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11 Reasons to be Cheerful

11 Reasons to be Cheerful

    We tend to focus on our problems in life and to take for granted our blessings and achievements. It is natural that we think about the difficulties we face and the challenges we have to overcome but there is a real danger that when we do this we can become become weighed down with worry or negative feelings.  It is good to step back for a moment from our day to day cares and to list all the things that are going well in our life.  It will give us a positive lift and help to put our problems into perspective.  Here is one way to count your blessings.

    1. Life.  Start by giving yourself one point for being alive. It may sound silly but wait a moment.  Your life represents a tiny interlude between the vast times when you did not exist and when you will be dead.  You are in that tiny moment right now and you can do things to change your life so be thankful for that at least.

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    2. Health.  If you are healthy and do not suffer from any major diseases or afflictions mark up another point.  We take our health for granted and only realise how important it is when we become ill.  Most of us have some minor ailments but if you are reasonably healthy then you are much better off than people suffering from serious illnesses and you should be deeply thankful.

    3. Relationship. If you are in a stable relationship with another person then chalk up a point.  If you can honestly say that you love them and they love you then give yourself a bonus point.  Many people search for love without success so if you have found it then cherish it and count yourself lucky.

    4. Family. If you have children, brothers or sisters or your parents alive then add another point.  They may be frustrating and they will have their faults but they are your flesh and blood.  Whatever happens in life your family remains your family and if you have them around you then you should be thankful for that – just ask someone who has lost family members.

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    5. Work.  Give yourself a point if you are in work or full-time education.  Even if it is dull and unfulfilling at times you are still better off than the many people who are desperately seeking employment.

    6. Value. If you can honestly say that you are doing something that makes life better for other people and adds real value then give yourself a point.  This might involve your work, your volunteering, your parenting or some other aspect of your life.  Are you making the world a better place?  If not then this is an area to think about.

    7. Achievement. Can you look back on something that you are proud of?  Did you achieve something worthwhile?  This might be at work, in sport, with your family or something else.  If you can you point to something that people would admire then give yourself another point.

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    8. Future – 1. Do you have something good to look forward to?  This might be a holiday, a promotion, a wedding or just a trip to the cinema with your partner. If you have something good coming up then think about it, smile and add another point.

    9. Future – 2. Do you have a plan for your improvement and success?  This might include your career, your education, your finances and your relationships.  If you have a plan then add a point.  You are better off than most of the population.  People with plans generally do better than those who just muddle along.

    10. Financial security. Are you financially secure?  Are you living within your means?  Can you see a reasonably prosperous future?  If so you are much better placed than people who are burdened with excessive debts and who struggle to make ends meet.  You should get some satisfaction from that and you can add a point.

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    11. Friendship. Do you have one or more good friends who you can share your joys and problems with?  Is there someone whose company you enjoy and with whom you can have a laugh?  If so give yourself a final point.

    Add up your total. How many points did you get?  The maximum is 12.  Eight or over is a good score.  Now take a moment to express thanks for your success and good fortune.  You have a lot to be grateful for.

    Image: Pixietart

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    Paul Sloane

    Professional Keynote Speaker, Author, Innovation Expert

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    Last Updated on July 17, 2019

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    The Science of Setting Goals (And How It Affects Your Brain)

    What happens in our heads when we set goals?

    Apparently a lot more than you’d think.

    Goal setting isn’t quite so simple as deciding on the things you’d like to accomplish and working towards them.

    According to the research of psychologists, neurologists, and other scientists, setting a goal invests ourselves into the target as if we’d already accomplished it. That is, by setting something as a goal, however small or large, however near or far in the future, a part of our brain believes that desired outcome is an essential part of who we are – setting up the conditions that drive us to work towards the goals to fulfill the brain’s self-image.

    Apparently, the brain cannot distinguish between things we want and things we have. Neurologically, then, our brains treat the failure to achieve our goal the same way as it treats the loss of a valued possession. And up until the moment, the goal is achieved, we have failed to achieve it, setting up a constant tension that the brain seeks to resolve.

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    Ideally, this tension is resolved by driving us towards accomplishment. In many cases, though, the brain simply responds to the loss, causing us to feel fear, anxiety, even anguish, depending on the value of the as-yet-unattained goal.

    Love, Loss, Dopamine, and Our Dreams

    The brains functions are carried out by a stew of chemicals called neurotransmitters. You’ve probably heard of serotonin, which plays a key role in our emotional life – most of the effective anti-depressant medications on the market are serotonin reuptake inhibitors, meaning they regulate serotonin levels in the brain leading to more stable moods.

    Somewhat less well-known is another neurotransmitter, dopamine. Among other things, dopamine acts as a motivator, creating a sensation of pleasure when the brain is stimulated by achievement. Dopamine is also involved in maintaining attention – some forms of ADHD are linked to irregular responses to dopamine.[1]

    So dopamine plays a key role in keeping us focused on our goals and motivating us to attain them, rewarding our attention and achievement by elevating our mood. That is, we feel good when we work towards our goals.

    Dopamine is related to wanting – to desire. The attainment of the object of our desire releases dopamine into our brains and we feel good. Conversely, the frustration of our desires starves us of dopamine, causing anxiety and fear.

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    One of the greatest desires is romantic love – the long-lasting, “till death do us part” kind. It’s no surprise, then, that romantic love is sustained, at least in part, through the constant flow of dopamine released in the presence – real or imagined – of our true love. Loss of romantic love cuts off that supply of dopamine, which is why it feels like you’re dying – your brain responds by triggering all sorts of anxiety-related responses.

    Herein lies obsession, as we go to ever-increasing lengths in search of that dopamine reward. Stalking specialists warn against any kind of contact with a stalker, positive or negative, because any response at all triggers that reward mechanism. If you let the phone ring 50 times and finally pick up on the 51st ring to tell your stalker off, your stalker gets his or her reward, and learns that all s/he has to do is wait for the phone to ring 51 times.

    Romantic love isn’t the only kind of desire that can create this kind of dopamine addiction, though – as Captain Ahab (from Moby Dick) knew well, any suitably important goal can become an obsession once the mind has established ownership.

    The Neurology of Ownership

    Ownership turns out to be about a lot more than just legal rights. When we own something, we invest a part of ourselves into it – it becomes an extension of ourselves.

    In a famous experiment at Cornell University, researchers gave students school logo coffee mugs, and then offered to trade them chocolate bars for the mugs. Very few were willing to make the trade, no matter how much they professed to like chocolate. Big deal, right? Maybe they just really liked those mugs![2]

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    But when they reversed the experiment, handing out chocolate and then offering to trade mugs for the candy, they found that now, few students were all that interested in the mugs. Apparently the key thing about the mugs or the chocolate wasn’t whether students valued whatever they had in their possession, but simply that they had it in their possession.

    This phenomenon is called the “endowment effect”. In a nutshell, the endowment effect occurs when we take ownership of an object (or idea, or person); in becoming “ours” it becomes integrated with our sense of identity, making us reluctant to part with it (losing it is seen as a loss, which triggers that dopamine shut-off I discussed above).

    Interestingly, researchers have found that the endowment effect doesn’t require actual ownership or even possession to come into play. In fact, it’s enough to have a reasonable expectation of future possession for us to start thinking of something as a part of us – as jilted lovers, gambling losers, and 7-year olds denied a toy at the store have all experienced.

    The Upshot for Goal-Setters

    So what does all this mean for would-be achievers?

    On one hand, it’s a warning against setting unreasonable goals. The bigger the potential for positive growth a goal has, the more anxiety and stress your brain is going to create around it’s non-achievement.

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    It also suggests that the common wisdom to limit your goals to a small number of reasonable, attainable objectives is good advice. The more goals you have, the more ends your brain thinks it “owns” and therefore the more grief and fear the absence of those ends is going to cause you.

    On a more positive note, the fact that the brain rewards our attentiveness by releasing dopamine means that our brain is working with us to direct us to achievement. Paying attention to your goals feels good, encouraging us to spend more time doing it. This may be why outcome visualization — a favorite technique of self-help gurus involving imagining yourself having completed your objectives — has such a poor track record in clinical studies. It effectively tricks our brain into rewarding us for achieving our goals even though we haven’t done it yet!

    But ultimately, our brain wants us to achieve our goals, so that it’s a sense of who we are that can be fulfilled. And that’s pretty good news!

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    Featured photo credit: Alexa Williams via unsplash.com

    Reference

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