Eight Steps towards a more satisfying life
Do you want to lift your level of happiness? Here are some practical suggestions from University of California Psychologist Sonja Lyubomirsky. These are not magical answers, but they do help.
1. Count your blessings. One way to do this is to keep a “gratitude journal”. Write down things you are thankful for every day (you watch a nice sunset, a child’s first steps). You can do it daily or weekly. Keep it fresh by varying your entries as much as possible.
2. Practise acts of kindness. These should be both random (let that harried mum go ahead of you in the checkout line) and planned (bring Sunday tea to an elderly neighbour). Being kind to others, whether friends or strangers, triggers a cascade of positive effects. It makes you feel generous and capable. It gives you a greater sense of connection with others. It wins you smiles, approval and reciprocated kindness. It helps build empathy, one of the resilience building skills we saw on page 5.
3. Savour life’s joys. Pay close attention to momentary pleasures and wonders. Focus on the sweetness of a ripe strawberry or the warmth of the sun when you step out from the shade. Some psychologists suggest taking “mental photographs” of pleasurable moments to think about in less happy times.
4. Thank a mentor. If there’s someone whom you owe a debt of gratitude to for guiding you at one of life’s crossroads, express your appreciation. Do it in detail and, if possible, in person.
5. Learn to forgive. Letting go of anger and resentment allows you move on. This also can involve letting go of anger towards yourself for mistakes in the past.
6. Invest time and energy in friends and family. Where you live, how much money you make, your job title and even your health have surprisingly small effects on your satisfaction with life. The biggest factor appears to be strong personal relationships.
7. Take care of your body. Getting plenty of sleep, eating well, exercising, stretching, smiling and laughing can all enhance your mood in the short term. Practiced regularly, they can help make your daily life more satisfying. Don’t misuse your body with chemicals; alcohol, nicotine or caffeine.
8. Develop strategies for coping with stress and hardships. There are no avoiding hard times. Have a plan for emergencies. Religious faith has been shown to help people cope, but so do the secular beliefs enshrined in sayings like, “This too shall pass” and “One day at a time.” The important thing is that you have to believe the saying.