Learn to be Happy?
Want more happiness? Want less days when everything seems like it’s going the other way? It’s possible, with practice, to live more frequently with a stronger, more resilient attitude. It just takes some practice and getting used to. There are no “secrets” to happiness. Just learning how to treat your mind on a regular basis and developing an attitude of resilience and optimism. Every normal life is a mix of sadness and joy, opportunity mixed with difficulty. Exercising a little thought control can help.
Happiness and optimism have garnered millions of words for millenia. We could write about it endlessly. I’m interested in illuminating a few basic ideas to help you be more “up” and less “down”.
A Learned Skill
University of Pennsylvania professor and author Dr. Martin Seligman, in his excellent book Learned Optimism, describes three important ideas in keeping our minds pointed in the direction of happiness. Upon encountering adversity it’s important to practice reminding ourselves of the “Three P’s”. Let’s say you discover a flat tire…… Remember:
- It’s not Personal. The universe is not out to get you.
- It’s not Pervasive. It’s just a problem. It doesn’t mean your whole life stinks.
- It’s not Permanent. This event is temporary, like everything else, and will pass.
Seligman’s research has proven that these “thought habits” correlate with improved attitude, translating into higher income, greater marital success, increased job satisfaction and a host of other indicators of success.
Learn to Reframe
These skills lie beneath a practice of taking an optimistic point of view. Our lived experience is determined not by what happens out there, but by our interpretation of those events in our minds. We create the life that is ours. Someone cut you off in traffic? Notice your “self-talk”. Get angry? Want to punish that person? Our instincts for self preservation and self promotion run deep. Try shifting your interpretations for a day. Try admitting the possibility that the person cutting you off is in a hurry to reach the hospital. Someone steal your bike? A poor person might just need it more than you. Running out of cash? Try reminding yourself that the market rewards value, and that this might be an opportunity to re-evaluate your skills, your job and contributions.
Above all, Connect
Research shows that optimistic people are more welcome into a group. Dale Carnegie, in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People said “don’t criticize, condemn or complain”. It is our connection to others, after all that makes life rich and rewarding and happy. It just takes practice.