gratitude, so avoid listing the same things over and over without feeling and don’t be afraid to include little things like the store clerk who waited patiently while you searched for your credit card. Consistent practice will lead to a noticeable improvement your mood in a short period of time.

5 – Take an attitude of kindness and compassion toward yourself. How you relate to yourself can have a big impact on how you feel, for better or worse. Pay attention to how you talk to yourself. Are you kind and understanding, your own best friend and cheerleader? Or are you a drill sergeant, harshly critical and unrelentingly demanding of yourself? If you’re the latter, realize that being hard on yourself is bound to make you unhappy. Try pausing when you notice that you’re putting yourself down, then ask, “Do I really deserve this?” Allow that to be your cue to shift into talking to yourself like you would your best friend. You’ll notice an immediate change in how you feel.

6 – Take care of yourself. It’s hard to be happy when you’re low on energy or feeling unwell, but with our busy lives it’s easy to overlook the basics. Getting enough sleep, eating plenty of fresh fruits and

vegetables, and exercising at least 15 minutes a day (including going for a walk around the block) have all been shown to brighten mood and increase energy levels. If this is a challenge for you, tackle it one step at a time. Try starting with 15 minutes of exercise a day, which is also a great way to improve your sleep. Once that’s part of your routine, focus on improving your diet. It won’t take long before you notice how much better you feel.

If you have tried these strategies and you don’t feel any benefit, or if you feel sad, down, nervous or upset most days of the week, consider scheduling an appointment with a psychologist or professional counselor. Psychotherapy is effective, can help you identify what is needed to getting you on the path to feeling better quickly. Don’t you deserve to live your best life

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