This is a guest post by Michelle Agner.
The pursuit of happiness.
We’re all familiar with that phrase. But in the growing field of positive psychology, experts like Sonja Lyubomirsky are recommending we instead focus on the “creation” or “construction” of happiness, since research shows that experiencing happiness is entirely up to us.
There are a number of ways to define happiness, but I like Aristotle’s version the best. He described happiness as “eudaimonia” which translates to “human flourishing.”
So with the hope of flourishing, I began looking for new ways I could create more happiness in my life.
And developed three new habits in the process.
Funny thing, there’s a difference between “knowing” that something will work and actually putting it into action.
So while I’d been aware of the power of gratitude for a while, I hadn’t actually done anything about it.
One recommended approach of keeping a gratitude journal didn’t appeal, so instead I added my daily gratitude list to the nightly dinner conversation.
Surprisingly, my family loved it. By the third day, they were instigating the topic, not me. Now, not only do I experience increased happiness from expressing my gratitude, but I get to hear similar perspectives from those I love most.
Now I catch myself throughout the day noticing the things I’ll share that night. A sunny sky with fluffy clouds, a cool new keyboard at work, a thoughtful email from a friend. Simply noticing these things has increased my happiness.
I recently pointed out to my 10 year-old daughter that most compliments are invisible to her.
At first she objected, but I had several examples ready to share, and she eventually realized she actually does overlook them.
But I was shocked when she said I do the same. Seems she had examples to share, too. And she was right! Not only was I guilty of not noticing compliments, but I would often side-step them.
We realized that compliments often roll off our shoulders. Whereas criticism seeps deep into our bones. But we weren’t quite sure how to balance this propensity of ours.
So we made a pact to begin noticing compliments, and to outright acknowledge them when they are delivered. We’re not allowed to shrug them off, nor respond with a humble, “Oh, it’s not that impressive, you could do it, too.”
Instead, we respond with a hearty “Thank you for the compliment!” Which is much more fun.
[The first time I did this to my boss, he was a little startled.]
Two weeks later, and we’re still having fun with it. But more importantly, we have an increased awareness of the positive comments and interactions that occur throughout our day.
And that makes me happy.
Eliminate Negative Self-Talk
Yes, this one is common sense. I’ve read many tips about avoiding negative self-talk over the years, thinking “everyone knows that.”
But again, “knowing” is different than doing.
And I didn’t realize how often I did it.
“What an idiot! I can’t believe I left the air conditioning on while we were gone all day.”
“I’m so stupid! This payment was due yesterday.”
“Such a dummy! I forgot to call about rescheduling that dentist appointment.”
When this was kindly pointed out to me as negative self-talk, I stammered back at my husband.
He was right. I wouldn’t speak to anyone else like that! I certainly wouldn’t treat him or my daughter that way. Why would I do it to me?
So while I still catch myself from time to time, I’ve agreed to reframe the statement:
“When leaving the house this morning, I remembered 9 out of 10 items. Not bad.”
“Wow! It’s been over a year that I’ve had a late payment on ANYTHING.”
“First time in eight years I’ve flaked on that dentist! Bet he wishes he had more patients like me.”
And then we laugh.
Which makes me happy.
Don’t look now, but I think I’m flourishing.
What habits do you practice to create more happiness?
About the Author
Michelle Agner is a career blogger who has had a meandering path through a variety of jobs good and bad. She recently launched Careertopia, where she helps people find, grow, and excel in a career they actually like. You can connect with Michelle on Twitter or Facebook.