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Dismissing Sadness Will End up Making You Sadder

Dismissing Sadness Will End up Making You Sadder

No one wants to be unhappy. We can mostly accept this as an universal truth. We often actively seek to avoid unhappiness even though it does come for all of us: breakups, school failings, disappointments in personal relationships, frustrations at work.

In the last 5-10 years especially, there’s been an increasing amount of discussion about happiness, the importance of happiness, how to seek happiness, where to locate happiness, and anything else you can think of. The self-help industry is massive — about $11 billion in the U.S. alone.[1] When Disney modernized their theme parks a few years ago, they even called the project “reinventing happiness.”[2] It’s on many minds, and you can find the topic in dozens of TED Talks.

This approach is problematic.

As writer Emily Esfahani Smith has pointed out in a TED Talk, the focus should be less on happiness and more on finding some degree of meaning in your life. Meaning is a mix of purpose and behaviors with intent; it’s akin to finding your passion and yourself.

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One of the problems with this whole discussion is the interplay between sadness and happiness. In a world without sadness, there can’t be happiness either. It’s just a straight line of emotion. How would you even know you’re happy if you’ve never experienced being sad?

Happiness is relative. Think about it in terms of peaks:

    Why is this a peak? Only because of a difference in height between this and everything around. Flat ground isn’t a peak, correct?

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    Happiness and sadness work the same way. Without one, the other can’t be defined.

    When you avoid sadness, then, you reduce happiness in your life too. Life is ultimately about experiencing different aspects and locations. Avoiding sadness often means avoiding experiences. As you avoid sadness, you paradoxically also avoid happiness — and you drown your thinking in things that may not actually happen.

    A better approach is to think about life this way…

      Perfection is essentially unattainable, as is any form of “truly perfect happiness.”

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      This entire concept is called “The Progress Principle“. Celebrating small wins helps you create your own system of instant gratification. Your brain needs to feel happy. And it needs to feel happy often. By looking at life as a journey instead of a short-term goal, you start to see the bigger picture and see the ups and downs as part of the progress.

      Ups and downs are part of the journey

      No one has a perfect life. Everyone has their own challenges and problems.

      When you feel negative, you’re focusing on the current level while the peak level is yet to come. You need to keep your sights on the extended curve.

      Monitor your emotions and rack up small wins along the way

      When you reach a disappointment in life, it’s likely you only see it as a big fluctuation. But in the long-run, it’s a small dip on an upward-trending pathway.

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      Be aware of your everyday emotions, you will realize that you’re happier on some days and sadder on others. A bad day happens only occasionally. Instead of focusing on the unpleasant moment right now, flash back your memory to when you feel happier. This memory keeps you going during your down times.

      Getting started with the Progress Principle

      You can start by tracking your emotions. This will increase self-awareness. Find out more about how to do it here: The Magic of Marking down Your Mood Every Day

      You can also write down your achievements every day, or do a “3-1” model where you write down 3 positive things and 1 constructively negative thing. At the end of a week, you have 21 positives and 7 things to work on. It gives you a good baseline for next week’s progress.

      If you want to stay motivated despite occasional down times, read How to Stay Motivated Even Though You Can’t See Yourself Moving Forward

      Featured photo credit: Alphacolor 13 on Unsplash via decaf.kouhi.me

      Reference

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      Brian Lee

      Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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      Last Updated on July 10, 2020

      How to Live Your Best Life Starting Today

      How to Live Your Best Life Starting Today

      As human beings, one of our deepest-rooted desires is to have a meaningful and happy existence. You’ve probably heard of the saying, “Live your best life.” It’s good advice.

      We all want to feel connected to both ourselves and others. We want to feel that we’re part of something important and that we’re making a difference in the world.

      We want to look back at our lives and our achievements and be proud. In short, we want what the saying says: to live our best lives.

      But what does it really mean to live your best life?

      You are a unique individual, so living your best life is exclusive to you. Your best life will reflect your true values. It will be made up of what makes you happy and will be colored by what making a difference means to you.

      What Stops You From Living Your Best Life?

      While living your best life is all about you, what other people think can have an impact on your quest to live your best life.

      Social media, for example, puts us under a lot of pressure. There are specific expectations of what “happy” looks like, and we’re under pressure to conform to what society expects.

      For example, we are pressured to look a certain way, wear the “right” clothes, have exciting adventures with eye-catching friends, eat ethical and healthy food, and do charity work.

      These are only a few of society’s expectations. It’s a long list.

      Social media claims to connect us, but often it can do the opposite.

      We can spend so much time worrying about what other people are doing, trying to live the life that society expects of us, that it can be easy to lose track of what makes us happy and what our best life actually looks like.

      Start the Journey

      What does it look like to live your best life? The following are some practical tips and tools to move from living your current life to living your best life.

      1. Be the Best Version of Yourself

      To live your best life, you must be the best version of yourself. Don’t try to be something or someone else. Don’t try to be what other people want you to be.

      Focus on who you want to be. Play to your strengths and be proud of what makes you different. You are brilliant.

      Gretchen Rubin, in her book Happiness Project, created her own commandments. The first one was “Be Gretchen.” This gave her permission to follow her gut feeling and make up her own rules.

      For example, she stopped forcing herself to enjoy parties, cocktails, and fashion just because that’s what she thought society expected.

      So, inspired by Gretchen, create your own commandment: “Be more YOU,” and remind yourself of this every day, unapologetically.

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      2. Observe Yourself

      To work out what the best you looks like, you must get to know yourself better. It’s your best life after all – not anyone else’s.

      Start to notice how you respond to various situations. What are your habits? What makes you happy? What frustrates you? How do you behave under pressure? What gives you energy? What drains you?

      Spend a week simply noticing. Write your observations down so you remember.

      3. Identify Your Bad Habits

      As part of your observations, start to notice your bad habits. Consider the things that don’t ultimately make you feel good.

      Does scrolling mindlessly through Instagram make you happy? For 5 minutes, perhaps, but for longer?

      That last glass of wine was delicious, but do you pay the price later?

      That chocolate was enjoyable at the moment, but now that the sugar high is over, are you feeling regretful?

      Observe yourself first. Then, start to deliberately do more of the things that make you happy and give you energy.

      At the same time, work on reducing then eliminating the habits that squander your time, drain your energy, and ultimately don’t make you happy.

      Need help conquering your bad habits? Read How to Break Bad Habits Once and For All.

      4. Set Intentions

      After having thought about what makes you happy and what drains your energy, focus on what living the best life looks like for you.

      One of the keys to this is being intentional about it. When you deliberately set intentions, you are more likely to act with purpose and drive.

      Setting intentions is different from setting goals. Goals are your list of things you want to achieve. You can set them daily, monthly, yearly, or a combination.

      A common practice is to define goals and write them down. This makes them more tangible and makes you more accountable, therefore, making the goals more likely to happen.

      The subtle yet important difference between goals and intentions is that when setting intentions, you decide what kind of positive feelings and emotions you are seeking.

      For example, “This week, my intention is to approach my admin tasks with gusto in order to complete them more quickly.”

      Intentions can be more motivating than goals because if you don’t achieve your goal, it can feel like a failure and can ultimately hold you back.

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      If you don’t achieve your intention to approach something in a specific way, you can more easily regroup and have another try.

      Write down your intentions every month, week, or day, using whichever time frame works best for you.

      For example, “I intend to enjoy going swimming three times this week” or “I intend to assertively build my network in my local area this month.”

      Setting intentions gives you something to focus on, and it also helps to manage the feeling of being overwhelmed that often happens when we set ourselves goals.

      5. Visualize Living Your Best Life

      Visualization can help you to cement your intentions. It involves visualizing how it would feel to live your best life once you achieve it.

      It can help you to further establish what you want and allow you to settle into a positive mindset.

      To visualize, first choose your focus. Choose a specific intention and how you will feel once it is accomplished. Then, take the time to daydream and allow your imagination to wander.

      For example, if your intention is going swimming three times a week, imagine what you will look and feel like:

      • What will you wear?
      • How do you get there?
      • What time of day do you go?
      • How do you feel when you’re in the water?
      • How do you feel afterward?

      Ask yourself these little questions and allow yourself to feel the same feelings you would feel if you were currently fulfilling your intention.

      10 Ways to Live Your Best Life

      Now that you’ve decided and visualized what your best life looks like, let’s look at some more practical steps you can take to achieve it.

      1. Focus

      Whatever you do, focus. If you swim, swim. If you study, study. Multitasking is a myth. It’s not possible to do more than one thing at a time well. Focused work is the least tiresome and the most productive type of work.

      Michael LeBouf, the author of The Millionaire in You, said,

      “Winners focus, losers spray.”

      2. Take Responsibility for Taking Action

      Taking action can feel scary. We fear failure, but we can also fear success. It can be easy to feel too busy to achieve your intentions.

      However, you have the choice to take action and live your best life or stay the same. It’s up to you, so take responsibility to take action.

      3. Live in the Present

      Every day is a new opportunity to live your best life. We so often get stuck because we put things off.

      We can think, “When I’ve lost 10 lbs I’ll go swimming,” or “When I feel more confident I’ll look for a new job,” or “When I get my new running shoes I’ll start running.”

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      How about starting from where you are? How about using what you already have?

      We often put off taking action until we have the newest phone/camera/game/course/book/shoes as if they are the keys to happiness. In the process, we forget about what we already have.

      Grab the camera that you have, put on your old running shoes. Go and do something interesting today with what you’ve got. Fancier gadgets, better clothes, or a slimmer body won’t make you better.

      Action will.

      4. Declutter

      This applies to the environment you live in as well as the people you spend time with. Use Marie Kondo’s decluttering method of asking, “Does it bring you joy?”[1]

      If your answer is yes, you keep the item. If you hesitate or say no, you donate it or throw it out. Simple.

      This also applies to people. If there are people in your life that make you feel bad, drain your energy, and don’t bring you joy, let go of them.

      Instead, spend time with the people and activities that give you energy and make you feel good.

      5. Relish the Simple Things

      When we’re busy, we can forget to appreciate what we have. Take time to focus on the simple things. Even when you’re feeling low, there’s always something to be grateful for.

      In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.[2] Be deliberate in being grateful for what you do have, rather than resentful of what you don’t.

      6. Journaling

      Journaling

      is simply writing your thoughts down.

      According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, writing your thoughts and feelings down on paper not only helps you get your thoughts in order, but it can also help ease symptoms of depression and manage stress and anxiety.[3]

      In the chaos of life, it is easy to overthink, feel anxious, or not appreciate what you do have. Journaling can help you manage your thoughts and feelings and productively cope with life.

      Be curious and keep learning. Ask more questions and keep pushing yourself to step outside of your comfort zone and learn.

      What are you interested in or curious about? Perhaps it’s learning more about where you live, or reading up on a particular topic? Maybe it’s traveling to a new town or country?

      According to Dan Pink’s research, learning is a key motivator.[4] Whether you feel like you’ve gotten stuck in a boring routine or you’re stressed by the tasks of daily life, learning something new is a way to step outside yourself and your comfort zone.

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      Create a bucket list of all the things you’d like to do and learn and the places you’d like to go to, and start ticking them off.

      7. Make Someone’s Day

      Being kind to others makes them feel good, and it also releases chemicals in your body that make you feel good. Think about a time you gave someone a gift that they loved. How did you feel?

      You don’t have to start giving people gifts to make someone’s day. Think about small, thoughtful gestures: a genuine compliment, opening the door, offering to help someone.

      All these things can make a big difference in someone’s day.

      8. Look After Your Body

      Eat what nourishes you, including plenty of vegetables and fruit and food that’s natural and unprocessed. Drink plenty of water.

      Exercise because you like it, not because you’re supposed to go to the gym.

      Reject the idea that you have to push yourself really hard at exercise, and instead try out a variety of things – for example, walking the dog, gardening, yoga, swimming, or dancing.

      Find what you enjoy. When you enjoy something, you’ll be motivated to do it more.

      Get good rest! We’re all different in terms of the amount of sleep that we need. However, most adults need between 7 and 9 hours of sleep.

      If you’re not getting that much, then check out healthy sleep tips from the Sleep Foundation.[5]

      More tips for staying healthy: Powerful Daily Routine Examples for a Healthy and High-Achieving You.

      9. Manage Your Inner Critic

      Most people have an inner critic that tells them they are not good enough, that they’re a fraud, and that they are going to be found out.

      This happens especially when we step out of our comfort zone and change things. If you are living your best life, your inner critic likes to jeopardize that.

      The next time it appears, acknowledge what’s happening and call it out. Whatever it is telling you, list all the reasons it’s wrong.

      10. Be Prepared to Change the Plan

      You may have set intentions to live your best life. However, life is not linear, nor does it work in lists. You must expect to be flexible and change the plan as life throws things at you.

      The end game remains the same: to live your best life. It’s just the route to get there that will inevitably change.

      Conclusion

      Live each day like it counts, and remember, it’s your choice. Your best life is unique to you. Don’t compare yourself to others – focus on living your best life, and enjoy the learning, exploration, and experiences along the way.

      More Tips on How You Can Live Your Best Life

      Featured photo credit: Juliana Malta via unsplash.com

      Reference

      [1] Kon Mari: Tidy your space, transform your life
      [2] Harvard Health Publishing: In Praise of Gratitude
      [3] University of Rochester Medical Center: Journaling for Mental Health
      [4] Daniel H. Pink: Dan Pink on Motivation
      [5] Sleep Foundation: Healthy Sleep Tips

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