There are lots of gurus out there who offer tips on “how to be happy”, with most of them stressing the importance of finding your “one true passion”, or if you prefer the model espoused by Jack Palance in “City Slickers” to Billy Crystal, looking for your “one thing”. However, there are other gurus who suggest aiming not for the moon, but for the little incremental steps you can take each day as you go about your daily routine. An article on Success Magazine’s site follows this latter technique, and looks at different ways to try and improve your state of mind in the short-term. My reaction is below, but first, let’s start with some excerpts.
Gregg Steinberg, author of the best-selling self-help book Full Throttle says, “Happiness in everyday life is all about mastering our emotions. You can be miserable even when you are successful, and you can be happy even if you are not successful. Your emotional mastery is key to your happiness.”
Melanie Greenberg, a licensed clinical and health psychologist who has a Psychology Today blog called “The Mindful Self-Express,” believes that writing a gratitude diary is one of the “ingredients of a healthy, balanced life.”…Close your eyes and focus on the feelings of gratitude that these things bring you. Really breathe and absorb the feeling of being helped and supported.
Gretchen Rubin had an epiphany one day on a cross-town bus when she found herself asking, “What do I want from life, anyway?” The result is both a top-selling memoir and a popular blog titled The Happiness Project, where she writes about the tools and techniques necessary to achieve the ideal state of bliss. For one thing, she has started compiling a list of the “bare minimum” things we should do on a daily basis in order to be happy and healthy.
You can read the full set of tips via Boost Your Mood: 23 Ways to Up Your Love of Life | SUCCESS Magazine (link expired).
I’m a bit agnostic about the wording of the first excerpt about mastering your emotions. I think it is more about mastering your thinking process, more in line with traditional behaviour therapy techniques. In other words, finding alternate ways to interpret things and thus having that guide your emotions rather than trying to “master your emotions”. If, for example, your reaction to being “cheated on” is to get really angry, that’s not necessarily an emotion you need to master. It’s actually appropriate if your line of thinking was that it is the most personal of injuries from a trusted intimate partner. On the other hand, if you get really angry if someone gives you flowers, that’s an emotion that needs to be mastered cuz there’s an inappropriate reaction going on. In the first instance, though, most behaviour therapists would look at why the cheating is making you “so” angry that you can’t function or that you want to hurt the person in return. Is it because you have other buttons that are being pushed? Is it a violation of your core principles? Are you angry at yourself for feeling “duped”? Only by understanding those logic chains of thought will you be able to change the way your body interprets them and reacts to them.
The second excerpt, the gratitude journal, is an interesting way to do something that most spiritual advisors would simply list as “count your blessings”. It is something that has been on my mind of late, as I attempt my spiritual journey this year. I am not a great believer in the power of “prayer” per se, but I like the idea of saying “grace” before meals more. Probably in a completely non-denominational way, and not as a blessing of the food, but of an opportunity to just take a moment to reflect on your, well, for lack of a better word, blessings. Is “gratitudes” a proper word, i.e. things you are grateful for? 🙂
The final excerpt, on day-to-day increments, resonates pretty strongly with me as it is in many ways a key part of my goal-setting overall. Living a conscious life, mindful of our daily choices, and daily habits. And recognizing that little steps on some things you feel are important is just as empowering as achieving big huge goals too. I’ll have to check out her other offerings on the web.