We humans have a built-in drive to be happy. Unfortunately, life doesn't always cooperate. In some cultures, it's a right! But stuff happens that causes us to feel angry, discouraged, afraid, ashamed, depressed-the list goes on-however, we don't have to resign ourselves to circumstances. By following these 10 tips, you'll soon be saying bye-bye to the blues.
1 Do good for others
We all feel good indulging ourselves now and then in something we enjoy. But Patricia Rosse, who goes by the name the "Protocol Coach," also gives this advice: "Do something for another person. It only takes seconds a day but yields hours of good feelings for both you and the recipient."
Service for others doesn't have to be big and expensive. It can be as simple as holding the door for someone to enter a shop ahead of you.
2 Stay out of other people's problems
It's hard, I know, but one sure way of improving your state of happiness is to simply mind your own business. "In the past, I found myself embroiled in the dramas of family and friends and felt it was incumbent upon me to solve their dilemmas," says Renee Duane, author of Choosing for Bliss, Reclaiming Your Inherent Joy. "But my attempts at intervention robbed my family and friends of a valuable learning experience-that of experiencing the consequences of their choices- and it robbed me of my joy and contentment."
Duane advises that "staying on your side of the line allows you to be happy while being empathetic to someone else's situation."
3 Say you're sorry
Guilt and shame are major causes of our unhappiness. Both are good in small doses because they keep us aware of our mistakes. But we can markedly improve our happiness with the words, "I'm sorry." Acknowledging when we've hurt another person and apologising for the misdeed rolls the guilt off our shoulders and contributes dramatically to our sense of wellbeing and happiness.
Solomon, who is said to be the wisest man who ever lived, counselled that "a cheerful heart is good medicine" (Proverbs 17:22). Coy Long, CEO and master matchmaker of Hotlanta Matchmakers, says, "Don't be uptight so much. Learn that life is what you make of it, so remember to laugh." And it helps sometimes to laugh at yourself, especially when you've done something dumb. This is another way to relieve shame.
5 Change what you say to yourself
There's a saying, "Whatever you say to yourself, you'll go on proving to yourself," so if you tell yourself that you're happy, then you'll find things to prove to yourself that you really are! It will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Terri Benincasa, a business and life coach in Florida, says, "Change the messages you repeat to yourself from those that are destructive to those that are uplifting and the resulting sunny outlook will be self-perpetuating."
6 Have a bad memory
A journalist friend and colleague, Ed Walsh, has found a good way to be happy. "I believe one of the essential ingredients for happiness is a bad memory," he says. "Don't hold grudges, and forget about the bad things and put them behind you-don't keep replaying them in your mind."
7 Choose to be happy
Abraham Lincoln once said that "most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be." Ric Morgan, author of the Pulitzer-nominated book The Keys: The Textbook to a Successful Life, agrees. "It boils down to this: based on your thoughts and choices, if you want to be happy, be happy. If you're not happy now, change your mind and make different choices."
8 Have good relationships
Large-scale research studies on positive psychology find that having good social relationships is one of the strongest predictors of happiness. "Our brains are hard-wired to relate to people. On that we have no choice. And we pay a high price indeed for thinking we can opt out of relationships," says Jackie O'Neil, a psychotherapist based in Minnesota, USA.
But what if you haven't seen old friends in a while? Reconnecting with friends on Facebook can be a simple way to start. Or try making new friends.
A simple way to increase your happiness is to meditate. Try to get 20 minutes in at least three sessions a week. Find a quiet place and begin to breathe deeply-four counts in and six counts out. Concentrate on your breathing. As thoughts roll in, just observe them as if you were watching leaves on a river. Build up to 20 minutes, and after about a week, you'll notice you're more present in daily activities. You'll begin to feel happier.
Spiritual meditation is also important. Prayer is one way to do that, but there's also reflection on themes in the Bible, especially the life of Jesus. Try letting His words in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) flow through your mind. One of His best bits of advice was, "Do not let your hearts be troubled" (John 14:1). Run these words over and over in your thoughts when you do feel troubled.
10 Give away what you want
There's an age-old principle that says we reap what we sow (see Galatians 6:7). That's an important strategy for happiness. To get what you want, first give that thing away. "Want more love in your life? More appreciation? Recognition? Respect?" asks C J Scarlet, founder of the Healing Tree Foundation. "Then first give them to others, and they'll flow right back to you."
Happiness is a state of mind. You can't force yourself to be happy, but neither do you have to resign yourself to being unhappy. If you feel you're chronically angry, sad or depressed, try the 10 strategies above, and see what happens!