Everyone wants to be happy, especially around the holidays. While the holiday season can be a time of good food and good times with family and friends, for many, it’s a time of increased financial burdens, unwanted guests, and increased stress overall. Luckily, being a happier person is largely within our control. According to Psychology Today, approximately 40% of our happiness comes from perspective. Since happiness is relative to perspective, there are ways you can change your behaviors in order to see the glass as half full instead of half empty. Here is what is known about the practices of generally happy folks:
Practice Curbing Gossip & Negative Chatter
Gossip almost never has a good outcome. Usually, ill-willed statements about others are rooted from some form of jealousy or insecurity. Talking negatively about someone else may seem like it could make you feel better, but in reality, it does the opposite. Ultimately, you end up internalizing your own bad mojo. Try this. If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. It is as true for adults as it is for children. If you have a problem with someone, try to work it out in a constructive way with that person directly, not behind their back. Blowing negative steam basically only puts more negative mojo out there...it actually solves nothing. As far as conversation in general, instead, try to think of something you are happy about or proud of and talk about that. Happy people are always lifting others up or talking about their own dreams and passions. Their positive energy often emerges from within and can be seen easily from the outside. It’s genuine.
Practice Letting Go of Self-Comparison
Comparing yourself to others will almost always result in negative feelings. As Theodore Roosevelt said “Comparing yourself to others is the thief of joy”. Everyone comes from a different background, has different life experiences, looks different, and is presently enduring a different set of circumstances. Comparing yourself to others is not a measure of success, but is often a measure of your own insecurities, and the practice of continual self-comparison is a way to continue to cultivate those insecurities.
Try this. Think of your most proud accomplishments. The only person you should compare yourself to is your past self. Think of all the things you have accomplished instead of all the things your friends have accomplished. Be grateful for how far you have come and your many endeavors. Celebrate and honor your own success in accomplishing milestones, no matter how great or small, towards your long term goals. When it comes to others, take pleasure in their success and celebrate their successes with them.
Practice Letting Go of Complaints
When you’re unhappy, it seems that nothing can go your way and you want everyone to know it. Whether you complain about traffic, your in-laws, being sick, or your terrible job… it’s always something. It’s a slippery path to go down once you get used to complaining a lot. Unfortunately, complaining does not bring you any closer to a solution for what ails you, but creates a way of being that perpetuates constant negativity. As Buddha said, as we speak, so we become.
Try this. Everyone has something they could complain about. The choice is yours. Once you make the decision to complain less, you will find your happiness increasing because you are cultivating something positive every time you speak- it’s a practice. Try setting some stipulations that you only verbally express a complaint if it is followed directly by a suggestion to mediate the situation. For example, “My coworker was in a bad mood today ….maybe she is having a hard time with something. I will ask her if she needs help with anything tomorrow”.
Practice Giving Thanks
It’s easy to think the word is an unfair place and nothing goes in your favor. If you are not this person, you probably know someone like this. Being ungrateful causes you to miss out on many opportunities for happiness because you are focusing on what you want or don’t have rather than what you already have. It’s not that happy people have so much more than unhappy people; it’s that they are able to recognize, acknowledge, and be thankful for what they already have on a daily basis…a continual practice. Try this. Start a gratitude journal or get in the habit of beginning or ending each day acknowledging (bringing into your mind) several things you are grateful for. Gratitude puts situations into perspective. It helps you realize what you have and, therefore, lessens our need for wanting more all the time- more of anything, e.g. physical needs, emotional needs, material desires. Gratitude strengthens relationships, improves health, reduces stress, and, in general, makes people happier.
On this thanksgiving, we should all shift our gratitude to the forefront of our minds and hearts. We, at Army H.E.A.L.T.H., are particularly grateful for all our troops both at home and overseas. We are grateful to be able to spend time with our friends and family and are thinking of those who are deployed and will not be able to do the same. We encourage you to embrace the spirit of true thanksgiving and let yourself be a happier person this holiday season and beyond.