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Why Changing for the Better Isn’t as Difficult as It Seems

Why Changing for the Better Isn’t as Difficult as It Seems

Hope is not a strategy when it comes to change. Commitment is what is needed to make change happen. Not just a wishy, washy commitment to change that fades in a week. Real change needs real commitment. Dismissing your excuses and “buts” and exchanging them for commitment to the process of change is what is needed to make change happen.

The good news is that your personality and behaviors can be changed, but it is up to you. You can’t change anyone else, but you can change yourself. Below are the steps needed to create change in your life. Its up to you to make that change happen, nobody can do it for you, but you can certainly find help along the way.  

Awareness for the Need to Change

You can’t go on blaming your problems and issues on other people or circumstances. Eventually you need to take the bull by the horns, own up to your short comings, and get on a path to change. The first step toward change is acknowledging that you have something you need to change. If you don’t think there is something about you that needs to be changed or improved, then you are in denial, because there are not any perfect people in this world.

Look at the repeated problems in your life. The issues that seem to come up time and time again. Do you keep gravitating toward the wrong relationships, but you blame the people you are choosing, rather than looking at your problem in the selection process? Do you jump from one job to another, yet blame co-workers and bosses, rather than look at what you may be doing to cause problems and dissatisfaction on the job? We are creatures of habit, so look at the patterns that you have in life that are negative. The ones that keep coming up and causing problems. Then look introspectively to see what it is in you that is causing these repeated life problems to occur. If you can’t figure it out on your own, then go to a counselor for better understanding. If you can indeed figure out what it is in you that needs to be changed, even better. Once you recognize the need for change and what it is that needs to be changed, then you can move to the next step.

Believe that Change is Indeed Possible

There are people out there who believe that personality is unchangeable. When confronted with their problem such as constant negativity they lash back with “that’s just who I am”. It may be who you are, but does it need to be? Change in personality and behaviors is possible. Nobody stays the same from one year to the next, let alone across a decade, so why not move change in the direction that is best for you and not just let it happen.  Be proactive about the change you want in your life, including the belief that change can occur.

If you don’t firmly believe that change is possible, then you are doomed to fail. You must believe that change can happen. Look for success stories and people who have changed and done what you so deeply desire to do. Seeing that others have been where you have are, and have accomplished the change you desire will help you in your process to accomplish that change.

List the Benefits in your Life and the Lives of Others for this Change

In order for change to be meaningful you need to buy into the premise that the change is necessary for your betterment. If you quit drinking alcohol, but deep down still crave alcohol every day for the rest of your life has change really happened? The change needs to happen in your mind and for you to fully desire the benefit of that change in order for your change to be meaningful and long lasting. People who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

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    One of the best ways to help yourself stick to the commitment of change is to make a list of the benefits that the change will bring in your life. Make one list of the benefits in your life if and when this change happens. Make another list of the benefits that your loved ones will have if you make the change. Recognizing the full spectrum of benefits including how your change will affect those closest to you, will help you stick with the process of change.

    When you have moments of weakness, or fail on a particular day or time then getting back on track becomes easier when you review your list on a regular basis. Posting your “benefits of change” list somewhere where you see it often, such as a bathroom mirror, will help you be reminded of why you are doing what you are doing.

    Make a Real Commitment to Change

    Commitment means time and energy.

    If you think you can change by wishing and hoping then you will certainly fail. Be realistic when you dedicate yourself to change.

    If you think you are going to lose 50 lbs. in a month then you are setting yourself up to fail. Make a commitment to the time frame needed for the change to happen. If you want to lose 50 lbs., then set out a realistic plan of a few lbs. per week and a timeline that reflects those goals.

    It will take you a lot longer than a month, but setting realistic goals will help you stick to your commitment. Change happens one day at a time. It is not immediate, but over the course of time because of your dedication and commitment to the process.

    When you are making the commitment to change, this is the time that you dispel of your excuses.

    If you have had “buts” and “what ifs” in the past holding you back it is time to address those head on and not allow them to prevent you from pursing change. The “buts” are usually the biggest obstacle toward commitment. When times get tough your “but” thinking comes into play. Be prepared to knock down those “buts” and be more committed to the process of change and the end result desired, than to the “buts”.

    Be SMART.

    There is a “SMART” plan when it comes to setting and achieving goals and sticking to your commitment to change. Make your goals: Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant and Time-bound.

    An example of this would be a person who wants to become an active runner so they can tackle a half marathon. The first step would be to research what other people have done for training plans to achieve this goal.

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    Runners World lays out specifics for a beginner to train for a half marathon: “Target the Long Run: Every other week, increase your long run by 1.5 miles until you’re run/walking 13 to 14 miles. On alternate weeks, keep your long run to no longer than three miles. Your longest long run should fall two weeks before your half-marathon. Plan to take about 15 weeks to prepare for the big day.”[1]

    Taking on this SMART tool, lets break it down:

    • S-(Specific). Run every week, make a chart of the miles, according to the Runners World recommendations.
    • M- (Measurable). Make the chart specific for the distance you want to accomplish for each run, which makes your goals measurable. Lets start by writing down at least your first two weeks of running goals to get started. Your first week could entail four days a week of running doing 1.5 miles the first run, 1.5 miles the second, 2.0 the second, and 2.5 the third. Then you move to week two and increase to the 3.0 mile mark. You again set your week up by scheduling four runs into your calander. The first day you do 3.0 miles, the second 3.0 miles, the third day 4.0 miles, and the fourth 4.5 miles.
    • A-(Attainable). You may concerned about weather getting in the way of you getting all your runs in each week, so you then need to find an indoor track, get a treadmill, or sign up for a gym to use their treadmills.
    • R-(Relevant). You aren’t concerned about your work out schedule outside of the running. Your goal is to get to half marathon preparedness, so attending workout classes won’t be on your chart. You stick to charting the runs and dedicating your free time to that goal, not other fitness or diet goals that may impede on your energy level and ability to get your runs completed each week.
    • T-(Time Bound). You are setting your plan to 15 weeks, based on the Runners World recommendations. You then find a half marathon that is very near in date to your 15 week completion and sign up. You chart your weekly runs (four per week), increasing your mileage each week by 1.5 miles until you can achieve 13/14 miles.

    Create a Plan of Attack

    A goal without a plan is a plan to fail.

    You need a set of steps outlined to succeed. This is why 12 step programs are so successful. You can’t just walk into a meeting and say I am cured and changed! You need to mentally process the change in order for the change to be lasting and effective. Create a plan for your change. Be realistic and investigate what other people have done to change. For example, if you are dealing with anxiety and want to change that, then seek out therapy methods to address your problem. Stick with the therapy plan until your change process is complete. Simply hoping the anxiety will someday go away is not a plan.

    Research the best ways that change for your issue successfully happen. Investigate what others have done and been truly successful in making it to the other side of permanent change. Use their best practices to set your own plan of attack in addressing your process of change.

    Commitment without action results in failure.

    It is wonderful to set a goal for change and to write it down, but if you don’t act then your mental commitment means nothing. There is no actual commitment unless action follows. To best kick start our change the key is to act NOW. Not next week. Not waiting for a time when things are lined up just right, because that time may never come. Start today, as soon as you finish setting your goal for change. Tony Robbins is a self-help guru who explains why many people fail to change:[2]

    A lot of people tend to make “sorta kinda” decisions. Here’s the secret behind why people don’t follow through: The reason people don’t commit to a decision is that they don’t act on it.

    Acting now, is the way to show your commitment. Your body must follow the brain’s commitment. For example, if you committed to lose 50lbs then now is the time to go join a gym, hire a trainer, and walk into a weight loss clinic to get support. The important part is doing. We can make up our mind to be determined to change, but if action does not follow soon thereafter, then you will fail.

    It is very easy to make a verbal commitment to change or to even write it down. Where the rubber meets the road is when action is taken. Take action once a decision for change is made. Because if you wait until later that day you will get caught up in doing your daily routine, things for works, taking care of others, or whatever it may be; there will be distractions that will derail you from taking action later. There is no better time to take action than when you make the decision to change. Find one way that you can take action to get the ball rolling. Momentum is essential.

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    For example, if you decide you want to finally write that book that is in your mind, but you don’t have a working laptop, then go and get a laptop today. Then that same day set aside an hour each day after work (and on your calander) so that you can write. Instead of going out with friends after work, you are committing to achieve this goal and you have time set aside to make that goal happen.

    If you want to become a writer, it won’t happen unless you actually write. Waiting until Black Friday for the best computer deal and then perhaps signing up for a writers conference 6 months down the road is not immediate action. Find ways that you can take action today. If you find yourself selecting action items that are in the future, then you really aren’t committed. Real commitment is making a decision for change and then taking immediate action.

    Find a Support System

    Psychology Today explains that one of the best ways to change behavior is through therapy and particularly the use of behavior modification therapies.[3] If you have a particular behavior or habit that you want to change, increase your odds of success dramatically by partnering with a therapist who specializes in treating your issue or who specializes in behavior modification methods.

    A great way to find support is through group therapy or support groups.

    If you have a substance abuse issue you can find groups that specialize is supporting you through recovery and change.  If you prefer to find support in the comfort of your own home, then you can look for online support forums and Facebook groups that deal with whatever change you are looking to pursue. There is support online for every disorder, bad habit, or desired change via the internet.

    Your ability to be successful in change is dependent on your ability to dive in; support systems help you to initially dive in and will help you stay committed to the process. Don’t underestimate the power you have by partnering with others who are seeking the same change. Whether it is weight loss, kicking an addiction, or changing part of your personality, partnering with others committed to that change will increase your odd of succeeding. There is power in numbers, so give yourself a better chance at change by finding and utilizing a supportive group.

    Get Uncomfortable

    Change should be uncomfortable. You are entering into new territory. Your mind and past habits will be resistant to the change, as it is uncomfortable and difficult. Expect the difficulties. Expect things to be uncomfortable. Also expect yourself to be so committed that you push through those times of discomfort. If you give up because of the discomfort then you are destined to fail in your pursuit of change. Embrace the discomfort associated with change and recognize that it puts you one step closer to accomplishing your goals.

    Stick to the Plan

    You will have good days and bad days in your pursuit of change. You will only succeed if you stick to the plan and push forward. If you get derailed from the plan don’t berate yourself. Instead allow yourself for some margin of error and then get back on track. You can’t expect to go on a diet without splurging sometimes. The key is “sometimes”. You shouldn’t make it a habit of getting off track, as it will slow down your progress. The sooner you get back on track on your plan, the more successful you will be in accomplishing your change goals. Set a plan and be committed to achieving it one day at a time and you will find success.

    Other researchers on the topic of change believe this process is about dedication and commitment to the change desired in our day to day lives, as Douglas LaBier from the Huffington Post so aptly stated:[4]

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    Change occurs from awareness of what aspects of our personality we want to develop, and working hard to “practice” them in daily life.

    Here are some tips on sticking to a plan:

    Self-reflect on things that have derailed you in the past and problem solve them before they happen.

    Jot down those things that tend to get you off track. Now list ways to combat the derailments before they happen. For example if you are wanting to lose weigh, but you work late hours then commit to morning workouts. If you know in the past you would continually hit the snooze button and subsequently miss the workouts, then hire a trainer for early morning workouts. You are less likely to miss your workout if you have real money attached to it and someone counting on you to show up. You could also schedule morning workouts with a friend, so you know there is someone showing up and you don’t want to let them down. Brain storm solutions for your past derailments, so that this time around you are ready to stick to the plan and the commitment you have made to change.

    Don’t do things halfway, do them 100% of the time consistently.

    If you are working out every morning for weeks but aren’t seeing change after a month or more because you are just showing up and giving it 50% you are more likely to quit. However, if you are giving 100% every morning at those workouts and you are sticking to the diet you will see change and progress. Those small changes are what keep you committed to an overall larger change in the long run. You are less likely to give up if you see the plan is working for you. In order for your plan to work, you need to give it all that you have in you.

    Define your commitment and be very specific.

    Commitment is a daily mental and physical plight when it comes to change. If your commitment is to lose weight then be specific about how you are going to achieve your change. For example, you decide you are going to stick to 1,800 calories a day and a 1 hour workout every day. Then write those goals down and chart your daily progress and achievement of these goals. Hold yourself accountable. Sticking to a plan is a great deal about the day in and day out commitments. Those commitments need to be achievable, yet challenging so you can produce change over time. Write them down, make them visible, and best of all create a chart of your daily progress in sticking to those commitments.

    Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

    Reference

    More by this author

    Dr. Magdalena Battles

    Doctor of Psychology

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    Last Updated on October 16, 2018

    How to Be Happy Again: 13 Simple Ways to Shake off Sadness Right Now

    How to Be Happy Again: 13 Simple Ways to Shake off Sadness Right Now

    When you look at your own life, maybe you’re thinking about how time has gone by so quickly and you have no idea how you got to where you are at. You might begin to feel sad because you’ve drifted so far from where you wanted to be at your age. Life was much more difficult than you expected it to be, so you just settled and decided to accept that this is just how life is.

    You’ve given up and your goal now is just to get by. You just want to be happy.

    However, it doesn’t have to be this way.

    Cultivating much more happiness in your life is a very real and close possibility. You just have to put in a little work.

    Here are 13 proven ways to shake off your sadness and feel happy again:

    1. Do what brings you meaning

    We’ve all been there. A feeling of boredom and being stuck in our lives without knowing what to do.

    Nancy is one of the many who’ve been there. Take a look at her story and find out why finding your meaning to live is so important.

    Rather than trying to figure out such heavy questions such as “What is my purpose in life?” it’s much easier to turn on the television and let the day go by.

    “When a person can’t find a deep sense of meaning, they distract themselves with pleasure.” -Viktor Frankl

    Many affluent people are experiencing unhappiness no matter how much money, respect, or fame they have because of one big reason: Our unhappiness stems ultimately from a feeling of meaninglessness.

    Frankl has developed a process called Logotherapy[1] to help people build more meaning in their lives. He was put in charge of the mental health department of the Viennese hospital system because they were losing too many patients to suicide. His practices were what prevented tens of thousands of these patients from killing themselves. He did this by helping instill a sense of meaning to their lives.

    What you can do right now:

    In moments when you are struggling with unhappiness, you can start applying Frankl’s Logotherapy in your life by doing the following:

    • Work on a project that demands your skills and abilities. If you have trouble coming up with one, then look for something important to work on that will help someone in need.
    • Immerse yourself fully in your experience and share it with people who love you in an authentic, non-judgmental manner.
    • Find a redemptive perspective towards your suffering. Meaning comes in our lives when we change our perspective about our hardships in a way that it improves our lives rather than bringing it down.

    I met a woman in Thailand once who ran an orphanage with children who were affected by the AIDS virus. She also suffered from cancer, but rather than viewing the illness as something that is ruining her life, she shared with me:

    “It’s kind of like a death sentence when the doctor says to you ‘you’re HIV positive’ or ‘you have cancer’ and it gives me an ability to identify with these children that are HIV positive, so I’m grateful for cancer because of it, if nothing else.”

    Recommended reading:

    Man’s Search For Meaning by Viktor Frankl

    2. Start killing your options and get crystal clear on what you want

    “Too many choices exhaust us, make us unhappy and lead us to sometimes abscond from making a decision all together.”[2] Keep your options open” may be advice you’ve heard often. But if you keep your options too open, it usually makes you more unhappy, stressed out, and tired from having to choose between too many things.

    When you have too many choices to make, you begin to make more poorer decisions as you make each following one throughout the day. This is what’s known as decision fatigue.

    The most important thing you can do to increase your level of happiness is by effectively reducing the amount of any unnecessary decisions you have to make in a day.

    What you can do right now:

    Set up routines to help you accomplish the following:

    • Make the most important decisions earlier in the day when your mind is more fresh.
    • Try to plan out your day the night before whenever possible.
    • Choose your meals in advance.
    • If you have to make an important decision but you’re hungry, eat first.
    • When you have too many choices, try to narrow it down to choosing between a select few.
    • Automate your life as much as possible by doing the following:
      • Set up automatic payment functions on any bills you have
      • Use free software If This Then That , to automate your life . For example: instead of watching and refreshing to win an auction on Ebay or get that coveted item on Craigslist, have an email notification sent to you, so you can be one of the first to jump on the deal.
      • If your budget allows, hire a virtual assistant or a company like Fancy Hands to take a lot of menial tasks off your plate.

    3. Create safe spaces to find yourself and beat the feeling of shame

    We’re constantly bombarded with messages that tell us we need to look, act, or be a certain way in order to be happy and successful.

    The average person gets exposed to over 10,000 advertisements a day and most of these messages are total nonsense.[3]

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    All of these false promises given to us each day are what causes us to portray ourselves in a way we think others want us to be so that we can fit in. The sad part is that many of us do find ways to fit in, but we never actually feel like we belong.

    When we don’t feel loved and understood for who we truly are, there is no way we can ever be happy. The reason we are often reluctant to be our most authentic selves is because of shame.

    At some point in your life, you will run into shame and it will make you feel like there is something wrong with you. Whether it was getting teased at school, not meeting up to your parents’ expectations, or being harshly judged by a peer, shame makes you hide your true self and wear a mask to show someone else.

      Learning to have the courage to stay true to yourself is one of the keys to longer lasting happiness.

      Dr. Brene Brown, an amazing vulnerability researcher, explained in her TED talk that she once took put a poll on social media asking “How would you define vulnerability? What makes you feel vulnerable?”:

      Within an hour and a half, she had 150 responses. Here’s what some of them said:

      • Having to ask my husband for help because I’m sick, and we’re newly married
      • Initiating sex with my husband / wife
      • Being turned down
      • Asking someone out
      • Waiting for the doctor to call back
      • Getting laid off
      • Laying off people

      Vulnerable moments like these are when we are most prone to feeling shame. Learning about how to handle that shame is what will enable you to recover from it in a healthy way.

      What you can do right now:

      Practice vulnerability.

      Start by looking yourself in the mirror each morning and telling yourself “I’m not perfect, but that’s ok”

      Take Dr. Brown’s simple advice that she gave on the Oprah show. When you experience shame, talk to yourself like you talk to someone you love, reach out to someone you trust, and tell your story.[4]

      Recommended reading:

      I Thought It Was Just Me (but it isn’t): Making the Journey from “What Will People Think?” to “I Am Enough” by Dr. Brene Brown

      4. Engage your curiosity to supercharge your personal growth

      Some of the greatest things that exist in our world today were a result of someone’s curiosity. It’s the reason why people like Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford created some of the most innovative products of all time.

      Satisfying your curiosity releases dopamine in your brain.[5] This is also why we absolutely have to finish a great movie and watch it till the end. You want to know what happens and when you finally do, you get that rush of dopamine and get pleasure from it as a reward. The same applies with any habits we’ve formed, such as checking our social media feeds and emails.

      While these kind of things may give you a short moment of happiness, there is a type of curiosity that will give you a more longer lasting happiness. Dr. Todd Kashdan explains it in the terms of being a “curious explorer”.

      “Curious explorers are comfortable with the risks of taking on new challenges. Instead of trying desperately to explain and control our world, as a curious explorer we embrace uncertainty, and see our lives as an enjoyable quest to discover, learn and grow.”

      By using your curiosity to help you get better at something, become more knowledgeable or see something in a new perspective, you’ll find life to be much more enjoyable.

      What you can do right now:

      Kashdan’s suggestions on how to become “Curious Explorers” are summarized in Kari Henley’s Huffington Post article in the following way:[6]

      • Try to notice little details of your daily routine that you never noticed before.
      • When talking to people, try to remain open to whatever transpires without judging or reacting.
      • Let novelty unfold and resist the temptation to control the flow.
      • Gently allow your attention to be guided by little sights, sounds or smells that come your way.

      Recommended reading:

      Curious? Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life by Todd Kashdan PhD.

      5. Help yourself by helping others

      The happiest people are ones who make a positive impact on others.

      “No man or woman is an island. To exist just for yourself is meaningless. You can achieve the most satisfaction when you feel related to some greater purpose in life, something greater than yourself.” ―Denis Waitley

      Every individual has something they can contribute to the world. The hard part is figuring out what that is. And the truth is, we’ll never figure it out until we actually do something about it.

      Science has shown data that supports the evidence that giving is a powerful way to lasting happiness. If done in the right way, giving can feel good and give you the much needed boost in your mood.[7]

      “Happiness is only real when shared.” -Christopher McCandless, Into The Wild

      What you can do right now:

      Intentionally begin contributing to something or someone in your life.

      Check out these 20 small acts of kindness to do something bigger than just for yourself.

      6. Get out of your comfort zone to rewire your brain

      Chances are you are unhappy because of the routine. Simply put, you’re bored but at the same time, maybe you’re a little afraid of trying something new.

      Or, in a more extreme example, you might hate your job but you are too afraid to quit because you’re worried you may become broke with nothing better ahead for you.

        Whatever the case may be, bringing yourself out of your comfort zone as much as possible can result in a  much more satisfying life.

        Scientists have found evidence that if a person steps out of their comfort zone just enough, then they can increase endorphin’s in their brain, which creates increased feelings of happiness.[8]

        What you can do right now:

        • Create more experiences in your life that you can’t back out of. Think of a big goal in your life you’ve always wanted to accomplish, then create a situation that brings you out of your comfort zone that you’ll follow through with.
        • Travel more. Neuroscience has shown that new experiences can build new neuropathways in the brain.[9]When this occurs, it promotes mental health as a result. There is a joy that comes from traveling and whether you’re visiting a foreign country, a nearby city, or even a staycation to a new local restaurant, discovering and experiencing new things can do the trick.[10]

        7. Kick materialism in the face and invest in experiences

        I can’t remember the number of times I was excited to buy a new toy, game, or piece of technology for myself only to get bored of it not too long after. This goes to show material things usually only bring out a temporary amount of happiness at best. Happy experiences last as a happy memory forever.

        While owning material possessions can be nice, they can never be a part of you like great experiences can be a part of you. This is why you should invest more in experiences rather than things.[11]

        “Part of us believes the new car is better because it lasts longer. But, in fact, that’s the worst thing about the new car,” he said. “It will stay around to disappoint you, whereas a trip to Europe is over. It evaporates. It has the good sense to go away, and you are left with nothing but a wonderful memory.” — Dan Gilbert

        What you can do right now:

        Rather than spending your money on buying something a material possession that you’ve always wanted, try these options instead:

        • Invest in a class you have always wanted to take.
        • Book a trip to somewhere you have always wanted to visit.
        • Get tickets to a popular show that you might like.

        8. Meditate regularly

        Self-realization has been shown to have many benefits and this can be achieved by regularly practicing mindfulness meditation.

        Taking a moment to get yourself untangled from all the messy thoughts and emotions you experience can be just the thing you need to be happier. Meditation increases gray matter in the hippocampus, which is an area of the brain important for learning, memory and emotion. It also reduces gray matter in the amygdala, the area of the brain associated with stress and anxiety.

        These are just a few of the many benefits meditation has been shown to give you.

        What you can do right now:

        Download the no-nonsense Headspace meditation app. All you need is 10 minutes and a comfortable chair. If you find yourself thinking you don’t have 10 minutes, then let the truth of Tony Robbins’ words settle in:

        “If you don’t have 10 minutes, you don’t have a life.”

        9. Change your attitude to gratitude

        This is something that’s commonly said, but it comes from a place of truth.

        The Journal of Happiness published a study where the 219 men and women participants involved wrote three letters of gratitude over a three week period. The results showed that writing letters of gratitude increased participants’ happiness and life satisfaction while decreasing depressive symptoms.[12]

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        Your brain cannot simultaneously focus on positive and negative things at once. Because of this, practicing gratitude can help you shift your focus from being sad about the things you don’t have in your life to being glad for the things you do have.

        When you engage in the act of being thankful for something, production of dopamine and serotonin increases.[13] This activates the happiness center of the brain, which is similar to how antidepressants work; so, you could think of gratitude as a natural antidepressant.

        What you can do right now:

        • Start a habit of writing down three things you are grateful for each day.
        • Regularly write a thank you card to someone you appreciate or to someone who has done something recently for you.
        • Inject things you are thankful for in your daily conversations instead of focusing on negative topics.

        10. Create better habits

        One of the biggest difference between happy and unhappy people are the habits they have. Over 40% of your day isn’t spent on making active decisions but is a result of habit.

        The truth about why it’s so hard to break out of old routines is simply the fact that it is a routine. Human beings are creatures of habit. Charles Duhigg explains in his book The Power of Habit how the basic structure of habits consists of a cue (trigger), the routine, and the reward.

          For example, stress can be your cue to engage in your routine of smoking a cigarette, which rewards you with the surge of nicotine to relieve your stress. Duhigg teaches the key to turning bad habits into good ones is to figure out how to change the routine. Rather than smoking, maybe you can go for a nice walk or meditate to achieve the same stress relief.

          If your habits are not making you healthier and happier, that means you may be automatically spending almost half your day doing things that make you more unhappy.

          What you can do right now:

          Changing your habits is much easier said than done, which is why you also need to modify your environment as much as possible to increase your chances of success. After doing so, try and tackle the routines which will help you to replace the bad habits with good habits.

          Also take a look at this detailed guide to try to hack your habit loop and build lasting habits for a better self:

          How to Break a Habit and Hack the Habit Loop 

          11. Learn how to predict happiness more accurately

          There are plenty of things in life that aren’t as pleasant as you thought they would be.

          You may have always wanted the nice expensive car, but now that you have it, you’re constantly stressed out about any new scratches and annoyed at all the extra unexpected expenses involved with keeping it well maintained and in good condition.

          You may have always wanted to be married, but now that you are, you didn’t realize the immense amount of work it takes to build and maintain a loving relationship.

          Harvard psychology professor Dan Gilbert argues one of the reasons for our unhappiness is by wrongly predicting the types of things that will make us happy.[14]

          “If I wanted to know what a certain future would feel like to me, I would find someone who is already living that future. If I wonder what it’s like to become a lawyer or marry a busy executive or eat at a particular restaurant, my best bet is to find people who have actually done these things and see how happy they are. What we know from studies will increase the accuracy of your prediction, but nobody wants to do it.”

          Simply investing the time and energy to learning more about what you are getting yourself into can increase your chances of accurately placing yourself in happier situations.

          What you can do right now:

          Reach out to people that are living the lifestyle you want or possess something you want to have; get on a call with them, or take them out for coffee. Ask about their experiences, both good and bad, and observe if what they have makes them happier, and then decide if it is something you want as well.

          Speaking to a close friend who owns a new piece of technology that you want or is currently involved a career that you want to pursue is easy. Yet, if the person of interest is a celebrity or a highly respected individual, then getting in touch with them will be much harder. In this case, scour any public information such as blog posts, interviews and social media posts to get to know them and help you make a decision whether the life they are living is one you want to pursue.

          Recommended reading:

          Stumbling Upon Happiness by Dan Gilbert

          12. Treat yourself with compassion to boost your self-esteem

          Imagine sitting down in a cafe and overhearing a conversation between two girls at the next table.

          “…and you’ve gotten fatter as well. It’s terrible…”

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          “Don’t you feel horrible right now?”

          “With those large thighs and your horse’s hips?”

          Fortunately, this conversation was staged by the personal care company, Dove. But the conversation was one that actually happened, except it was with one’s self.

          The script for the actresses were written from actual self-dialogue from women who were documenting the thoughts that they had about themselves each time the thought came to mind.

          Dove ran this campaign to illustrate this point: if we wouldn’t talk to others in this negative manner, why would we talk to ourselves in this way?

          Here’s the video:

          People who practice self-compassion also have greater social connectedness, emotional intelligence, happiness, and overall life satisfaction. So the next time you are feeling low and start nitpicking at yourself, come to your own defense and give yourself a break.

          What you can do right now:

          Here are some ways you can practice self-compassion:

          • Treat yourself as you would your own child.
          • Practice non-judgmental mindfulness (i.e. meditation, yoga) to quiet your inner-critic.
          • Remind yourself of the fact that you are not alone.
          • Give yourself permission to be imperfect.
          • If you struggle with having self compassion and find yourself in need of help, consider hiring a supportive coach or therapist.

          13. Give yourself time to be sad

          Most of the time, people try to avoid negative emotions because they are afraid of the pain and grief they will experience or of the vulnerability it will require. But unless you let those tears come, you will never be able to let go of the emotions. They will stay stuck inside of you.

          It gets even worse when you try and numb your sadness with negative behaviors such as overmedicating, excessively drinking or distracting yourself by overworking. What happens when you numb your negative behaviors is that you are also numbing your positive behaviors.[15]

          Fully experiencing your emotions, whether they’re positive or negative, is important for your own well being.

          “But by throwing yourself into these emotions, by allowing yourself to dive in, all the way, over your head even, you experience them fully and completely. You know what pain is. You know what love is. You know what grief is. And only then can you say, “All right. I have experienced that emotion. I recognize that emotion. Now I need to detach from that emotion for a moment.” Morrie Schwartz, Tuesdays With Morrie

          What you can do right now:

          Get into a habit of identifying your emotions. For example, when you start to feel sad, simply tell yourself “This is sadness.” Once you begin calling your emotions by name, it helps you realize it is an emotion and doesn’t have to define who you are.

          This is the simple process that lets you ride the wave of emotion and let it pass without letting it take hold of you and controlling your behavior.

          The next time you start feeling sadness, let yourself feel it. Don’t let your fear find an excuse to avoid it. Just like a roller coaster becomes fun after the initial drop, let the discomfort of sadness come through you so you can go back to enjoying your life again.

          The important part of feeling your sadness is to make sure you don’t cross the fine line of dwelling on it and victimizing yourself. Let the feeling come, and when it wants to go, let it go.

          Recommended reading:

          Happiness marks the spot

          Unlike in fairytales, there is no such thing as happily ever after. Instead, it’s similar to there being a variety of scattered treasures buried in a huge field called life. You will need to dig a little to find each treasure as you walk through different points in your life.

          If you find yourself feeling unhappy about where you are, you don’t have to stay that way. You can in fact restart your life to be happy again:

          How to Start Over and Reboot Your Life When It Seems Too Late

          As you continue to go through the daily grind, make the choice to invest time and energy into using the methods outlined here to uplift your spirits. You’ll be happy you did.

          Featured photo credit: unsplash via unsplash.com

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          Reference

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