Happiness For Dummies
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Perhaps you want to be happier this coming year. Being happier is a common New Year’s resolution. Although happiness is not entirely a state of mind, positive thinking can help make you a happier person. Here are ten thoughts that lead to happiness:

  • Life is ahead of you — and that’s where your focus should be: People who are weighed down by the past are rarely happy. They spend far too much time looking backward instead of forward and, as a result, often overlook the positive things in their day-to-day lives.

    Begin each day with a few minutes of quiet time where you can reflect on all the positive possibilities that lie ahead in the next 24 hours. Open yourself up to the unknown, unforeseen circumstances of the day and trust that you’ll be able to deal with and benefit from whatever is in front of you.

  • It’s never too late to say you’re sorry: It’s never too late to let someone know that you feel bad about behaving badly. She’ll appreciate your apology, whether it comes five minutes later or two years after the fact.

    Apologizing for some transgression in your past is like removing a pebble from your shoe. It makes journeying through life a whole lot easier and less painful.

  • We’re here to help each other: Many people believe purpose of life is to support, love, encourage, and assist one another in every way we possibly can. If you’re doing that, you’re happy. If not, you’re not.

  • Take a minute and ask yourself the following questions:

    • Who have I helped today?

    • Who needs my help today?

    • What can I do that would be helpful to someone I care about?

    • What’s keeping me from being helpful?

    • How do I feel after I’ve been helpful to someone in need?

    • If those I care about can’t rely on me for help, who can they rely on?

  • I’ve had my fair share: Along with the thought that you’ve had your fair share of something comes the feeling that you are satiated, satisfied and content — all key ingredients to achieving happiness.

  • If you want to quit smoking once and for all, repeat over and over to yourself, “I’ve had my fair share of nicotine.” If you want to lose weight, tell yourself at some point during every meal, “I’ve had my fair share of food for right now — it’s time to stop eating.”

  • You don’t have to get over the bad things in life — you just have to get beyond them: Our brains hang on to bad memories, just like the good ones, forever. Getting beyond a bad event doesn’t mean that you forget that it happened, it just means that you have to detach emotionally and move on with your life.

  • Life isn’t fair: Admit it: You want life to be fair, and you have your own idea of what fairness is all about. Let philosophers and theologians spend their lives pondering what’s fair and unfair. Put your energies into experiencing and dealing with life in more practical.

  • When in doubt, pole left: For over a decade now, every summer dozens of bateaux (boats) travel 138 miles down the James River in Virginia. Crew members push the boats forward with long, sturdy poles, just as their predecessors did in the 1800s. The bateaux men have a saying “When in doubt, pole left.” The idea behind this saying is that, at a time of actual or potential crisis, indecisiveness is dangerous. Even if you’re not sure how things will turn out when you suddenly change course, doing something is always better then doing nothing. If you do nothing, you know where you’ll end up — on the rocks!

  • Water flows downhill: Invariably, water does flow downhill. And that’s why this thought is so important. Too often, people try to make life seem more complicated than it is. We’re too analytical, we look for hidden agendas, and we second-guess everything and everyone. Even Freud once said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.”

  • I have what I need: We need air, water, food, shelter, and a certain amount of sleep, and that’s it. Everything else — jewelry, cars, fine clothes, a vacation home, a big-screen TV, $200 tennis shoes — are things we want out of life. Understanding the difference between needs and wants goes a long way toward finding happiness.

  • I deserve to be happy: Repeat to yourself out loud ten times each morning: I deserve to be happy. I deserve to be happy. I deserve to be happy. Because you do.

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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