How to Become a Happier Person
In our culture high stress is a norm, and we compete as if our lives depended upon it. The norms of pleasant, unpleasant and neutral experiences are realistic as well as Buddhist realities. We have, do, and will suffer. We make an error in thinking that material security or luxury alone will make us happy. There is a long research tradition showing this is not true most of the time. There are many mindfulness-based skills and practices that could help to improve YOUR OWN personal happiness. You do have to do them! Practice daily even if for a few minutes; consciously do your best to extend practice time little-by-little until you reach at least twenty minutes a day. More time results in better outcomes. See the list below for ideas about what skills to practice. It is UP TO YOU. If you want to change things for the better, you need to practice daily. If you think “I do not have the time for this” experiment with replacing your daily worry time with practice time. See what happens.
- Work hard to reduce any self-medication you may be doing. The self-medication results are short-term pleasure or avoidance of pain, but long-term continued suffering. This kind of behavior gets in the way of authentic happiness.
- Pay more attention to positives. Even small, short thoughts about short, small positive experiences may help.
- Give and get more social-emotional support. End toxic relationships if you can do so safely.
- Do daily gratitude practice. Find one thing each day that you may have been taking for granted and do some deep contemplation on it as a gift worthy of gratitude. Begin with your senses; those that are woking well, are gifts to you. The functioning of your heart, lungs, legs and hands are also gifts not to be taken for granted.
- Be more kind and compassionate to others. Even small acts of kindness are helpful. Expect no return on your kindness investment. Just do it to be kind.
- Find some way to exercise every day – no matter how basic or short in duration. Over time, add more time.
- Learn how to practice radical acceptance. If you know you cannot change something, accept it. If you think you can change it, go for it.
- Practice authentic forgiveness when/if you are ready to do so. Some horrible acts cannot be forgiven, but that does not mean you have to remain trapped emotionally in the past because of them. That was then; this is now. You are older and wiser now.
- If you have any form of spirituality, practice it more. If you are religious, practice it more – especially the compassion and kindness aspects of your religion.
- You have suffered; you may be suffering right now. Practice self-compassion about your own suffering. Do not get stuck emotionally in it; simply acknowledge the facts and your feeling.
- Use your personal strengths all the time.
- Learn and practice mindfulness-based stress reduction skills.
- Learn and practice loving kindness meditation. It is one of the most helpful meditation to practice.
- Learn and practice vipassana meditation. Although more demanding, it may hold the keys to dramatically expanded wisdom about the true nature of things.
- Practice letting go of habitual negative/critical thinking patterns. You may have negative metacognition; the patterns of your thinking may be highly unhelpful. Practice thought stopping and quickly shift cognitive awareness to more neutral (middle way) or positive thoughts. This will require lots of practice.
- Trust you self; trust your gut.
- Do some meditation and yoga every day. This may be helpful even if you practice for short periods of time. You may notice greater emotional self-regulation capacities.
- Use your “beginner’s mind” to remain open to new learning, ideas, and skills.
- Learn about and use task analysis to phase in your personal happiness practices. Begin small, and slowly expand your commitment, time, and emphasis on practicing.
For more information refer to Quintiliani, A. R. (2014). Mindful Happiness... Shelburne, VT: Red Barn Books, pp. 5-19. See also Wolf, C. and Serpa, J. G. (2015). A Clinician’s Guide to Teaching Mindfulness…Oakland, CA: New Harbinger, pp. 1-84.
Anthony R. Quintiliani, PhD., LADC
Author of Mindful Happiness