Happiness can be defined as a fleeting emotion, so to avoid going on a pleasure hunt, let’s shift our perspective into seeing happiness as a skill we can use to defeat negativity. It may be the greatest weapon we’ve got! Here are seven happy-skills people of the positive nature possess, skills you’ve got within you!
1) Know Your Power and Rock it!
Happiness experts say being happy is our natural state. It is our superpower. There is an art to protecting that child-like disposition, and since science tells us we can control 40% of our own happiness, the how-to is in understanding what triggers the opposing negative feelings. Most of the time, feelings simply come from thoughts. We can get crafty with the thoughts we choose to act upon and those we deny. According to experts at BornHappy, “It’s how we’re thinking about those things that creates the feelings of stress, anger, hurt or saddness. Not the things themselves. How we feel comes down to what we’re thinking about in that moment.” Understanding and compartmentalizing our thoughts into what we want to dwell and act upon is a way to use our power to ward off the negative and contain our innate happiness. Neurologist, Psychiatrist, and Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl, M.D., Ph.D. says it best, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.” We have the power to choose happiness if we want it.
2) Goal Check for Less Stress
Close to 25% of our happiness is related to our ability to manage stress– one of the best ways to combat stress is to plan. Studies made by psychologist and self-help author Robert Epstein in recent surveys reveal a stress management technique that works the best is “fighting stress before it even starts, planning things rather than letting them happen,” states Epstein. “That means planning your day, your year and your life so that stress is minimized.” Neuroscientist Richard Davidson of the University of Wisconsin at Madison found that “making advances toward the achievement of our goals not only causes us to feel more engaged, it actually helps us tolerate any negative feelings that arise during the journey.” Happiness happens when we plan a goal and check that box.
3) Stay Flexible and Not Just for Yoga Class
According to Psychology Today, “Happy, flourishing people don’t hide from negative emotions. They acknowledge that life is full of disappointments and confront them head on… This nimble mental shifting between pleasure and pain, the ability to modify behavior to match a situation’s demands, is known as psychological flexibility.” Outside circumstances contrary to our own happiness, which can invite a slumping posture of sadness, allow us the opportunity to process. Staying flexible within our own person is healthy, even to let ourselves acknowledge what we sense and how we can move through it is a way that keeps our souls adaptable. Being honest with ourselves in the process helps us to mine out the dirt of a messy situation and attain what is valuable. Having grace with people and ourselves invites safety and space to welcome the good, and inadvertently sustains the happy countenances we all crave. In her book,”How to Live A Happy Life- 101 Ways to Be Happier,” author and happiness-researcher Michele Moore explains that habitually happy people are “very flexible in their approach and they are open to change.” Author Angelica Hopes writes, “Have the capacity to adapt to change, it’s your healthy growth, intelligently and emotionally. Our life can be full of extrinsic surprises, your flexibility is a key when you accept changes.”
4) Do Sweet Sleep and Get Plenty
At last, we can detach the fear of being counterproductive from the precious sheep-counting, sheet-cocooning night’s sleep! A proven way to stay happy is found in catching those Zz’s! New research shows, “People with insomnia produce higher rates of stress hormones than others… People who don’t get enough sleep can become depressed, and that causes insomnia. Inversely, more and better-quality sleep can make you feel happier.” That’s a fact as sweet as a lullaby. Sleep is also quite healthy for our brain functionality, “Recent studies have shown that when the human brain flips to idle mode, the neurons that work so hard when we’re on-task settle down and the surrounding glial cells increase their activity dramatically, cleaning up the waste products accumulated by the neurons and moving them out via the body’s lymphatic system. Researchers believe that the restorative effects of sleep are due to this cleansing mechanism. Napping for 10-30 minutes has been demonstrated to increase alertness and improve performance.” Those who snooze, no longer lose! Yes!
5) Work Hard, Play Harder
With such productive lives we lead in the twenty-first century, it is just as important to bring a little ease to the hustle. That’s right, happy people play! “Work hard, play hard” is the motto for living a balanced, joy-filled life. In fact, play has been scientifically proven to benefit the brain. Play shapes the brain, opens the imagination, and invigorates your soul, according to author Stuart Brown. Robbing ourselves of it leads to “the rise of anxiety, depression, and problems of attention and self control.” Funfact: grizzly bears that play the most survive longest! New spirit animal? Yes, please!
6) Take Risks and Enjoy Them
We all have the daydream of grabbing our passport and slipping into a new experience. We are curious creatures who crave adventure and newness. Such is the interest of happy people. In a 2007 study, Todd Kashdan and Colorado State psychologist Michael Steger found that “when participants monitored their own daily activities, as well as how they felt, over the course of 21 days, those who frequently felt curious on a given day also experienced the most satisfaction with their life—and engaged in the highest number of happiness-inducing activities, such as expressing gratitude to a colleague or volunteering to help others…” In fact, a closer look at the study by Kashdan and Steger suggests that curious people invest in activities that cause them discomfort as a springboard to higher psychological peaks. Whether it’s having a conversation you’ve hoped to have or taking a trip you’ve always envisioned, find your thrill in following your curiosity by taking risks.
7) Shake, Shake, Shake
Stretching for circulation, dance class for cardio, or gym time for the glutes, moving that bod is an instant jolt of joy. The endorphins released while exercising are your body’s natural pain relievers! The Huffington Post reports people who were clinically depressed showed consistent exercise increases happiness levels just as much as Zoloft! “Six months later, the people who participated in exercise were less likely to relapse because they had a higher sense of self-accomplishment and self-worth.” Moving your body is sure to put you in good spirits. We really do like to move it, move it!
By Christie Brooke
Image by Stephanie Pino