We all have days when we feel less than positive. Life seems unduly hard. Work seems unmanageable. Here are some ideas for brightening your mood and taking charge of your happiness:
1. Give thanks. Gratitude could provide the simple attitude adjustment you need, bringing positive emotions to the foreground and pushing negative emotions to the back.
“It’s so easy to focus on what we don’t have,” says Louise Finlayson, a clinical psychologist and life coach with a private practice. “I tell people to think about what they have, versus what they don’t have.”
Finlayson advises patients to think about what they’re grateful for before bed, or stop and refocus their thoughts in the middle of some task that makes them feel resentful.
Turning your mind toward what’s going right rather than what’s wrong can fix your mood almost instantly. Thinking happy thoughts can make a difference. Reorienting your mind toward the good in the world and your own life doesn’t just lift your spirits, it challenges your natural brain chemistry, says Wendy Ball, a licensed mental health counselor and life coach .
“Because of the way our brains process disturbing experiences, negative memories and thoughts are more easily activated than benign, positive ones for many people,” she says.
To stop negative thoughts from intruding on our life, we must deliberately replace them with good thoughts, she says.
2. Take a time out. We get so caught up in the day-to-day, that we forget what we truly want from life. When life begins to feel like one long series of obligations, take a minute to step back and identify what’s working in your life and what’s not.
Review your routine and figure out which tasks you’re doing because you want to, and which you’re doing because you feel you ought to.
Wherever possible, pull out the tasks that are draining or unfulfilling and substitute them with activities that energize you and give you a sense of purpose. This can be as simple as taking an art class or going to the gym regularly — whatever feels good to you. Many people are consumed with work, parenting or other responsibilities, and don’t take time to do the things they enjoy. Deliberately creating space for feel-good activities is important. These activities revitalize us, and connect us with a deep sense of well-being.
3. Turn off the cellphone. We have all become slaves to our electronics. Most of us are attached to one gadget or another all day, and that can leave us feeling scattered and exhausted.
To feel more centered in our lives, we need to “back away from that plugged-in-ness,” she says. Take a break from electronics for a day, or even a week. Turn off the TV. Confine your use of personal gadgets to just 30 minutes a day. Devote that newly found time to rest and relaxation. Find peace through meditation or spending some time outdoors, she says.
4. Take care of unfinished business. “Stuff we haven’t dealt with is a burden,” Ball says. Unpaid bills, unreturned calls, unresolved arguments, unfinished projects these can slow you down and drain your energy. Make that phone call, pay that bill, decide what to do about an unresolved issue, and then do it. Clearing these things off our plates can be amazingly re-energizing.