Have you ever been to Venice? When I was in college, I had the incredible opportunity to see this majestic city: the vividly colorful gondolas; the water glistening in the sunlight; the music echoing in the plazas surrounded by architectural treasures; the smells that were so good, you could almost taste the freshly made sauces from just inhaling the air.
After spending the entire day soaking up the wonders of the city, I met up with a group of friends.
This was how one of them described her experience “The water is so dirty. Did you see all that trash in the canals? Oh, and the smell of it all. How can they stand it? I can’t wait to get out of here”
Really? I thought. Were we in the same town?
I mean, sure there was some trash in the water, and, like your typical garbage, it wasn’t all that pleasant-smelling. And yet, there was so much more.
I think therefore I am happy.
How you view your life (the events, people and experiences) has a direct impact on your mood. That makes sense, and yet people seem to miss how vital it is.
Please hear that I am not suggesting everyone “just think happy thoughts.” The notion that someone should think “I am so happy: I lost my job, have negative amounts on money in the bank and can’t feed my family. Yeah!” is ridiculous; it is delusional.
What I am suggesting, however, is something more helpful.
We have all heard the age-old adage: “Is the glass half full or half empty?”
If someone sees it as half-full, they are considered an optimist.
If they see it as half empty, they are labeled as a pessimist.
But the question I have for you is: which is the absolute truth?
The real answer? BOTH. The glass is both half full and half empty.
Viewing it as half full is what I refer to as “realistic optimism.”
And this realistic optimism is at the root of The Happiness Challenge.
The Happiness Challenge :
To help become more realistically optimistic and, as a result, happier, take the happiness challenge. Here it is:
1. Identify something that often makes you unhappy. This could be being stuck in traffic, seeing your child’s room always messy, getting stress from work or anything similar: it just has to lower your mood and happen on a regular basis.
2. Write down three positive ways of looking at the situation. Once you’ve come up with a situation you don’t like, find three ways of seeing it in a positive light and write them down. Here are few common examples to get you started:
|Current challenge||Positive perspective|
|Rush hour traffic||“I’m grateful to have a car.”|
|Child’s room is a mess||“I’m so lucky to have a child at all – this is only a tiny problem.”|
|Long line at the store||“I’m in this store because I’ve got enough money to buy things.”|
|Too much work||“I have a job and I can rely on my colleagues if this really gets to be too much.”|
|Plane flight cancelled because of bad weather||“I’m happy to be safe on the ground rather than bouncing around in the plane with this storm.”|
|I have a million things to do on my to-do list and can’t get them all done||“I’m so fortunate that I have the ability to help so many people – including myself.”|
3. Read the list out loud. Now you have identified three ways of seeing the problem positively. Every morning and night, read the three positive aspects out loud to yourself several times. This will keep them in your mind, and gradually begin to make you think more optimistically about the original problem.
4. Stop any negative thoughts. If you ever start to feel down about a situation, do something to snap yourself out of the funk. This could be twenty jumping jacks, singing a “feel good” song or just changing your watch over to the opposite wrist — anything that prompts your body and mind to see the situation from a different perspective. Then read over your list from above.
5. Repeat for a month. The best way to really change your opinion on a common problem is to keep this routine up for an extended period. Do all the steps above every day for a month and you’ll be sure to have a very different outlook by the end.
When you’re done, visit www.ahappyyou.com and let me (and the world!) know about your experiences with the challenge. Change how you view the world and you will become an even happier you!
Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD, is a psychologist, physical therapist and author of the bestselling book A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness. She has been quoted by some of today’s top media outlets including CNN, MSNBC, NPR, Woman’s Day, Glamour, Self, Woman’s World, Health and Real Simple. Visit www.AHappyYou.com for more information. And order A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness today!