On yesterday’s blog I shared five keys to better mental health. Today, I’m adding five more keys, which, when combined with the earlier list adds up to “Ten Keys to Happier Living,” according to the British Action for Happiness Network. Yesterday’s list focused on our interactions with the external world. Today’s considers our attitudes and abilities to plan and cope.
*Set goals for the future. These motivate us and give us direction, as long as they’re not so ambitious that they cause us stress.
*”Find ways to bounce back” from difficult or painful situations. I admit to feeling skeptical about this one. I’m always astounded seeing people interviewed on TV, after a tornado has reduced their home to splinters, who say, “We’re lucky it wasn’t worse. It won’t be easy, but we’ll find a way to come back.” What the Happiness Network says is, “Research shows that resilience isn’t a rare quality found in a few, extraordinary people. One expert in the subject, Dr Ann Masten, describes it as ‘ordinary magic’ noting that it comes from our normal, everyday capabilities, relationships and resources.”
*Emphasize positive emotions. “Positive emotions have the effect of broadening our perceptions, in much the same way that negative emotions narrow them. This broadening helps us to see more, respond more flexibly and in new ways and be more creative.”
*Accept yourself as you are. See my recent blog on self-compassion.
*Become part of something bigger –a community, a calling, a religion — something that helps us see that we’re not the center of the universe and gives meaning to our lives.
While yesterday’s list of five actions seemed doable, this one provides more challenge, because it requires working with our attitudes, which often seem fixed and, by a certain age impossible to change. As though anticipating this concern, The Happiness Network has a response. “Although our genes influence about 50% of the variation in our personal happiness, our circumstances (like income and environment) affect only about 10%. As much as 40% is accounted for by our daily activities and the conscious choices we make. So the good news is that our actions really can make a difference.”