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A close-up of a newly opened delphinium flower (Summer 2013).

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Being Happy

If you are one of those individuals who are prone to depression, perhaps it is time to reflect why. Is it because you are homesick, frustrated, anxious, and worried about many things going on in your life? If so, you are not alone. The US National Institute of Mental Health revealed that major depressive disorder affects approximately 14.8 million Americans each year. And specialists predict that depression would become the 2nd most common health problems in the world. 

However, you can change your mental outlook from being depressed to being happy. Being happy means having a sense of purpose, meaning, and being positive. It means flourishing despite difficult circumstances.

Here are some ways whereby you can happy:

Reframing. Reframe your negative thoughts into positive ones. Don't bury your head under the sand and wait for happiness to come because it won't. You have to learn to see the bright side of things if you want to nudge your self to be happy.

I remember a short anecdote by one of my Jesuit professors, Fr. Agathonico Montero, about two prisoners who were inside their cramped prison cell. One was a pessimist, the other an optimist. The pessimist went to the window and looked out. He grumbled about how muddy and dirty the ground was. The optimist went to the window, looked up, and exclaimed, "Wow, look at the blue sky and the sun shining brightly!" Same prison cell, same window, same reality but different outlook. Seeing the positive goes a long way into making you happy.

Being Kind. Commit to doing acts of kindness everyday. Studies suggest that acts of altruism lowers stress and could enhance mental health. Helping somebody in need can give you instantaneous joy. I have experienced this recently while shopping at London Drugs.  I saw an old man struggling to place 25 cents into a tiny hole in a long bar where pushcarts are attached. I immediately came to his aid and carefully tucked the 25 cents into the hole, releasing a pushcart. His smile while thanking me lit the entire store for me that day.

Remembering good times. Instead of recalling your painful past, focus on happy times. Recalling moments of laughter and fun with family and friends enables you to realize that there is so much good in your life, that the world is a good place to live in. Look at photos, read emails or letters, and appreciate the corners of delight in your life as you recall the good times.

Using signature strength. Signature strength is a strength of character deeply embedded in who we are. Philosophers call them virtues. Each time you use your signature strength you will experience a burst of positivity. This is because these strengths define who are at your best. 

If one of your signature strengths is honesty, then you will feel good when you practice it at every level of your life, not just at yourself. If your signature strength is creativity, then you will feel marvelous each time you create something original. If your signature strength is love, then you will feel wonderful giving love to family and friends.

Psychologists have recently identified 24 cross-cultural strengths that best contribute to human flourishing. Find out where your strengths are, utilize them in various situations, and you will feel your personal awesomeness.

Being grateful. No matter where you are now in life there is always something to be grateful for-- your health, your eyes, your hair, your feet, the unexpected gift, the smile of a child. 

Be grateful for the "givens" in your life. You need not have been here so be grateful for being here. You need not have been a parent so be grateful for the opportunity to love your child in a way that only you can. 

Be grateful too, for defeats, failures and pains. They are your best teachers in garnering success and achievements.


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