I often see posts where people seem really unhappy. Maybe it’s a patient who irked them or a team member who is taking advantage of them. There are many examples where you can just feel the unhappiness through the computer screen. Is it endemic to our profession? Is it our lifestyles? Is it our ages? Studies show it may very well be the latter variable.
American Psychologist, Professor Laura Carstensen found that senior citizens are generally happier than their younger counterparts. Do they face less trouble, or uphill battles? Absolutely not. Professor Carsetensen explained that seniors simply view their lives as not having enough time left to be unhappy. How do they make this shift to happiness?
Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky wrote The Myths of Happiness in 2013 and explained to author Robert Cialdini that there are specific steps people can take to increase their happiness and be more like seniors in terms of a happiness outlook. She explained there’s good news and bad news (from Robert Cialdini’s Pre-Suasion):
People can follow three steps to increase happiness, if done every single day:
- Count your blessings and gratitudes at the start of every day and then give yourself concentrated time with them by writing them down.
- Cultivate optimism by choosing beforehand to look on the bright side of situations, events and future possibilities.
- Negate the negative by deliberately limiting time spent dwelling on problems or on unhealthy comparisons with others.
Cialdini references the “Live Happy” app that helps users engage in the activities that make them happiest and greater happiness correlates with more frequent use.
But take note: You must practice the aforementioned steps regularly. Dr. Lyubomirsky likens your happiness journey to losing weight. “You can’t just do it from time to time and expect great results. You must live it and make it a regular part of your life. Relocate psychologically to the places that keep you happiest.” Sounds tough, right?
Well, if you’re not a senior citizen, it is pretty tough to get there. Why?
Dr. Lyubomirsky explained:
“…when you’re young or in middle age, your mind’s attention has been turned towards learning, developing and striving for achievement. Accomplishing these objectives requires a special openness to discomforting elements: demanding tasks, contrary points of view, unfamiliar people, and owning mistakes and failures.”
Cialdini further described that as a result, it makes sense that when we’re young or in middle age, it can be so hard to turn our minds away from our tribulations. We need to be receptive to the real negatives in our lives so that we can learn from them and deal with them. So how do we deal with them and at the same time be happy?
Do not allow yourself to become mired in the negative loop of unhappiness, and that’s where Dr. Lyubomirsky’s exercises become so helpful.
So, start following the three steps to train your happiness and the next time something bad happens and you find yourself becoming unhappy, hopefully you’ll be trained to get out of the negative feedback loop and realize all of the amazing things in your life.
As they say, you can’t affect what happens in your life, but you CAN choose how you deal with it.
Wishing you all the best!!!
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