During difficult days, how can you find the courage to choose happiness?
The famous Vietnamese monk Thich Nhat Hanh once said that: “The present moment is filled with joy and happiness. If you are attentive, you will see it.” With all that’s happening in the world today, however, it can be hard to focus on the good. Although some people are more predisposed to seeing situations as a half-full glass rather than half-empty, it is possible for the average person to cultivate joy through life hacks and strategies. Ultimately, these lead to a more positive outlook in life.
And why not pursue this? Studies show that people with joyful dispositions have better physical and mental health, as they tend to cope with adversities better. Whether you are facing little concerns or big challenges in your career and personal life, the tried and tested tips ahead can help you attract more joy.
Focus on the good things
When you find yourself in difficult situations beyond your control, focus on the things that went right…no matter how small they may seem. Look for the proverbial silver lining in every cloud; canceled plans can mean more time for self-care activities. Perhaps, a missed job opportunity means that you can redirect yourself towards something that better suits you, so keep trying.
That said, it is also possible that force-fitting positivity when experiencing grief or other painful emotions can be unhealthy. When going through those difficult moments, remember that it is okay to be not okay, instead of channeling toxic positivity. Seek support from others who are willing to hold space for you and gently remind yourself that things will get better in time.
Give yourself self-affirmations and share positive feedback with others
Words are powerful enough to reframe our mindset and can influence our perception of the world around us. Find that you encounter moments where you’re your own worst critic? Perhaps you grew up with limiting beliefs like “I’m not good enough.” What can you do to counter the doubting voice inside your head? Start using words of affirmation and kindness towards yourself. Instead of saying “I’m not good enough,” reframe your perspective by thinking “I’m making progress towards my goals each day” or “I am doing my best, and it is enough.”
Make positive self-talk a habit by writing your favorite motivational quotes on post-it notes and displaying them in areas of your home where you can easily see them. If you want to see yourself from the perspective of people who care for you, ask your trusted friends to give you feedback on what they like most about you. It might take time, especially for those unused to receiving compliments, but remind yourself to embrace the good things about you until it becomes a habit.
While it’s not your responsibility to make everyone happy, making other people feel good about themselves can also foster more joy within you. Tell your loved ones how much you appreciate their presence; praise your child for doing their best in school; give encouragement to a work colleague. Sharing positive feedback with someone might be a simple gesture to you, but you never know what kind of lasting impact you can leave in other people’s lives.
Keep a gratitude journal
It’s said that a grateful heart is “a magnet for miracles.” Take a moment to appreciate what made you smile during the day. Think of the people, moments, or things that have brought you happiness and, in writing, express your gratitude for them. You can do this by jotting down thanks in a gratitude journal every day: Write five things you are grateful for today. Recognize them, acknowledge them by getting into the specifics and the why behind your gratitude, and then express your appreciation.
Why is this effective? Practicing gratitude has been shown to reduce stress, boost optimism, and foster feelings of hope during hard times. Reading through your gratitude journal entries, in addition, can help uplift your spirits later on.
Surround yourself with people who bring you positivity and laughter
Consider the people with whom you spend most of your time. The tendency here is that we absorb the outlook and emotions of those around us. (Have you noticed how a person in a bad mood can bring you down, too?) To protect your energy, establish healthy boundaries; keep your distance from people who might affect your well-being in a negative way. You may also consider limiting your social media intake, especially your engagement with accounts that can trigger negative emotions or simply overwhelm you.
On the other hand, being around positive people can help boost your self-esteem and lend more supportive, encouraging energy. When you need a boost for positive self-talk, being with friends that have a great sense of humor can lighten your mood and make the situation a little less difficult. Be open to humor and laugh more often, in other words. Studies have shown that laughter lowers stress, anxiety, and depression.
Be in the moment
A great place to start if you want to live in the moment more is to practice meditation exercises. Here, you’re encouraged to temporarily disconnect, surround yourself with nature, and, as you sit down and breathe, let your mind and heart rest. Living in the present is, in a way, an act of training yourself in the art of listening, watching, touching, tasting, and smelling with intent. Appreciating life’s simple joys in this way increases your level of empathy. Through mindfulness, concentration, and insight, we can heal from those that bring us pain and nourish joy at the same time. With joy comes inner peace, which is said to be the ultimate form of happiness.
Although it can be hard to remain positive in the face of obstacles, remember that joy can be found even in the mundane. Start with one small step and appreciate the little things. The next time you find yourself dwelling on a negative thought, you can find it easier to approach hardships in a more positive and productive way through the happiness hacks above.
If you need more support, feel free to reach out to mental health professionals who can help you understand your thought patterns and help you develop better coping skills.