Happiness For Dummies
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Some people feel hassled all the time. If you don’t balance this with uplifting moments, you’re not likely to be a happy person. You probably don’t realize just how hassled you are, partly because you tend to ignore and trivialize the small stuff, but, even more important, because you have no way to measure how much stress you’re under. Well, that all changes now.

Look over the following list of minor stresses (or hassles) that people commonly experience and circle any of those that you’ve experienced within the past two weeks.

  • I misplaced or lost something important.

  • I didn’t have enough money to pay a bill on time.

  • I felt like I had too many responsibilities.

  • I was interrupted while I was working on something important.

  • I had to wait in line at a store or bank.

  • Unexpected company showed up on my doorstep.

  • I had to fill out a lot of bureaucratic forms.

  • I had a cold.

  • Unexpected bad weather hit my town.

  • My car had trouble starting first thing in the morning.

  • My neighbors were noisy.

  • I got poor service in a restaurant.

  • I was late for an important meeting.

  • A friend forgot our planned lunch date.

  • I spilled something on my clothes.

  • I found gum stuck to the bottom of my shoe.

  • I forgot my doggy bag in a restaurant.

  • I forgot my computer password.

  • I forgot a haircut appointment.

  • I didn’t have change for a parking meter.

How many hassles did you circle? Your hassle score should be between 0 and 20. (The odds of your getting a 0 are remote — no one lives a totally stress-free life!) Write down your hassle score here:

My hassle score = __________

Now, do the same thing for uplifts. Look at the following list of events and circumstances that typically bring peace, joy, happiness, and satisfaction to most people and circle any of those that you’ve experienced within the past two weeks.

  • I received an unexpected compliment.

  • A friendly neighbor visited.

  • I heard from an old friend I hadn’t talked to in a while.

  • I found something I thought I had lost.

  • I found something I really wanted on sale.

  • I unexpectedly had some free time on my hands.

  • A friend treated me to lunch.

  • I spent a few quiet moments in a church, temple, or mosque.

  • I spent quality time with my pet.

  • I received a bouquet of flowers from an admirer.

  • I got a hug.

  • I found something unique to add to my collectibles.

  • I beat my best friend at our favorite sport.

  • I finished a project ahead of time.

  • I started a new hobby.

  • I worked in my flower garden.

  • I saw a great movie.

  • I went to the latest exhibit at the local art museum.

  • I socialized with friends and family.

  • Someone wishes me a “blessed day.”

How many uplifts did you circle? Your uplifts score should be between 0 and 20. Write down your uplift score here:

My uplift score = __________

Life is always in flux. Some days, weeks, and months are more hassle-free than others, and uplifting experiences tend to come and go. That’s why it’s good to recheck your scores from time to time to see how you’re doing.

What’s crucial to finding happiness is not how hassled or uplifted you are, but rather the balance between the two. This balance is called your Uplifted-to-Hassles Ratio (UHR). To calculate your UHR, all you need to do is take your uplifts score and divide it by your hassles score.

For example, if your uplifts score is a 4 and your hassles score is a 10, your UHR would be 4 ÷ 10 = 0.40. The higher your U-HR score, the better. Generally speaking, any UHR score less than 1 is a problem, because it suggests that you’re definitely not at a happy medium.

Avoiding hassles is difficult. The easiest way to up your UHR score is to increase your uplifts.

How do you increase your uplifts? Simple: You do little things that bring you pleasure. You don’t just wait passively to be uplifted — you make it happen! For example, you can lift your spirits by:

  • Treating yourself to a delicious dessert in the middle of the afternoon.

  • Spending your lunch hour sunning yourself on a park bench.

  • Taking 20 minutes to meditate.

  • Taking time to feed the birds who visit your yard before going off to work.

  • Watching children at play.

  • Daydreaming about positive experiences you’ve had in the past.

  • Giving yourself permission to have that extra cup of coffee before you join the “rat race.”

  • Enjoying a glass of wine at an outdoor café.

  • Listening to some of your favorite songs while you drive from point A to point B.

  • Reading a magazine article about something that interests you.

These are all things that you can initiate. They don’t depend on what other people are willing or able to do that might please you. They’re things that you have control over.

Another way you can enhance your UHR score is to do something to uplift the lives of others. Instead of waiting for someone to hug you, go find someone to hug. Instead of hoping that your friendly neighbor will drop over, be the friendly neighbor and pay her a visit. Any kindness you extend elevates your UHR score.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

W. Doyle Gentry, PhD, is a clinical psychologist, a distinguished Fellow in the American Psychological Association, and the Founding Editor of the Journal of Behavioral Medicine.

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