It is no question that this year, more than others, has been full of challenges. Whether it’s the threat of the pandemic, election-related stress, feeling overwhelmed with remote schooling, or sadness due to cancelled plans and events because of social distancing, it’s safe to assume that 2020 has got everyone feeling a bit down.
“We need to embrace that we live in a world that is always changing,” says Lisa MacLean, M.D., a psychiatrist at Henry Ford Health. “We can embrace the change, control what we can and adapt, or we can fight it and be unhappy.”
So, how can we create our own happiness, even amid challenges? It takes understanding the difference between short-term happiness and long-tern satisfaction to start. The bottom line: That feeling of contentment is directly linked to your ability to build positivity.
How Happiness Compares To Satisfaction
There is quite a bit of truth behind the saying that “happiness is fleeting.” Happiness doesn’t always present itself as intense joy.
“People often link happiness to achieving personal goals,” says Dr. MacLean. “We think, if I achieve this job then I will be happy. Or if find this life partner, then I will be happy. And yet, that is the wrong way to look at it.”
A significant portion of happiness is related to our thoughts and attitudes toward life. Instead of looking to moments when you’d expect to feel a bursts of joy or waiting for the next good thing to happen, it is better to practice positive thinking to find satisfaction daily.
“A shift in your mindset can help you have a more positive outlook every day,” advises Dr. MacLean.
Happiness is a specific state of mind connected with our emotions. When we focus on negativity, it can become easier to overlook moments of happiness. As a result, negativity can:
- Cloud your judgments
- Erode goodwill and positive thinking
- Cause an unhealthy build-up of damaging emotions – anger, contempt and sadness
- Raise your blood pressure and tighten your muscles
- Lead to the practice of finding fault and blame everywhere
6 Steps To Encourage Daily Positive Thinking
“People who are more positive aren’t just more satisfied with life,” says Dr. MacLean. “They are also able to grow from their talents and strengths, build deeper relationships with others, and engage more wholly with activities or the communities around them.”
Use these best practices for positivity to get you started:
- Savor the moment. When something good happens to you, make a point to remember how you feel in that moment. Try sharing your joy with others, writing your thoughts down, taking mental photographs.
- Practice gratitude. We’ve all heard the phrase, “when one door closes, another door opens.” Try taking time at the end of each day to appreciate the little things. Maybe remote schooling means more time with your kids or being stuck at home means more opportunities to get creative at dinner time.
- Be more optimistic. Conflicts will arise, that’s part of life. Instead of planning for the worst-case scenario all the time, take time to think about what the best-case scenario looks like as well!
- Build connections with others. Having strong relationships with others is great for the good times and the bad – people to cheer you on when you find success and be there to offer support when you’re feeling down.
- Do what makes you happy. Maybe you have a hobby that you enjoy or a family movie that always makes you smile. On a more day-to-day basis, you can boost your mood with simple acts like planning breaks throughout your workday or unplugging from your devices to be more present.
- Find your purpose. Are you connected to something larger than yourself? If not, look for ways that you can create meaning in your life. Volunteer, practice random acts of kindness, or even just take the time to smile. Sometimes making someone else’s day is the perfect way to make your day.
It may take time and effort but incorporating these practices into your life can help you find more satisfaction, and the benefits can be huge.
“Finding satisfaction through positive thinking can impact your outlook on life, your mental and physical health, jobs, relationships, etc.,” says Dr. MacLean. “When in doubt, live authentically. That means you prioritize your values and live your life accordingly.”
If you find yourself struggling to trade your negative thoughts for positive ones or find that negative thoughts are interfering with your ability to function in daily life, seek help. Talk to your doctor or find a therapist.
Dr. Lisa MacLean is a psychiatrist specializing in adult ADHD treatment at Henry Ford Behavioral Services in Detroit. She is also the director of physician wellness for Henry Ford Health, using her expertise to help doctors optimize wellness and find balance by teaching them healthy coping strategies so they can better serve their patients.