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Why Do Parents Become Helicopter Parents

Why Do Parents Become Helicopter Parents

It began innocently enough with Suzy helping her daughter Jane with her 1st grade diorama. Her daughter began the diorama on her own, but Suzy began to see that it looked as though a 3 year old had done the work. She knew she needed to intervene or her daughter would not get a good grade on the project and would be hurt when she saw how good the other kid’s projects looked. Suzy knew that all the other parents would be helping their kids. She didn’t want her daughter’s project to look like a joke. Suzy did such a great job on her daughter’s diorama that she got an A+. What a relief, since she was certain the diorama that Jane had begun would have resulted in a failing grade.

Suzy then started helping Jane with other homework projects, essays, and even extra curricular efforts like debate and mock trial speeches. Jane earned high marks in school and all her teachers adored her. Unfortunately, a day came when Suzy was no longer able to help Jane with all of these school projects. Jane went off the college and found herself overwhelmed. Instead of making A’s, she was now barely pulling C grades. She was feeling stressed out, defeated, and depressed.

Suzy’s case is becoming more and more common.

Our culture of competition is making parents try even harder when it comes to parenting their kids, which can lead to helicopter parenting. Many parents believe they are using good parenting skills to the max. Unfortunately, maximizing good parenting skills can skew the skill and it is no longer beneficial. For example, a parent who helps their child with homework when the child is struggling and asking for help is far different from a parent who hovers over their child at the table each night as the child completes hours of homework under the strict guidance of their parent.

Helicopter parenting is taking a good parenting skill to the extreme, where it is no longer helpful or beneficial in the long run. Helicopter parents are taking over their kid’s lives to the detriment of their children. There is a rise in the prevalence of helicopter parenting and a subsequent rise of children who are truly struggling when they leave home to begin life as an adult. Over parenting is harming our kids in the long run.

Research has shown that there is a correlation between helicopter parenting and children who develop depression and anxiety. This research also showed that these young adults had poorer coping skills, less ability to think creatively on their own, and had difficulties in problem-solving.[1]

How Parents Become Helicopter Parents

The first reason that most parents become helicopter parents is because they want their children to be safe.  This form of helicopter parenting is often seen with the parent who is following their child all over the jungle gym even holding them down the slide out of fear that they will get hurt if they are left to play on their own.

Some fears are legitimate when it comes to safety and some are stretching the fear to far and a blanket of worry envelops not only the mom or dad, but subsequently the rest of the family. Allowing for small injuries on the jungle gym is ok and even helpful in the long run, as children learn to be more careful on their own.  Otherwise, children may end up with bigger injuries when they experience bigger physical challenges, such as a skate board park when parents aren’t there to prevent injuries and provide the words of caution.

A few injuries when they are younger and in safer environments (places intended for small children to play) will help them learn on their own that they need to protect themselves from harm. Children need to learn to protect themselves from harm, as they will not always have their parents there to protect them, especially as they get older.

They love their children and don’t want to see them fail.  Parents want their children to succeed in life, as they want them to feel that confidence of doing well in life.  They desire the best for their children and their abilities.  They don’t want their children to be harmed, and failures can be painful.  However, not allowing for small failures prevents them from learning how to cope with failure, which creates more problems for children in their future.

The parent’s ego gets in the way. Too many parents are identifying their own personhood with their child’s.  They see their child’s failures and successes as their own. Therefore, they want to help their child be a success, so they over-parent to the detriment of their child in the long term.  Parents must separate their identity from their child’s for the sake of their child’s future.

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The Fallout of Helicopter Parenting

When parents over-parent or engage in helicopter parenting they are hindering their child in the following ways:

Stifle Creativity

That homework project they were assigned was for them to brainstorm and creatively think about in order to construct the project of their own ideas. If parents give their kids the ideas and brainstorm the ideas for them, they are stealing the opportunities for their children to think creatively.

Instead, parents need to allow their children to think creatively in constructing their projects or assignments.

If they ask for help, a parent can help their child to help themselves. Asking open ended questions that can lead to the child producing creative thoughts is helpful. Children should be praised for their own thoughts, even if it is far different than what their parents would think or do.

Encouragement of the child to think for themselves and not minimize their intellectual capabilities by criticizing their thoughts in any way is paramount.  If their thoughts are unrealistic then parents can ask more open ended questions so that the child can realize they need to reel in the idea on their own and see the potential pitfalls along the way.

Children may surprise parents with their creativity and solutions to set backs along with way.

Prevent Development of Coping Skills

If Jane had earned a failing grade because of the diorama in 1st grade, she would have experienced a failure and learned how to handle those feelings.  She would have also learned that she earned her grade herself, which gives her more autonomy and power over her academic career very early in life.  Allowing for failures along the way, allows children to develop the skills for coping with those failures.  It also allows for them to react to the failures by trying things differently the next time or asking for help if needed (help, not the parent to take over the project).

Instead, parents need to allow their children to experience small failures along the way, so that they can develop healthy coping skills.

Parents need to refrain from rescuing their child from all of their small failures.  They need to allow them to fail on their own.  Parents will see that their child’s character will begin to develop. They will discover their work ethic along the way and they will figure out how to best handle failures on their own.

If parents rescue their kids from all the small failures, then what will happen when they have a huge failure (like dropping out of college or getting fired from their first job) and there is nothing a parent can do to solve this problem or prevent the failure once it happens?  That child, or young adult, can get seriously depressed or worse, since they don’t have adequate coping skills developed earlier in life.

Parents must allow for their children to fail.  A parent can help them cope with the failure in a healthy manner.  Children will subsequently learn to do things differently to have a different or better outcome next time round.

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In developing good coping skills, parents should be there to provide support. This means parents are there to listen to their child when they experience a failure, hard ship, or are simply dealing with a difficult situation.

A good way of coping with these things is to verbally talk things through and to use “I feel” statements.  Parents can help a child develop coping skills by encouraging their child to express their feeling about the situation at hand using “I feel” statements.  Utilizing this method helps children take responsibility for their role in the situation rather than pointing fingers at others and simply placing blaming on others.

Helping children open up and talk is one of the key ways to help them learn to cope with a situation.  They can also problem solve their issue while coping with the difficulties they are feeling at the same time, as they can go hand in hand.

It can be hard for a parent to see their child experience sadness, anger, and disappointment.  However, if they can learn how to cope with these feelings earlier in life they will be better equipped to handle even bigger issues as adults, which will inevitably come their way.

Take Away Chances to Build Self-Confidence

If a child’s grades are being earned by projects completed entirely or even partially by their parents, the child can’t feel confidence in their own abilities.  Kids are smart.  They know when they have or have not earned the grade or marks based on their own abilities.

If their parents are helping so much along the way, that child can feel that their parent is helping them because perhaps they are not capable of earning decent or acceptable grades. Their parents stepping in to help all the time undermines the confidence they may have in their own abilities.  If a parent is continually overstepping the child’s ideas and work for a project then that child will learn that their work is subpar and thus their confidence slips away.

Instead, parents need to encourage children in their own abilities and capabilities.

This means that parents need to allow their child to do projects on their own so that the child can earn the grade themselves so that they have confidence in their abilities.

When they do things on their own, it is empowering.  Even if the grade is not what a parent may desire, it’s more important that children are confident and able to do tasks on their own.  Parents can’t hold their child’s hand through adulthood and help with the projects that they will undertake on the job, so parents must allow them to experience doing things without help early in life.

Allowing for independence in the completion of their work will help them become confident and competent at the same time.

Inhibit Decision Making Practice

When a parent decides everything for their child from their clothing, to their food, to which schools to apply to study at, they are taking away that decision making power from their child.  If the child has not experienced the necessity of making everyday decisions, then they will be ill equipped to enter adulthood.

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Adults needs to be able to make good choices and decisions. If a child hasn’t been allowed choices or decisions, they haven’t experienced the success or failure of their own personal decisions.

Instead, parents need to help guide and direct their children on big life decisions but also allow them to make smaller choices and decisions along the way.

It is empowering for a child to make personal decisions over their life, but it can also be scary. That’s why parents must start small and grow the decision making abilities as their child matures and shows good judgement. A good parent isn’t going to allow their 5 year old to get a tattoo, because they want it and made that decision for themselves, as this is far too important and permanent decision. However, it is empowering at age 5 to allow the child to pick out their own clothing or to select gifts for their siblings for holidays.

Parents need to allow their children to begin to make age appropriate decisions at a young age, that way when they become adults they have made enough good and bad decisions along the way that they know the consequences. They also will develop personal preferences and opinions. These are all empowering things to have as a young adult.

Obscure the Consequences of Their Own Behavior

If a parent is continually bailing out their child from bad situations and not allowing consequences to occur, then the child will not develop an understanding for real consequences.

For example, if a child is continually late for school and they walk themselves to school, yet their parent calls the principal and takes the blame, thereby getting the child out of detention, then the child has not learned that being late for school leads to detentions. They learned that their parent can bail them out and get them out of trouble. This can lead to higher risk behavior because the child believes their parent can rescue them from consequences.

Instead, parents need to allow their child to take responsibility for the actions and suffer the consequences.

Will it be hard for a parent to see their child suspended or kicked out of an activity because of their actions? Of course. But these are all learning experiences. The goal is for a child to understand that their behavior affects themselves and others. Consequences are essential to this learning process. If a parent always prevents the consequence then the child does not learn the lesson. This can lead to worse behavior and worse consequences that a parent may not be able to help their child with in the future (such as jail time).

Parents who allow their children to learn from their consequences are being good parents, even if those consequences are difficult on the child and parent.

Hinder Independent Problem Solving Skills

Problem solving is an essential life skill in order to become a competent adult. If a parent is always solving their child’s problems that child doesn’t learn how to think of solutions on their own and carry out these solutions. If the parent is problem solving for their child always because they are trying to make their child’s life easier, they are doing a huge disservice to this child.

How will they know what to do when their flight is cancelled someday in the future, or what to do about their flat tire when they are stranded on the side of the highway? They can call their parent for advice, but what if that parent isn’t available? Their ability to survive in the real world is greatly diminished when parents problem solve their issues all throughout childhood.

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Instead, children need to experience problem solving from early on in life to learn how to get out of tough situations.  Parents can guide their children through appropriate questioning to get their child started in the right direction.

For example, if a child cannot find their toy anywhere and they go to Mom to find it, then what is the best response from Mom? Is it to go and look for the toy? Or is it better for Mom to ask the child where they last had the toy and suggest that they take some action on their own?  The later is more helpful, as it empowers the child to think about where to begin looking for the toy and they do it on their own.  They will find the toy and thus solve this problem with little to no help at all.

That is goal of parenting, to help our children develop skills by which they can solve their own problems as they arise in life.  If they feel that their parents will solve their problems, then they will become dependent on their parents for this life skill that is utterly essential for survival in the real world.

Parents must help their children problem solve their own issues early in life, with some guidance and directed questions, but allowing the child to follow through with the solution on their own. Doing so will empower their child to eventually become independent problem solvers in the future.

Helicopter Parenting Turns Children into Sheep

The end result of parents who helicopter parent their children is young adults who don’t know how to be human on their own, they are merely sheep and the parents are the shepherds.

Children who grow up with helicopter parents don’t have the skills needed to make life decisions, to cope when things go bad, and they don’t understand the consequences of bad decisions and behavior. Their parents have been hovering over them for years, making every decision, completing every project, and controlling every behavior to the point that the child doesn’t have an identity that is separated from their parent and likewise for the parent.

Parents whose ego or identity is tied to their child will make decisions on the basis of themselves, rather than allowing for the child to have autonomy (with some parental guidance and direction along the way). Parents must realize that independence, and to experience failure, are essential to creating competent and successful adults. If children never experience failure or the ability  to even make their own decisions during childhood, they won’t be able do so in adulthood.

Parents need to allow for their children to do the things that they are able to do, to try to do the things they may be able to do, and to allow for failure and consequences along the way in order to learn from these things. Doing so will help children become autonomous, confident, and competent young adults ready to take on the world, not sheep who enter adulthood and the real world without their shepherd.

Featured photo credit: Helicopter Parents via bing.com

Reference

More by this author

Dr. Magdalena Battles

Doctor of Psychology

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Last Updated on September 12, 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.

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. 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 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. For example, 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.”[1] 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.[2]

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.

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    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.[3]

    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.[4] 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:

    • 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 great and give you the much needed boost in your mood.[5]

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    “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.[6]

      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.[7]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.[8]

      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.[9]

      “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.[10]

      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.

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      When you engage in the act of being thankful for something, production of dopamine and serotonin increases.[11] 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.

        Recommended reading:

        The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg

        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.[12]

        “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 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…”

        Advertising

        “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.[13]

        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.

          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

          Reference

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