But My Life Is Miserable!: Steps to Choose Happiness

Part of my job is traveling up and down the Front Range teaching business staff on a wide variety of topics, from How to Write a Professional Email (no, emojis are never appropriate), to Addressing Workplace Violence. One frequently-requested subject is Happiness. People want to know, how can they be happy, stay positive and be a good example for those around them? It turns out research (and common sense) point to some key points that help all of us find, and keep, happiness.

1. Put a microscope on your thoughts: do you tend to focus on the positive or the negative? Although some of us are born more prone to happiness, most of us learn it over time. Accept which way you lean and then practice the “reframe” technique. “I hate driving down the canyon! No matter when I leave I always get stuck behind a slow truck and run late.” Can be replaced with… “I can’t make my drive shorter or control other drivers, but I can leave on time, listen to a good audio book, and enjoy looking at nature. Even though I hate the drive I love where I live, which makes it worth it.” Over time we can literally change our neural pathways, automatically bringing positive thoughts to the forefront with less effort.

2. Surround yourself with positive people. Research shows that when trying to change a habit (e.g. quitting smoking), the success rate increases when surrounded by people who don’t smoke. We literally mirror the people around us, so take the time to create a community that reflects healthy, positive values.

3. Find meaning and purpose in your daily life. For some people their jobs offer inspiration. For others, family gives them all the motivation they need to get up and face the day with a smile. In our mountain corridor some folks need consistent outdoor activities and connection with nature. Finally volunteering, participating in a religious or spiritual community, or somehow taking the time to give back can change your perspective.

In the face of life’s challenges and the daily grind, it’s important to remember the little steps we can take. Over time these little steps add up to create a life that, although may not be perfect, can certainly be full of joy.