Expert Q&A: Ways to Increase Your Overall Happiness
After Anna interviewed at several different companies and did not get hired, she made sure she didn't let the rejection get to her.
When Lisa discovered that her partner had been having an affair for months, she broke up with him and promised herself she would find an even better partner. But first she decided to understand how she ended up in this situation.
As soon as Todd and Karen learned their son had a rare and serious disease, they traveled to the best doctors and treatment centers even though their friends criticized them for adding stress to their lives by not using the local medical professionals.
Despite Katy's abusive childhood, she reacted to the bright side of life. After a few fits and starts, she found an excellent job and mate.
What are these people's secrets to managing life's stresses? They all found peace, and contentment. Can you will your way to happiness or is there a genetic disposition for the amount of happiness that a person can attain?
Certainly, as most parents know, personality differences in children show up early in life. Mental health professionals are also familiar with personality scales such as extroversion vs. introversion, optimism vs. pessimism, and attention vs. distraction. Our genetics do affect us, but there is still enough wiggle room for change.
Tips for Creating and Sustaining Happiness
1. Evaluate, objectify. In the first story about Anna and her job rejection, Anna brainstormed reasons why she should NOT have gotten the job. On her lists were items such as the Old Boy Network and not being as a good a fit due to her relative youth and lack of more specialized experience. Making the list prevented her from being too hard on herself. She discovered that there are probably lots of reasons that are outside her control as to why some candidates get selected or rejected. Later, she learned that at three of the jobs where she interviewed, the applicants who were hired either attended the same college as the interviewer or belonged to the same golf club. "It's actually uplifting to know it wasn't because of me," Anna said.
2. Soul-search, aim to learn. Lisa wanted to find a romantic partner, but she knew that she first had to undergo some serious self-examination. She sought psychological counseling and discovered that she had intense fears of abandonment ever since her father left the family and never returned. As a result, she clung to men, long after their expiration date. "I saw the warning signs, I just didn't want to pay attention to them," she said. Lisa's psychological journey was not easy, but she knew the emotional anguish was worth it.
3. Vow to be happy. The other proactive approach of both Anna and Lisa was an expectation of happiness. They each vowed to find a job or love. They easily could have become pessimistic or depressed and allowed their disappointment and hurt to prevent them from "picking up the pieces" and forging ahead in a productive way. Anna did more research about the companies she queried and discovered mutual interests in areas such as outdoor camping and home repair. At her next several interviews she made sure to mention these activities and landed a good job. Lisa learned that having a family was very important and not negotiable. She vowed to "get out there and kiss lots of frogs." After eighteen months, she found a good match.
4. Take control, take action. Todd and Karen were not content with consulting with the good, but not necessarily the best, doctors in their hometown. "Oh, Dr. Steve was a good guy and helped us through all our sore throats, but our child's illness was too important to leave to just good doctors. We wanted experts," Karen said. Luckily, the Internet is a terrific tool for locating experts and current research studies in medicine. In no time, Todd and Karen located the top diagnosticians and clinics in the world. They could easily have buried their heads in the sand or, as Todd said, "put our left foot in front of the other and just taken the easiest path." They both felt that even though there was no cure for their son's disease, they were at peace that they done their very best. "We looked down the road and wanted to make sure we could say to our son, 'We tried everything,'" Karen said. Taking charge limits depression and regret.
5. Fake it, appreciate it. Katy discovered by accident the value of two key skills for happiness. She looked at the sunnier side of life and developed an appreciation for everything good and beautiful. She said, "I made myself notice the flowers, birds, and sunshine. I was grateful that I was alive and well." Gratitude and appreciation are like candy to the brain. These moods signal the brain to activate dopamine and other hormones of satisfaction. In turn, these brain chemicals light up pleasurable memories, which then signal the brain to produce more of these chemicals, and so on.
Katy also found out that smiling and laughing and taking time to introduce herself to the people boosted her happiness. The brain does not exactly know the difference neurologically between a fake smile and a real one. Behavior can easily trick the brain into sparking its network of happiness connections. Soon, Katy discovered that taking the time to talk to the people who sold her coffee or office supplies made her feel uplifted. She smiled at strangers, and one day the man who returned her smile became her husband.
Smile, laugh, connect, take charge, assess, appreciate and get brave enough to learn. Do all these things and you just might find that you feel better.
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