One of the most common things I hear in my sessions with clients, is that they want to be happier and more positive. They don’t quite know why, but despite all the wonderful things that may be occurring in their life, they are unhappy, sad, edgy, and downright irritable.
Happiness and positivity is not something I tell them, that falls from the sky. It is truly a state of mind, and it is often something that we have to practice and develop over the course of time.
As spring is nearing, many folks believe, that here in Metro Detroit, as the flowers start popping, and the buds start forming on trees, that we will instantaneously become happier. This is often not the case. Believe it or not, statistically speaking, the month with the highest rate of depression is April. There are many theories that explain this, but I believe, it is mostly, because of all the hype that we hear advertised about naturally becoming happier with spring upon us. Folks that are not in a happy and positive state of mind, do not just get happy. While the weather shifting can help of course, it is not the end all cure all. Happiness and becoming more positive involves the art of practicing the following steps:
1. Avoid negativity. Easier said than done of course in our world, where we are bombarded daily with the awful, negative things that social media and whatnot are constantly displaying. Aim to decrease the exposure to negativity in the world little by little each day (for example, decrease time on Facebook or other social media account by a ½ hour per day).
2. Give Unconditionally. This can be anything from sporting the homeless man on the street a few dollars, to starting a ‘pay it forward train’ at a drive thru.
3. Exercise. Getting the recommended dose of at least 150 minutes of cardio exercise and strength training a week increases endorphins and has been shown time and time again to make you feel better overall.
4. Talk to strangers. Now, society is always telling us that we should not talk to strangers and to constantly watch our backs. While I am certainly not saying that you should not trust your gut in social situations and listen to that internal voice that senses something is ‘off’ and to be safe, saying a simple ‘Hello’ to someone in a store, or at the gym, or on an elevator can do a lot of good. By nature, we are social creatures. And I genuinely believe, that we have become a nation that is scaring itself to death. This has no doubt had an impact on our state of being.
5. Smile more. Even if it feels fake at first, aim to smile (hint: with teeth) at 5 people a day. After about 21 days it will become more habitual.
6. Practice Gratitude. I cannot tell you the difference that I see in folks when they do this. Writing down at least 5 things a day that you are grateful for, can make a world of difference. I always tell people that there will be some days, when you cannot stop writing. So many wonderful things happened that particular day for you to be grateful for. And other days? It may be more of a struggle. You may have to reach deep, and just be grateful for breath in your body. The important thing, is that you do it on a regular basis. Your mood will thank you.
7. Look at negative thought patterns that you are exhibiting. For example: if you are saying constantly to yourself, ‘Man is my hair awful looking. I hate my hair’. Start redirecting those thoughts. Just like smiling, it may seem fake at first, but come up with an alternative, more positive thought, and start practicing it-whether out loud, or written. An alternative example to the preceding negative thought might be, ‘I have hair. It is what I was given, and I am grateful to have it’.
8. Avoid negative people/influences. If attempting to change the conversation with negative people to being more positive does not typically work, and you are constantly finding yourself saturated in negative influences, you may need to re-evaluate these people in your life. I always tell folks that people that are consistently negative about everything rub off on you. You become almost like a vacuum cleaner-sucking it up. Certainly not healthy if you are striving to be happier and more positive.
I wish everyone a positive and happy spring season!
~Tricia Stehle, LMSW