Three simple steps to be happy now!
Happiness is often elusive. We see it on the horizon, “if only I could do so-and-so,” we say, or “if I had that.” But when we get the desired “thing”, the happy feeling is fleeting. So we start chasing happiness again – running after the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow.
But increased happiness is available to you right now, today, and you don’t need to chase anything, win anything or buy anything – instead, just follow this simple plan:
1. Get active in an enjoyable and positive way.
2. Mix with happy and supportive people.
3. Plant positive thoughts in your mind.
Before you say, “But that’s not so easy!” Let me show you how to put these things into practice – right now, today.
We’ll start with getting active in an enjoyable and positive way. If we complete a positive physical activity, our brains reward us with serotonin. You don’t have to take up running (although you could, if you enjoy it); just find something that gets you moving around. It could be gardening, walking, countryside photography, fitness classes, team sports, housework, decorating – literally anything you enjoy and involves physical effort. It doesn’t have to exhaust you – it just needs to get you moving.
If we’ve been low, it can be hard to think of anything we might enjoy. It's a bit like getting a car started when its battery is flat. Have you ever push-started a car? Well, you might need to give yourself a push-start too. Sometimes the hardest thing is just getting out of the house. So don’t even think about it, slip on your shoes, put on a coat and get outside. Just walk. For today, just walking is enough – do this frequently and you’ll begin to find that there are other things you want to do too.
Next on our list are the happy and supportive people. All too often we talk about what is wrong with the world; we pile negative conversations on top of each other. This kind of interaction doesn’t increase our happiness. Think about people you know: work colleagues, family or friends. Who is the best listener? Who gossips least and smiles most? Who has a kind word to say? If you are fortunate enough to know such a person, give them a call right now, today. Don’t talk problems; instead, talk about things you would like to achieve. Ask them about their family and what is going well for them.
If you do not know anyone like that, perhaps it is time to broaden your social circle. As we get older, it can become harder to make new friends. But there are many possibilities – you can combine being “active in an enjoyable and positive way” with your quest for more positive friends. How about trying an exercise class and making a point of saying hello to people? Perhaps there is a local walking group you could join. A search online will turn up activities in your area – they are opportunities to meet friendly people.
If we are feeling low, sometimes we don’t want to meet other people. We become uncomfortable in social situations. If that’s the case, concentrate on step one for now, the serotonin boost will gradually increase your confidence. As the days pass you will feel more inclined to brave a social event. But maybe if you gave yourself a little push-start there is someone you might call today?
This brings us to the third step, planting positive thoughts. Our imaginations are powerful – for good and for ill. Do you imagine things going wrong? Fret so much that you feel anxious? If so, then you’re using your imagination to make yourself sad.
To a degree, anticipating a potential negative outcome can occasionally be useful – providing we then make a positive plan. But for most of us, negative forecasting leads to increased anxiety. We worry about things that probably won’t happen anyway or over which we have no control.
If there is a prudent step we can take to minimise risk, then we should take it and stop worrying. If instead we have no control over the thing we are worrying about, then we should let go of it and stop worrying.
You might be saying, “If it was as easy as that, no one would ever worry!” So to make it a bit easier, to push-start your mind – try this:
- Think of things you are grateful for (start simply if this is challenging – are you thankful for your bed? The clothes you have? Your toothpaste, even? Give this some time and you’ll find much to be thankful for – the air we breathe, health services, entertainment, books we like etc.).
- Notice what goes well – we always take note of what doesn’t go well, so make an effort to really notice when things do: was our bus on time? Did we see a happy person? Was the evening sky good to look at? Did something make us smile?
- Plant happy seeds: make an effort to imagine things that make you happy. Is there a holiday destination you remember fondly? Think about being there again. Daydream about activities you enjoy. Imagine nice ways you could change your bedroom or garden. Think about clothes you might like to wear and films, music or books you enjoy. Imagine things going well for family and friends. Plant happy little thoughts and return to them from time to time.
In solution-focused hypnotherapy, we begin each session discussing positive thoughts and experiences. We remind clients that being active in a positive way and interacting in a positive way lead to increased serotonin levels. Through the hypnotic use of metaphor, imagery and positive language patterns, we help clients to think in a happier way.
Happiness is an internal thing; it is waiting for you – and by following these simple steps you can begin experiencing more and more of it each day.
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