Is there anyone who isn’t searching for ways to be happier in their lives? We buy gadgets, go on vacations, seek out new partners, homes, jobs all in search of the elusive emotion – when will I be happy? If you’ve ever asked yourself this question stick around…because I outline the 3 science-backed simple ways to find more HAPPY!
As a PhD in stress physiology and evolution and human behavior I’ve dedicated my professional career to helping people rewire their thinking to better serve them. One of the most surprising things to people is the recognition that their brains are not built for happiness. Our brains are only built to keep us alive – not to allow us to THRIVE. But that doesn’t mean we can’t, or we shouldn’t be happy. It simply takes a few basic resets to begin wiring your brain for happiness.
Here are the 3 habits you need to develop if you want to be happier this year:
- Stop setting the wrong goals. Most people set goals that stretch them. While it may seem motivating to strive to hit that target weight, or income, that kind of SEEKING only puts you in a mindset that you are dissatisfied NOW. Dissatisfaction is a habit. The more dissatisfied you find yourself at present the more dissatisfied you’ll be when you actually hit that target. What typically happens with goals is one of two outcomes. Either we fail to achieve it, and we feel bad, or we achieve it, and the goalposts of the goal move before we can even celebrate. Rather than setting striving goals, celebrate where you are and how good it feels. Wow it feels good to be able to walk a mile! With that mindset you’re more likely to increase the pace, or the distance, rather than be dissatisfied you can’t already run the mile.
- Stop trying to control so much. Happy people realize that they can’t control beyond the tips of their fingers. Life is full of uncertainty and change. Rather than doing all they can to avoid uncertainty, happy people choose to embrace it and even appreciate how change keeps life fresh and interesting. Variety, after all is the spice of life! So take a deep breath and enjoy the ride. The more you recognize how little you actually do control (not the weather, other people’s reactions, actions, beliefs, or feelings, the past, the future, the traffic, natural disasters, the passing of time) the more you can appreciate life just as it happens.
- Rebalance your brain. The ratio of negative to positive thoughts in your head is significantly biased towards the negative. Negative thinking helped our ancestors to survive, after all, if you believed that the lion looked cute and cuddly well, you probably didn’t’ last too long. But in today’s relatively safe environment we can afford to shift our thinking towards more positive thoughts. Happy people do just that. It would be SHOCKING to me if anyone couldn’t get through an entire day with ONLY positive things happening. Every light turns green. Your parking spot is right next to the door of your favorite restaurant. The meal is cooked perfectly and given to you on the house. I mean there is going to be SOMETHING even minorly negative that happens to you each and every day. The trick is to stay focused on the positive moments. When you accentuate the happy elements of your day this information gets stored in your memory differently, such that when you think back and recall the day, you feel happy, remembering those positive moments rather than the few disruptions that might have made you feel less satisfied with the day.