A Prescription for Lasting Happiness
Many people believe happiness is a feeling of pleasure based on some external happenings -- the raise you wanted, a fabulous meal.
"But true happiness isn't contingent on circumstances; it's a sense of contentment that exists independently of the good or ill fortune that might find you," says M.J. Ryan, author of 365 Health and Happiness Boosters.
According to Ms. Ryan, you can be happier no matter who you are or what challenges you face by changing your attitudes and learning specific behaviors.
Try these suggestions:
• Have something to look forward to. We all need something pulling us into the future -- a dream we want to make come true that gives us the incentive to get up in the morning. So, make a "want-to-do" list that includes things you wish to accomplish.
• Realize life doesn't have to hard. Many people can't enjoy themselves and can't let their guard down because they think that being extra vigilant will protect them. “But, you can't prevent disaster by not being happy," says Ms. Ryan. "Your life doesn't have to be hard. It's OK if it's easy."
• Get a life. A recent study found people who excel at work don't put in longer hours than others. The overachievers often have a life outside of work, which makes them happier, more rested and, therefore, more efficient workers.
• Ask for help. No one can make it in life, at least not happily, on his or her own. Humans are social creatures, designed to give and receive support. “Ask for what you need today, and you're more likely to receive it," says Ms. Ryan.
• Take a satisfaction break. It's easy to get so caught up in the rat race of your life that you don't take time to appreciate your accomplishments. So, take a satisfaction break right now. Make a list of the accomplishments of which you're the proudest -- then ponder the list and appreciate yourself for all your hard work.
• Envision what you want. Each morning, before you start your day, use the power of visualization to create a day full of joy. See yourself handling the difficulties of your work life with equanimity. See yourself smiling at everyone you meet, treating each person with care and kindness. See yourself as the calm in the center of the storm of life. At the end of the day, notice how your day went. Were you happier as a consequence?
• Do something you love today. -- if only for five minutes. What gives you great pleasure that you haven't experienced in a while: going to the movies and eating a bucket of popcorn, reading a trashy book, or calling a friend long-distance? Whatever it is, give yourself permission to indulge today.
• Notice what's right. Many people make themselves miserable by choosing to focus on what's wrong in their lives instead of focusing on what's right. “Acknowledging what's working in your life or in a given situation is the key to gratitude and happiness," says Ms. Ryan.
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