This article was originally published by the Mountain View Voice on Dec 19, 2014
If you follow along with my posts over the next 10 weeks and make the changes outlined therein, I can almost guarantee that you will experience increased happiness. The changes I recommend are based on my observations as a clinical psychologist where one notices that, although packaged slightly differently, most of the treatments in psychology with any research behind them pretty much target the same behaviors regardless of the specific symptoms or disorders they are designed to treat.
In my work as a therapist I've observed that even in the absence of a disorder or obvious symptoms, attending to the same behaviors that these treatments in psychology emphasize can significantly improve one's sense of happiness. When people aren't consistently engaging in these behaviors, happiness is compromised. Similarly, the more time and energy they put towards these behaviors, the happier they appear to be.
Before discussing the behaviors themselves, I want to note that knowing what they are will do little to change the quality of your life if you are unable to build a life around consistently attending to them. In this series of posts I'll thus provide strategies, smart phone applications, and techniques that have helped my clients consistently and effectively integrate these behaviors into daily life. For folks who are really struggling with a particular component, I'll provide some more specific treatment recommendations.
So, with no further adieu, here is the list of behaviors that I have observed to be instrumental in attaining and sustaining happiness: 1) mindfulness meditation, 2) good sleep (not just "sleep"), 3) regular exercise, 4) serving others, 5) awareness of current emotions, 6) noticing and challenging judgments, 7) practicing validation, 8) maintaining a healthy diet, 9) knowing how and when to self-soothe, 10) practicing exposure to, rather than avoidance of, experiences that cause you anxiety.
Now, this may not seem like a groundbreaking list. Indeed, most of us will have had at least several of these behaviors recommended to us before. What I find interesting, however, is the extent to which attending to all of these issues radically can improve one's quality of life, regardless of if you are struggling with work stress, relationship problems, low self-esteem, or even just boredom.
Moving forward, I intend to focus on one of the aforementioned 10 factors each week for 10 weeks. Why 10 weeks? First, it's more manageable for me to focus on tackling one topic a week (I have a 9-month old on my lap as I type this), and second, those of you who want to work on addressing these behaviors will hopefully find it more manageable.
My experience has been that some people want to overhaul their entire lives, while others have lives that feel so full, just the thought of adding another agenda item is anxiety inducing. As such, I've developed ways to address each happiness factor for folks with lots, and those with little, time.
I'd encourage you to stay tuned over the coming weeks as I cover these topics, but I know staying tuned won't make much of a dent in your overall quality of life. So instead, I invite you to follow along and experiment with some of the proposed changes. As always, your comments are welcome and appreciated!