To have more happiness and self-acceptance in your life, firstly reflect on what gets in the way. Why do you think you aren’t happy or could be happier? How do you feel about each of the following aspects of your life including: relationships, career, health, social life, time alone, hobbies and interests, what brings you meaning, self-care including sleep routines, diet, exercise, your mental health and coping strategies and, anything else that feels relevant. Could any of these be healthier or more helpful? Consider both quality and quantity, what’s working and what’s missing. What are the blocks or barriers to more happiness?
Identify one major or several smaller steps from these, that you could take towards happiness. E.g. review career options, actively get involved in more training so that you have more career options, get a mentor to help you work on changing your career, have a conversation with your employer about what would help you feel more happy or fulfilled at work (find an equivalent influencer if self-employed or not currently working). Set yourself timelines and a review point to consider whether you need to follow a different option. Having a plan and working towards something can make a significant difference to how you feel.
Also consider the internal factors that prevent you having happiness. This is particularly important if you notice any resistance or anxiety about making any changes. Or it may be that there are no obvious external changes to be made and that this section is the most important opportunity for your happiness or self-acceptance. Consciously pay attention to your inner dialogue – notice your thoughts, how you speak to yourself, your tone and how frequently you do this. How helpful is this? What impact does it have? Can you work on making this kinder and more helpful? How does this influence how you feel about yourself and impact on your day?
How do you perceive yourself – how do you feel about your physical appearance, health, your personality, your achievements and anything else that feels relevant? Notice if you compare yourself to others, the impact of your standards and expectations and how you manage conflict situations or change. What beliefs or stories do you tell yourself about yourself or your life that impact on your happiness? E.g. that you’re not good enough, you’re not attractive or likeable, you have to be perfect, it’s better to please others, you can’t upset anyone, you can’t trust anyone, it’s not safe to be in a relationship, you are unlucky and so on. How do these impact you? Very often these beliefs lead to behaviours which intend to protect you but actually make the situation worse.
When we are not conscious of something, we keep reinforcing it. If you tell yourself you always get it wrong, your boss always overlooks you, constantly put yourself down then you’ll keep expecting this to happen and find evidence to prove it. Most people can be hard on themselves and sometimes in a very detrimental way. The more awareness you can have about yourself, the more opportunity you have to make changes. So you may find it helpful to observe yourself over several days to build up a true picture of how this is.
Once you have enough awareness of this, try to see this information from a different perspective. From an objective point of view, a bird’s eye perspective, the opinion of a caring friend, standing in someone else’s shoes, however works for you. What is the impact of your thoughts? How do they influence your behaviour, your feelings, your thoughts? Are they in any way self-fulfilling? Where do they come from? What assumptions or generalisations are they based on? What is your bias? How else could you see the situation? What would you say to a friend in a similar situation? What would be a fairer or more helpful way to reframe your thoughts or stories?
The more you do this, the more chance you have of changing your perspective. It can be hard at first so keep persevering. From awareness, you have the opportunity to do something differently. Having the intention to do something different is very powerful. Observe yourself going into your pattern and try to bring in your new perspective. You might start by realising you’ve done it again but over time you may be able to catch yourself in the moment and do it differently. Either way, you’re changing your perspective and this will help you to feel differently. Having a different perspective means you are less triggered by others and also can impact how you feel and help to change your behaviour so that it doesn’t become self-fulfilling.
Another way to practice another perspective is to try mindfulness. Taking yourself out of your thoughts and into your present awareness. Focusing on your senses – what you can see, hear, feel, smell and taste rather than evaluating yourself, planning what you will say or worrying about what might happen – just some of the ways we get into our head. The more you’re out of your head, the more you can break the cycle of intrusive thoughts, impact how you feel positively, recognise that your thoughts aren’t necessarily the truth, have more energy, less anxiety and more self-compassion.
Sometimes we get confused with what happiness actually feels like. Consider all the time in your life when you were happy. Write down as many memories as you can. How did you know that you felt happy? What clues did you have in your body e.g. relaxed muscles, smiling, warm feeling in your heart. Try to differentiate between euphoric moments of intense happiness and happiness over a longer period of time. How differently did these feel? What’s the difference with how you feel now?
Going back to the time you remember being happy, is there anything that you canreplicate into your life now? Identify one action that you could take that you could build in to your daily routine, something additional that you could add to this week, plan an additional activity for this month and also consider something you could add into the near future. E.g. take a nap, do something fun, you enjoy, connect with people who bring you joy, revisit a place with a special memory, visit a new place you’ve always wanted to go to, learn something new, try something different on a menu, arrange an activity with friends. Give yourself permission to enjoy yourself.
Look for positive and happy scenarios. If you set the intention to be happier, consider positive statements that will help you e.g. I am likeable, I am fun, it’s normal and healthy to spend time on activities that bring me fun, having quality time by myself is healthy and helps me to be more productive, repeat these and find evidence that their true. This helps you challenge beliefs also. Also look out for positive and happy moments of the day. When we are affirming we’re not happy, you’re more likely to see things that confirm this. If you’re on the lookout for happiness, you’re more likely to notice positive things.