Happiness is a choice, but that doesn't mean it's easy. When we're stuck in a constant loop of fear and negativity, it can be tough to cultivate a positive mindset.
As leaders at the Institute for Global Happiness, we're constantly thinking about the small, intentional things we can all do to make our communities more positive, content and resilient.
Often, it starts with how we speak to others, and to ourselves. If you use any of these six phrases every day, you're genuinely happier than most:
Reframing "have to's…" into "get to's…" is a powerful way to carve agency out of obligation and tap into a mindset of gratitude. Because most things (not all) really are choices.
So maybe you don't have to pay the property tax bill. You get to. It's the side benefit of living with sewers and libraries and firefighters.
Maybe you don't have to check on the screaming toddler you thought was asleep. You get to. You'll miss the midnight hugs one day so an extra one tonight might be good for the both of you.
Studies have shown that gratitude can make us both happier and physically healthier. A great way to incorporate thankfulness in your life is the game "Rose, thorn, bud."
A rose is any highlight, tiny win, or small pleasure from the day. "I finally found the keys to the shed," "My principal emailed me a thank you," "I got an assist at hockey practice." A thorn is something that hurt or didn't go well. And finally, a bud, or something you're looking forward to.
It might be awkward at first, but we've found that it has become a force for positivity and connection.
When someone starts opening up, many of us have a tendency to want to solve their problems or give them advice.
Instead, simply saying "Tell me more," with its implicit offering of time and energy to listen, allows them to keep processing their feelings and thoughts, while also deepening your relationship and bringing you even closer
We try to add this tiny phrase to any sentence that starts with "I can't," "I don't," or "I'm not." Even if it's just said mentally, the word helps pry open a door that our brain is trying to slam shut. It introduces the possibility that you could sometime in the future: "I'm not qualified for that job … yet."
This is a good one to share with kids to teach them how to turn setbacks into learning opportunities: "I'm not a strong swimmer … yet," or "I don't like onions … yet."
It's easy to zoom in on the worry of the moment and feel like there's no way out.
Flares of anxiety happen to so many of us, even about little things like being 10 minutes late for a meeting, forgetting to pay a bill and getting slapped with some interest, or getting no reply on a text to a friend.
When you start to feel that stress, ask yourself: "Will this matter a year from now?" If the answer is no, try to pull that future calm back into the present moment.
Do you have 17 texts, 243 unread emails, and three calendar notifications pinging for your attention?
Distraction and decision fatigue are often barriers to happiness. So reduce your options. Instead of pinging from one thing to the next, take a minute and write down one thing you will focus on, either at the beginning or end of the day tomorrow.
Achieving that one small goal is one achievable step you can take towards genuine happiness.
Neil Pasricha is a leading authority on intentional living. He is the New York Times best-selling author of 10 books and journals, including "The Happiness Equation" and "Two-Minute Mornings." He hosts the award-winning podcast 3 Books, and has given keynote speeches at TED Talks and SXSW. Follow him on Twitter @NeilPasricha.
Leslie Richardson is a community leader. She's a mother of four, inner-city elementary special education teacher, and runs community listening groups for moms and teens. She has degrees in psychology and education and is a certified parenting coach.
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