LoveAndLifeToolBox

Happiness: Questions to Ask Yourself…and a Caveat

Happiness is something that anyone alive desires.  With much of your happiness in your control (40% says Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD), you are more empowered than you think to make legitimate changes to your emotional health.  Some of the skills you can learn to do involve brain training where the more you practice certain habits, the more automated they will become. Because there is no “one-size-fits-all” formula for happiness, try what feels right and doable for you.

Not as happy as you’d like to be?  Consider the following:

Are you social?

Being connected to others allows for emotional resourcing and support.  We are wired to connect and seek security in important relationships starting from infancy and throughout our lives.  Research shows that, “social environment may contribute to rates of cellular aging, particularly in late life.”  So it appears as though being social can literally slow down your biological age.

No?

Consider putting effort into developing and maintaining important relationships (family, friends, intimate partnerships).  Even if you consider yourself more introverted, you can still benefit from these types of interactions.

Do you feel good about yourself?

Questions about your inherent value often come from unresolved earlier wounds around challenging relational experiences.  How you feel about yourself can negatively or positively impact your relationships.  If you generally believe you are a good person with value, you have a more solid foundation in which developing happiness can spring from.

No?

Consider getting help unpacking painful experiences creating obstacles to a more secure sense of self.  Check out my mini guide to help identify, understand and resolve your wounds, Family of Origin Work:  Untangle Your Unhealthy Roots.

Are you able to manage your emotions?  

Sometimes connected to how you feel about yourself, the ability to stay emotionally regulated allows for more appropriate reactions.  Those who struggle with emotional reactivity can have a strong negativity bias and carry shame around their behavior, both potential blocks to happiness.

No?

Consider educating yourself about resilience (how to more effectively bounce back) which can improve your emotional regulation skills.

Do you meditate?

Stress can be an obstacle for happiness.  To combat future worry (or anxiety), it’s most helpful to learn to be in the moment and be able to drop into the now when needed.  Meditation in some kind of focused breath work can help keep the stress hormone cortisol at bay.

No?

Consider learning how to meditate (in whatever type you choose).  Even other brief mindfulness practices like stopping to notice things around you can encourage a similar benefit.

Are you optimistic?

People with positive outlooks are not only happier but healthier.  A Harvard study showed that a positive outlook on life can actually protect against heart disease.

No?

Consider spending more time with optimistic people.  If your glass tends to be “half empty,” acting as if it’s full can be a good way to start.  Spending time with positive people can also help because of the emotional contagion effect.  Emotions can be contagious!

Do you take in the good?

Strongly connected with developing optimism is noticing when the good when it’s in front of you.  But it doesn’t end there.  It’s important to let the experience sink into your awareness for at least 30 seconds so it can register in your implicit memory. According to Linda Graham, MFT, “When we intentionally take in the good we are building resources in our neural circuitry to act as a buffer against stress…”

No?

Consider seeking out positive experiences in which to savor.  This can be seeing a beautiful tree for the first time, having a nice interaction with a neighbor or being grateful for a favor somebody did for you.

Do you live authentically?  

Authenticity is often linked to a sense of well-being and is an important aspect of emotional health.  It’s often much easier for your inner world to be in alignment with your outward presentation.  In fact, living inauthentically can cause a lot of stress as it takes work to keep up a social mask.  There’s a freedom from the ability to be yourself.

No?

Consider learning how to be more honest with yourself and in how you present to others.  If there is a disconnect between your inner and outer worlds or you’re unclear of what authenticity even means for you, seek to understand via therapy or other helping modality.

Are you grateful?  

Robert Emmons, PhD has done extensive research on the power of gratitude to feel more alert, sleep better, deflect from stress, worry, regret, hostility and resentment, make improvements in self-worth and experience more positive emotions.

No?

Consider starting a gratitude practice.  One way to do that is keeping a daily gratitude journal, noting three things that happened that you appreciate.

In your quest for more happiness, pick a few of the above that resonated and try them out.  Sometimes creating new habits can be a challenge but if you stick with it, the payoff can be well worth it.

Caveat

It’s important to monitor your expectations around how often you “should” be happy.  Nobody “should” be happy all the time and denying some of the other more difficult emotions will not serve you well in the long run.  Anger, anxiety and sadness may be uncomfortable but are part of the human experience.  Sweeping them under the rug will always backfire.

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT

Lisa Brookes Kift, MFT is the creator of LoveAndLifeToolbox.com with emotional and relationship health articles, guides, courses and other tools for individuals and couples. She is a frequent consultant for the media having appeared in CNN.com, HuffingtonPost.com, MensHealth.com and others. Lisa has a private practice in Marin County, CA and offers Emotional Health and Relationship Consultations via email, phone or video conference.

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