How to Be Happy

Photo credit: Dawn Ashley on Flickr

I try to be an upbeat person.

Remaining positive throughout the day isn't something that comes naturally to everyone— as I'm a rather realistic person, it certainly doesn't come naturally to me. But over the course of the last couple years, I've learned a few secrets about being happy that have shifted the way I look at things.

As it turns out, being positive isn't necessarily related to external events. We all have our bad days, bad weeks or even months. Writers, especially unpublished writers, often struggle with keeping a positive attitude during the years it takes to hone the craft, write book after book and find publication. The life of writers is difficult, and being happy can often feel like an impossible task.

But it's not impossible.

Change Your Thinking

Happiness, as it turns out, is much more closely related to the way we view events rather than the events actually taking place. Good things that happen to us don't make us happy —the fact that we interpreted the event as something good is what makes us happy. The same goes for unhappy events —it all depends on the way we view them.

I read a post by Michael Hyatt a little while ago titled, "How a Shift in YourVocabulary Can Instantly Change Your Attitude." I highly recommend you take a look at it, but if you don't, his post basically capitalizes on what I'm talking about here: you dictate your own happiness.

In the post, Mr. Hyatt talks about the importance of having an attitude of gratitude, and reflecting that gratitude in our vocabulary. Rather than saying, "I have to go to work," for example, he suggests you say, "I get to go to work." This shift immediately turns a negative connotation (I'm going to work because I don't have a choice) to a positive one (I'm so blessed to have a job I get to go to).

For writers, it could be the difference between "I have to edit today" and "I get to edit today." Or "I have to write today" versus "I get to write today."

This is just one example of how changing our thinking can immediately make us more positive.

Smile Often

Do we smile because we're happy, or are we happy because we're smiling? This is a question that scientists have struggled over for years, but research today seems to indicate that smiling can make you happy.

It's hard to smile when we're upset, tired or stressed out, but if you force yourself to hold a smile a couple times a day, even when you're not feeling particularly happy, I think you'll find it much more difficult to hold your unpleasant mood (and really, why are you trying to hold onto that, anyway?)

Start Your Day with Gratitude

Try to start your day by listing three things you have to be grateful about. This is a habit I'm still trying to get into, but I think it's a great idea because not only does it force you to think about something positive first thing in the morning, but it starts to train your brain to look for things to be grateful about —something, I think, that is essential for a positive attitude.

These are just three ways writers (and everyone else) can inject a little more happiness into their lives —and who doesn't like an extra dose of happiness?

Have you tried any of these techniques? What do you do to maintain a positive attitude?


JFeijten said...

Oh, Ava, a spiritual post? ^^

There's one important factor in being happy you didn't mention. At least, in my opinion.

I think I'm a rather happy person. I'm quite optimistic, a bit naive from time to time. However, I can't fully control my level of happiness. Even when I work towards that positive attitude you are talking about, it can be disturbed. You're not alone, there are other humans you have to interact with. I don't know how it works with other people, but if I'm surrounded by pessimistic people I tend to feel down myself. I need happy people around me to feel good myself (or I need to be alone if I'm already happy).  

Ava Jae said...

I don't know that this was a spiritual post, per say, but I'll give you that it's a little different from the norm. :) 

I certainly agree that surrounding yourself with happy people definitely helps when it comes to bringing up your mood. It can be very difficult to remain in high spirits when you're surrounded by pessimists. Very good point!

Daphne Gray-Grant said...

My favourite happiness mantra is to act the way I want to feel. Smiling, even if I'm not particularly happy is just one manifestation of this. I can also act enthusiastic (even if I'm not feeling particularly enthusiastic) and interested (even if I'm bored.) 

This may sound like acting rather than living, but I just had a good friend die suddenly at age 67 and I've concluded that life is too short to feel down much of the time.

Susi said...

I totally agree with you. I try to be upbeat and see the positive in most things. I see no point in being negative and wallowing... of course, it's not always so easy. It definitely is a great idea to start out the day by thinking of a few things to be grateful and happy about. I always say that if you don't have anything nice to say don't say anything at all!!! :)

rapture22 said...

Thanks for sharing this post, Ava. We need all of the positive reinforcement that we can get. I use prayer, music and laughter to get me through. Oh, and White Zin! ;)


jennie jackson said...

OK I so need to smile more.  I catch myself frowning all day.  Yikes! Turn this frown upside down

Cheryl Carvajal said...

I tend to be very upbeat, but I realized a while ago that a positive attitude didn't mean nothing bad would happen to me, but I'd see it in a different way. I have a friend who is likely to be let go from her job soon, and yet I know she HATES the job. The end of it means she'll have the freedom to find a job she truly loves instead.

Attitude is EVERYTHING. Far more important than how much money you have or anything else. 

Ava Jae said...

Act the way you want to feel--I like it. Do you find that that affects your mood (for example, helps you to feel interested when you're bored)? 

Ava Jae said...

You're absolutely right--it's certainly not always easy to fight the negativity, but the benefits of doing your best to maintain a positive attitude are well worth the effort. 

Ava Jae said...

Prayer, music, laughter and White Zinfandel--sounds like a winning combination. :D

Ava Jae said...

It's something that's good to be conscious about--now that you know how smiling can affect your mood, see if you can try to make a conscious effort to smile more. I think you might like the results! :)

Ava Jae said...

Attitude and mindset are hugely important. You're right--a positive mindset won't stop bad things from happening, but the way we interpret the things that happen make a big difference when it comes to how it affects our mood. 

Maeve MC Murray said...

I never used to think that smiling could effect how I feel, but it does.  I started noticing it a little over a year ago, when I took a job I hated.  People were constantly making small talk, smiling in the halls, etc. and so I did too to fit in.  
What a difference!  Something about such a basic human connection is enough to lift your spirits.  Thanks for sharing :)

Ava Jae said...

It's hard not to be in a good mood when you're surrounded by smiling, happy people. Have to love what a difference a little smile can make. :)

Julia Stella said...

I just follow these 3 rules and nothing can ever make me unhappy

Happiness said...


only come from the way of the cross;Jesus is the only way for happiness!

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