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How Can I Cultivate a Happy Life?

It’s not uncommon to move through life thinking, “I’ll be happy when…”. We think of happiness as a destination, a place we’ll arrive to when other areas of our lives fall into place. Fortunately and unfortunately, this is not the case. Whenever we hit whatever we initially think will make us happy, there’s another milestone we need to reach making happiness feel further and further away. There is no universal definition of happiness and there is no destination in which we can arrive to finally be happy. When we’re always running towards the next accomplishment, the next milestone, we forget to take a look at the present. Why are we waiting until we reach some elusive place to be happy? Why can’t we be happy now? While we can’t be happy all of the time, and shouldn’t expect to be, we can find moments of happiness in each day, week, month, etc. 

It’s necessary to ask ourselves how we define happiness. Since there isn’t a universal definition, we need to determine what the word or state of being means to us. I’m going to assume many of your definitions include feelings of joy, love, awe, and hope. Utilizing that general framework, we’ll identify ways to obtain more of these feelings in our daily lives. 

Many of us aren’t aware of the negative way we speak to ourselves. If someone was constantly saying negative things to you it would be very difficult to feel happy. It’s necessary to acknowledge we’re frequently the hardest on ourselves. Whether it’s criticizing our appearance, our work ethic, our relationships, or comparing ourselves to others, we end up in a constant stream of negativity caused by ourselves. When you identify a moment of negative self-talk, pause to ask yourself if what you’re saying is true. Do you have any evidence? Do you have evidence that contradicts the thought? Is the thought serving you? Would you speak that way to a friend or loved one? By consistently asking yourselves these questions, challenging your thoughts, you’ll begin to break down the negative thought pattern. 

Even on the days simply getting out of bed feels like a chore, it’s important to move our bodies. Our bodies are constantly sending messages to our brain which gives our bodies power over our moods. When we sit slouched over, we tell communicate a negative mood to our mind. When we sit up straight, we communicate a positive mood to our mind. Taking it a step further, when we go for a walk, relax our shoulders, smile, dance, jump around, etc. we send consistent signals of positivity to our mind. We can trick our mind into feeling one way or another. We get to choose the message we’re sending. 

Every so often it’s important to take inventory of the content we’re consuming. Whether it be the news, social media, conversations with others, podcasts, or books we are consistently consuming information. We have the ability to ensure what we’re consuming is positive. Make the conscious choice to seek out content that adds value to your life. Follow positive and uplifting people and ditch the accounts that make you feel negatively about yourself or others. We construct our environment. Make sure it’s a beautiful and positive place to live.

Sometimes the simple things make all the difference. Get outside every day for a walk. This may feel difficult since we’re seeing temperatures as low as 1 degree, however, a short walk (even if it’s just around the block) can completely shift a mood. Breathing in fresh air and experiencing nature, if only for a moment, is vital to each day. Another easy thing to do is call a friend. Loneliness is an epidemic within this pandemic with physical separation being necessary for our safety. Spending some time on the phone each week with a friend can maintain connectivity and decrease loneliness. The last two tidbits I’ll leave you with you likely already know. Getting a good night’s sleep and reducing screen time are requirements for cultivating a happy life. The great news is we have total control over what time we get in bed, what time we get up, and how much time we’re spending on our phones. Balance is hard, especially in quarantine. No one said achieving moments of happiness would be easy, but it’s definitely worth it. 

If you’ve found yourself struggling to remain positive or engage in activities that facilitate happiness, it may be useful to try counseling in Chicago. Contact Symmetry Counseling at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment with one of our very skilled therapists today!

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