You hear this phrase often….but what does it entail? I eat just about everything and am head over heels in love with fruit, all kinds, all shapes, all sizes but even I cannot sit down, slice open a lemon and take a bite. Lemons are a fruit that have to become something else, enhance something, change something, make something happen. Can you think of another fruit that is almost inedible on it’s own? That becomes so divine in combination and transformation? Lemon bars and cookies, lemon meringue pie, lemon in hot tea or squeezed into a pitcher of sweet tea, fresh lemonade, that sweet and sour masterpiece that can change your life on a hot summer day. What about those metaphorical lemons that life is bound to hand you now and then? Acidic, sour, trying times that you just can’t seem to enjoy or digest? The most successful and happy among us have never miss out on an opportunity to turn sour into sweet, hard times into learning experiences. While it may not be easy, we know that seeing those lemons as pure potential is the way to go. Adversity spurs creativity, challenge breeds success. When you’re feeling surrounded by useless lemons, never forget that you always have a choice. When you seem to be stuck in a difficult time, you can change your outlook, which in turn can change your circumstances, you can keep yourself healthy and surround yourself with kind, good-hearted people, you can seek out and find hidden treasure all around you….I know it’s not always easy, but look for the good all around you, even if you have to squint. Be grateful for any and everything that comes your way. We all want to be happy, and happiness is useful for other things, too. For example, happiness improves physical health, improves creativity and even enables you to make better decisions. (It is difficult to be rational when you’re unhappy.)
You may have heard of the famous studies showing that people are happiest when they are in a state of “flow.” Flow is the state you’re in when you are fully engaged in a task that is interesting, challenging, and intrinsically rewarding to you. This is the experience of “losing yourself in the moment” or, as sports players say, “being in the zone.” Finding flow has largely to do with performing tasks that match your skill level. When a task is far beyond your skill level, you will feel defeated. When a task is too easy, you’ll be bored. Only when a task is challenging but achievable will you feel good about doing it.
If you’re struggling with negative thoughts, achieving flow is probably the best medicine. Contrary to popular wisdom, forced positive thinking often makes things worse. Trying to not think about Upsetting Thought X has the same effect as trying to not think about pink elephants: you can’t help but think about pink elephants. While being “lost in the moment” may provide some of your happiest moments, research has also shown that when you’re not in flow, taking a step outside the moment and practicing “mindfulness” – that is, paying attention to your situation, your actions, and your feelings – can reduce chronic pain and depression, reduce stress and anxiety, and produce a wide range of other positive effects. Below are a few methods for becoming happier. You will need to think about who you are, what makes you happy, what makes you unhappy, and what you can achieve in order to determine which of the below methods should be attempted first.
- Improve your self-esteem and optimism.
- Improve your agreeableness. In simpler terms, this basically means: increase your empathy. Try to see things from another’s perspective, and thinking more about people less fortunate than oneself.
- At the same time do not let people mistake your kindness for weakness. Do not over exert yourself. Do things that make you happy and you should always help others, just make sure you know how to say “No” sometime
- Improve your conscientiousness. Examples: useful organization, strong work ethic, reliability, planning ahead, etc. Each of these individual skills can be learned. The techniques for overcoming procrastination are useful,. Some people report that books like Getting Things Done have helped them become more organized and reliable.
- Develop the habit of gratitude. Savor the good moments throughout each day. Spend time thinking about happy memories. And at the end of each day, write down a few things you are grateful for: the roof over your head, the loved ones in your life, the delicious dinner that you had, etc.
- Find your purpose and live it. It may take a while to find it though, and you may have to dip your hands and mind into many fields. But once you find a path that strongly motivates you and fulfills you, take it. (Of course, you might not find one purpose but many.) Having a strong sense of meaning and purpose has a wide range of positive effects.
- Find a more fulfilling job. Few people do what they love for a living. Getting to that point can be difficult and complicated. You may find that doing other things on this list first is needed for you to have a good chance at getting a more fulfilling job. To figure out which career might be full of tasks that you love to do, aRIASEC personality test might help. In the USA, O*NET can help you find jobs that are in-demand and fit your personality.
- Improve your relationship with your romantic partner, or find a different one. As with finding a more fulfilling job, this one is complicated, but can have major impact. If you know your relationship isn’t going anywhere, you may want to drop it so you can spend more time developing yourself, which will improve future relationships. If you’re pretty serious about your partner, there are many things you can do to improve the relationship.
Try reading “The five love languages” together. You both will be able to identify your love language and figure out ways to better communicate with one another and show love for each other.
- Be Active and move your body. This will improve your attention and well-being. Whether it is taking a hike, a yoga class, a swim, a bicycle ride, just get out there and move…play in the sunshine.
- Spend more time in flow. Make easy and boring tasks more engaging by turning them into games or adding challenges for yourself.
- Practice mindfulness regularly. When not in flow, take a deep breathe and try to pay attention to how you are behaving, how your emotions are functioning, and how your current actions work toward your goals.
Note that seeking happiness as an end might be counterproductive. Happiness is a way of Life, not a destination. Enjoy your day!