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Got Happiness? 4 Recommendations From Positive Psychology

Got Happiness? 4 Recommendations From Positive Psychology

We all seek happiness. This is universal and without exception. No matter how we choose to strive for happiness, it is nonetheless our goal. Also universal seems to be our difficulty in finding happiness. Even within our crazy world of capitalism, psychologists are optimistic that happiness is attainable. Positive psychology at its foundation tells us to be mindful of our moment to moment experience, recognize the beauty of nature, and to be grateful for the positives in our lives. Research also supports the idea that happiness increases in response to optimism, religious faith, acts of generosity, giving back to your community, and hobbies that produce the state of flow (a state of complete engagement in which time seems to stop).

1. Get Social: Spend Time With Others

Very happy people spend a lot of time socializing and the least amount of time alone. They tend to be more extroverted and agreeable than unhappy people. They credit their happiness to the maintenance of social relationships. Happy people report strong social ties, especially to their close family.

We’re social animals. We have a need to belong and to relate to others. Social relatedness is essential for our well-being and can be the tool you need to go from sadness to happiness. People who maintain close relationships and strong social ties cope better with stress and bereavement, job loss, illness, and even rape. It makes sense then, that love is frequently mentioned as an ingredient missing in one’s life, causing happiness. All meaningful relationships (not just romantic relationships) increase life satisfaction and, according to many, are necessary if you want to be happy.

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2. Get in the Zone: The Flow

According to Martin Seligman, Ph.D., one measure of the good life is flow (a strong level of engagement. Flow is what happens when you’re completely in the zone: when you’re engaged, immersed, and absorbed in an activity. Flow is when time seems to stop. Flow can be achieved in different ways: performing a physical task like exercising, raking leaves, mowing the grass, dancing, solving a complex problem, negotiating a business deal, or writing a free eBook to show your appreciation to those that have supported you! Flow happens when we are using our strengths or doing something we’re good at or enjoy. There is a strong correlation between this kind of engagement and lasting levels of happiness.

3. Get Purpose: Volunteer

Happy people consistently want to be part of a cause bigger than themselves. Having a purpose in life creates an environment for happiness, meaning, and fulfillment. Volunteering, caring for your family, supporting a charity, or working for moral causes are all very rewarding. It feels great to know we’re making a difference and that what we do matters and has a lasting impact.

We experience meaning when we feel like who we are and what we do is in unity, when we feel connected with others, and when we engage in meaningful activities. An example of this would be the people that drove from all over the country to help the victims of Hurricane Sandy rebuild their homes. We increase our own happiness by connecting with something bigger than ourselves. Just trying to maximize wealth or material goods will not accomplish this.

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Martin Seligman Ph.D. says “The importance of eudemonia, or true happiness and well-being, is the result of an active life governed by intrinsic meaning, self-sacrifice, and self-improvement.”

We’ve already covered the effects of money on happiness, but giving some away has different results. Regardless of what you’re buying, if you spend more money on others instead of yourself, you’ll feel happier. In a research experiment, people were asked to consider spending time with a nonprofit (vs. not). Later they were asked to donate real money. Those who were first asked to think about spending time with the nonprofit ended up donating twice as much money (vs. the group who of people were not asked to imagine time spent with the nonprofit). Even more interestingly, this doubling effect was fueled by the belief that such volunteer work would make them happy. These findings suggest that once personal goals are aligned with creating meaning in the world, individuals become much, much happier.

We don’t need to make huge adjustments to our lives to feel like we’re making a difference. Little things like buying food for a homeless person or helping a neighbor clean up their yard can bring higher feelings of fulfillment and happiness. Kindness and fulfillment are linked. Random acts of kindness are great, but can get boring. Deeds that strengthen existing social ties have a higher return as you’re building upon an existing relationship.

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4. Find Meaning and Balance

A holistic and interconnected life is essential to an enduring level of happiness and meaning. One way to picture this is to think about where areas of your life overlap.

  • Work/Career/School
  • Home/Family
  • Community/Society
  • Self (Mind/Body/Spirit)

During your life these areas are not equal in size and importance. They tend to overlap, and changes in one area affect another. We see when we ignore our area of ‘self’, often other areas suffer, like work and family. We can’t focus on only one area and exclude others if we are to achieve optimal levels of happiness.

Thinking of our lives as containing overlapping areas creates a possibility of increasing our happiness. An example of this would be finding a way to create engagement and flow within your community leading to increased happiness and meaning at home, work, and in your interior life.

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Conclusion

If we stopped chasing happiness and slowed down long enough to experience life in the present moment, maybe we’d find what we seek. Learning to savor life, practice gratitude, and being mindful all help to relieve stress, increase pleasure, increase enjoyment, and increase happiness. Tending to our day-to-day life satisfaction not only puts us in a position to be happier, but to make others happy as well.

Featured photo credit: freeimages.com via freeimages.com

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Bob Dempsey

Psychology Major

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Last Updated on January 24, 2021

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

How to Say No When You Know You Say Yes Too Often

Do you say yes so often that you no longer feel that your own needs are being met? Are you wondering how to say no to people?

For years, I was a serial people pleaser[1]. Known as someone who would step up, I would gladly make time, especially when it came to volunteering for certain causes. I proudly carried this role all through grade school, college, even through law school. For years, I thought saying “no” meant I would disappoint a good friend or someone I respected.

But somewhere along the way, I noticed I wasn’t quite living my life. Instead, I seem to have created a schedule that was a strange combination of meeting the expectations of others, what I thought I should be doing, and some of what I actually wanted to do. The result? I had a packed schedule that left me overwhelmed and unfulfilled.

It took a long while, but I learned the art of saying no. Saying no meant I no longer catered fully to everyone else’s needs and could make more room for what I really wanted to do. Instead of cramming too much in, I chose to pursue what really mattered. When that happened, I became a lot happier.

And guess what? I hardly disappointed anyone.

The Importance of Saying No

When you learn the art of saying no, you begin to look at the world differently. Rather than seeing all of the things you could or should be doing (and aren’t doing), you start to look at how to say yes to what’s important.

In other words, you aren’t just reacting to what life throws at you. You seek the opportunities that move you to where you want to be.

Successful people aren’t afraid to say no. Oprah Winfrey, considered one of the most successful women in the world, confessed that it was much later in life when she learned how to say no. Even after she had become internationally famous, she felt she had to say yes to virtually everything.

Being able to say no also helps you manage your time better.

Warren Buffett views “no” as essential to his success. He said:

“The difference between successful people and really successful people is that really successful people say no to almost everything.”

When I made “no” a part of my toolbox, I drove more of my own success, focusing on fewer things and doing them well.

How We Are Pressured to Say Yes

It’s no wonder a lot of us find it hard to say no.

From an early age, we are conditioned to say yes. We said yes probably hundreds of times in order to graduate from high school and then get into college. We said yes to find work, to get a promotion, to find love and then yes again to stay in a relationship. We said yes to find and keep friends.

We say yes because we feel good when we help someone, because it can seem like the right thing to do, because we think that is key to success, and because the request might come from someone who is hard to resist.

And that’s not all. The pressure to say yes doesn’t just come from others. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves.

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At work, we say yes because we compare ourselves to others who seem to be doing more than we are. Outside of work, we say yes because we are feeling bad that we aren’t doing enough to spend time with family or friends.

The message, no matter where we turn, is nearly always, “You really could be doing more.” The result? When people ask us for our time, we are heavily conditioned to say yes.

How Do You Say No Without Feeling Guilty?

Deciding to add the word “no” to your toolbox is no small thing. Perhaps you already say no, but not as much as you would like. Maybe you have an instinct that if you were to learn the art of no that you could finally create more time for things you care about.

But let’s be honest, using the word “no” doesn’t come easily for many people.

3 Rules of Thumbs for Saying No

1. You Need to Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

Let’s face it. It is hard to say no. Setting boundaries around your time, especially you haven’t done it much in the past, will feel awkward. Your comfort zone is “yes,” so it’s time to challenge that and step outside that.

If you need help getting out of your comfort zone, check out this article.

2. You Are the Air Traffic Controller of Your Time

When you want to learn how to say no, remember that you are the only one who understands the demands for your time. Think about it: who else knows about all of the demands in your life? No one.

Only you are at the center of all of these requests. You are the only one that understands what time you really have.

3. Saying No Means Saying Yes to Something That Matters

When we decide not to do something, it means we can say yes to something else that we may care more about. You have a unique opportunity to decide how you spend your precious time.

6 Ways to Start Saying No

Incorporating that little word “no” into your life can be transformational. Turning some things down will mean you can open doors to what really matters. Here are some essential tips to learn the art of no:

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1. Check in With Your Obligation Meter

One of the biggest challenges to saying no is a feeling of obligation. Do you feel you have a responsibility to say yes and worry that saying no will reflect poorly on you?

Ask yourself whether you truly have the duty to say yes. Check your assumptions or beliefs about whether you carry the responsibility to say yes. Turn it around and instead ask what duty you owe to yourself.

2. Resist the Fear of Missing out (FOMO)

Do you have a fear of missing out (FOMO)? FOMO can follow us around in so many ways. At work, we volunteer our time because we fear we won’t move ahead. In our personal lives, we agree to join the crowd because of FOMO, even while we ourselves aren’t enjoying the fun.

Check in with yourself. Are you saying yes because of FOMO or because you really want to say yes? More often than not, running after fear doesn’t make us feel better[2].

3. Check Your Assumptions About What It Means to Say No

Do you dread the reaction you will get if you say no? Often, we say yes because we worry about how others will respond or because of the consequences. We may be afraid to disappoint others or think we will lose their respect. We often forget how much we are disappointing ourselves along the way.

Keep in mind that saying no can be exactly what is needed to send the right message that you have limited time. In the tips below, you will see how to communicate your no in a gentle and loving way.

You might disappoint someone initially, but drawing a boundary can bring you the freedom you need so that you can give freely of yourself when you truly want to. And it will often help others have more respect for you and your boundaries, not less.

4. When the Request Comes in, Sit on It

Sometimes, when we are in the moment, we instinctively agree. The request might make sense at first. Or we typically have said yes to this request in the past.

Give yourself a little time to reflect on whether you really have the time or can do the task properly. You may decide the best option is to say no. There is no harm in giving yourself the time to decide.

5. Communicate Your “No” with Transparency and Kindness

When you are ready to tell someone no, communicate your decision clearly. The message can be open and honest[3] to ensure the recipient that your reasons have to do with your limited time.

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How do you say no? 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

    Resist the temptation not to respond or communicate all. But do not feel obligated to provide a lengthy account about why you are saying no.

    Clear communication with a short explanation is all that is needed. I have found it useful to tell people that I have many demands and need to be careful with how I allocate my time. I will sometimes say I really appreciate that they came to me and for them to check in again if the opportunity arises another time.

    6. Consider How to Use a Modified No

    If you are under pressure to say yes but want to say no, you may want to consider downgrading a “yes” to a “yes but…” as this will give you an opportunity to condition your agreement to what works best for you.

    Sometimes, the condition can be to do the task, but not in the time frame that was originally requested. Or perhaps you can do part of what has been asked.

    Final Thoughts

    Beginning right now, you can change how you respond to requests for your time. When the request comes in, take yourself off autopilot where you might normally say yes.

    Use the request as a way to draw a healthy boundary around your time. Pay particular attention to when you place certain demands on yourself.

    Try it now. Say no to a friend who continues to take advantage of your goodwill. Or, draw the line with a workaholic colleague and tell them you will complete the project, but not by working all weekend. You’ll find yourself much happier.

    More Tips on How to Say No

    Featured photo credit: Chris Ainsworth via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Science of People: 11 Expert Tips to Stop Being a People Pleaser and Start Doing You
    [2] Anxiety and Depression Association of America: Tips to Get Over Your FOMO, or Fear of Missing Out
    [3] Cooks Hill Counseling: 9 Healthy Ways to Say “No”

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