Monday, September 19, 2011

Working on happiness

I really enjoyed Vicki Archer's post at french essence about the essentials of inner joie de vivre and was happy to see that she included happiness on her list of the top 10.  She mentions that happiness can sometimes take work and that is so true.  I am not suggesting that with enough work anyone can be happy all of the time.  However, with work anyone can be happier.


Working on happiness may seem counter intuitive, but is highly effective in my experience.  Unhappiness has many causes including focusing on unhappy thoughts.  Changing our thoughts, or mental tapes as I like to think of them, is an exercise in changing thought habits.  Each time you catch yourself thinking something negative you can challenge yourself.  Is this thought true?  If it is not true, what can I think instead that is true?  If it is true, do I want to spend my time focusing on it?  If not, what can I think about instead?


It is the same with verbal habits that contribute to unhappiness.  Complaining, criticizing, comparing, etc.  Stopping those habits is a challenge that requires first to become aware of what we are doing.  Then the challenge is to substitute other statements or comments or to simply be quiet.


Then there is the whole category of things or problems in life that create unhappiness.  Not all of them can be addressed of course and sadness, pain and other sources of unhappiness are a part of everyone's life.  How people respond to them varies tremendously though.


The easiest physical sources of unhappiness to address are the small annoyances of life.  For example, make a list of everything in your physical environment that pops into your mind and annoys you to the point of unhappiness.  I did this once and it ranged from the loose faucet to chipped paint to unfinished work and so one.  Then start addressing each one by changing it or deciding to live with it.  Again the result will be an increase in happiness however minor.


Even small increases in happiness are worth the effort.


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