“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts: therefore, guard accordingly, and take care that you entertain no notions unsuitable to virtue and reasonable nature.” ~Marcus Aurelius
Not that we doubted it, but a new study from Georgetown University has found that you can literally extend your life by simply being happy. Here are a few details on the study, after which we’ll offer a comprehensive plan on how to be happy yourself.
A new study conducted by researchers from Georgetown University found that psychological intervention designed to boost “subjective well-being” can bring positive effects on self-reported mental health.
The study, published in the SAGE Journal of Psychological Science, was done with researchers from the University of British Columbia and a researcher from the University of Virginia.
“Our research is one of the first randomized controlled trials to suggest that increasing the psychological well-being even of generally healthy adults can have benefits to their physical health,” Kostadin Kushlev, a professor in Georgetown’s Department of Psychology, said in a press release.
“Participants reported increasing levels of subjective well-being compared with control participants over the course of the 12-week program. Test subjects also reported fewer sick days than the control participants throughout the program as well as three months after the end of treatment.
How to Be Happy: Let Go of Irrational Thoughts!
So, how does one “get happy,” anyway? Well, here are some tips to help you get started.
Anger, anxiety, guilt, regret and worry are all perfectly normal emotions. They are our mind’s way of telling us that something is wrong and we need to get off our keesters to fix it. We only have a limited amount of energy to stay healthy, age gracefully and live happily. It is up to you to choose how you spend that energy.
“Okay,” you say, “that is great and all, but HOW do I choose to not be miserable?”
Well, the first thing is to look at your irrational thoughts. Life is 10% reality and 90% what we make of it. Unfortunately, many people grow up learning irrational ways of thinking and negative ways of viewing the world.
Characteristics of Irrational Thoughts
Irrational thoughts are inflexible, but flexibility makes life a whole lot easier – and so much happier. So let’s dig into this, shall we?
Irrational thoughts place unrealistic expectations on yourself or others and/or are non-self-accepting and/or fail to accept human fallibility.
This one is harder, because most of us have difficulty identifying what “unrealistic” is. Further, what is unrealistic for you might not be unrealistic for me and vice versa.
It is always helpful to ask someone else’s opinion of what is “realistic.” This goes for quantity and type of work as well as expectations for perfection. Life is much easier if you have realistic expectations of yourself and others and accept (and anticipate) that people make mistakes.
Irrational thoughts demonstrate being too worried about others’ opinions of yourself.
If you find yourself getting all wrapped up in trying to get someone’s approval, ask yourself, “Why do I need his/her approval?”
Many times it is helpful to differentiate between “like” and “respect.” Okay, ideally your boss and co-workers will like and respect you, but will it have a major impact on your life if they don’t? If they respect your work and know you do a good job, do you really care if they want to be your friend?
People who need to be needed and must be liked often are exhausted trying to please everyone else and forget to take care of themselves.
Irrational thoughts also assume your authority or superiority over others.
You cannot change another person. If you get caught in the trap of thinking that someone will change for you, you will be disappointed. When people change for anyone else but themselves, the change is only short-lived. This type of thinking also leads to conflict with others who also see themselves as the center of the universe.
Both of you cannot be the center of the universe and, chances are, neither one of you is right all the time. You may indeed be right. Some people may be stupid, nevertheless, sometimes we all have to be subordinate to people who are wrong or ignorant.
Irrational thoughts assume a clear-cut difference between right and wrong and that you have the ability to always accurately differentiate between the two.
In reality, there are few clear cut answers. Evaluate your decisions based on head-heart and gut honesty. If your head, heart and gut all are okay with the decision, it is probably a good one.
What does that mean? Well, ask yourself:
- Does this seem to make sense (intellectual/head honesty)?
- Can I live with this decision (heart honesty)?
- Does it feel right or turn my stomach (gut honesty)?
Irrational thoughts place you at the center of the universe.
People get all upset when they make a mistake or say the wrong thing. Get over yourself! You are not going to be in control all of the time, and the things you do and say are not really that memorable.
Even some of the biggest faux pas only get you ribbed for a few weeks. Then there is something new to grab people’s attention.
Irrational thoughts over-estimate your right to a trouble-free life and under-estimate your ability to cope with adversity.
If you can view problems as challenges placed in your path to help you grow, it tends to take the edge off things. Many challenges are too great to cope with alone. The most effective people are able to realize when they need help or support from others. In sum, we all have irrational thoughts.
When you start to feel angry, anxious or guilt-ridden, review the list above to see which statements best describe the thought patterns that are making you unhappy.
- “What am I getting upset about?”
- “What thoughts/beliefs/self-talk do I have that are supporting my misery?”
- “Are these thoughts/beliefs/self-statements rational, productive and helpful?”
If they are not, replace them with more realistic thoughts/beliefs/self-statements. Finally, remember that dwelling in negative emotions is just going to make you sick. Anger, anxiety and guilt are meant to make you take action, so get going!
Get More Done! Start here:
- Get a stack of index cards.
- On each card, write down one thing you feel you “must” do. Low and behold, you will often find that there are not enough hours in an 8-day week to get it all done.
- Prioritize the cards in order of what is the most important.
- Flip the cards over and write modifications to make the “musts” more flexible.