7 Ways To Make Yourself A Happier Person
Life's a butt sometimes, and it can be really easy to get down. But there are ways to fight back against the gloom and take the the edge off some of the rough patches! So, here are seven ways you - yes, you! - can try to make yourself a happier person.
Table of Contents
- Watch out for poisonous thought traps.
- Adjust and manage your expectations.
- Watch out for catastrophic thinking.
- Accept that it's not always your responsibility or obligation to help someone.
- Avoid assuming the worst in people.
- Be open to the new and different.
- Make a habit of trying and learning about things.
- In summary...
Watch out for poisonous thought traps.
Some thoughts don't take you anywhere. In fact, they hold you back and stop you from getting anywhere because you're obsessing over them and demoralizing yourself instead of doing something that would move you forward. A few examples include:
- "I can't get anything I want! Why do I have to be such a loser?"
- "There's nothing to do around here! I wish I lived somewhere else!"
- "I'm so ugly! Why can't I be more attractive?"
- "I messed up so much back then, now look at what a failure I am! If only I had done better!"
So if you find yourself having thoughts like these, you might stop yourself and think instead:
- "...So yeah, that sucks. What might I do about it? Where might I look for help with this problem?" (Google is never a bad place to start.)
- "...So yeah, that sucks. But there's nothing I can do about it right now, so there's no use worrying about it. What's something I can work on or do instead?"
- "Wait a minute, I'm fretting. Fretting is not an act of responsibility, because it doesn't help things get better. All it does is wastes my energy and stresses me out more."
- "She's so pretty, unlike me. I'm just so ugly."
- "Look at how he's got his life together. I don't have that at all. I'm such a mess."
- "That person is so talented. Why can't I be that talented?"
- "...Maybe I'm not as good as this other person in some way, but I have other things going for me. It's silly to judge my whole being on one axis alone."
- "...But I'm doing the best I can right now, so I don't need to beat myself up over this."
- "...Maybe that person technically is more skilled in some way than I am, but what matters in the end is that I use what I have to make myself and others happier."
- When someone doesn't want your help, and is in a sound state of mind. (You're free to have your own opinions on what the best way to do something is, but people need to be free to to do things how they like insofar as they aren't harming or threatening anyone. Otherwise, they're being tyrannized.)
- When "helping" would interfere with someone potentially learning valuable life experience, even if it is a bit painful or unpleasant. (People grow and learn from bad experiences as much as from good ones.)
- When the help someone needs is beyond your expertise or ability.
- When the person who "needs" help is taking advantage of you - IE, always relying on your assistance instead of going to more appropriate venues for help or taking personal responsibility for the problem.
- When you've given all the help you can, and it's gone nowhere, and you find yourself going in circles with this person.
- "This is very different from what I usually like, but it might be enjoyable in its own way."
- "This is a different way of doing things than I'm used to. Well, I'll just have to see how it works and judge it on its merits."
- "I'm unfamiliar with this, but it might be interesting. I'll give it a try."
- "I've never heard of this before, but maybe it could be useful. I'll do some research into it and see if it might be worth trying."
- Watch out for poisonous thought traps, and try to turn your thoughts to something more positive or constructive if you find yourself in one.
- Adjust and manage your expectations, so that imperfections and setbacks aren't seen as major wrongs or disasters, but as an unavoidable part of life to be handled in a calm and collected way.
- Watch out for catastrophic thinking, and remind yourself that it's not rational. Watch out for people who try to get you thinking catastrophically. Remind yourself that their thinking isn't rational.
- Remember that there are some times when your help is not needed, nor is it appropriate. It's okay not to give help at those times.
- Be open to things that are new and different. Accept that they might be good.
- Make a point to try and learn things.
Negatively comparing yourself to others is another kind of poisonous thought trap. Thoughts like this can look like:
Again, they don't take you anywhere - they just hold you back and demoralize you. You might challenge them with:
Adjust and manage your expectations.
If you go to see a movie expecting that it ought to be The Greatest Movie Ever, you're going to feel disappointed if it doesn't live up to your expectations. With expectations as high as these, even the smallest flaw can feel like the greatest of letdowns - or worse, like a betrayal.
On the other hand, if you go into a movie anticipating an overall enjoyable experience even though it might have a few imperfections, you're more likely to come away satisfied and happy.
This principle applies to everything: If you go around expecting perfection all the time, you're going to find yourself a very disappointed and thus unhappy person. If you expect something all right and overall enjoyable, even though it could be a bit better in some ways, you'll be overall much happier.
Does this mean that you shouldn't feel any negative emotion over something that isn't quite up to snuff? Does it mean that you should never point out where things could be better? No, of course not. It just means accepting that little, if anything will ever be truly "perfect" and being at peace with that. It means understanding that mistakes and flaws are an inevitable byproduct of being human, and that it's not reasonable to hold people or their work in total condemnation over it.
Another unrealistic expectation to wrangle is the one that we should or ought to be able to fix a complicated, widespread, or long-term problem with some silver bullet solution. In reality, most problems like this aren't fixed with a single big or one-size-fits-all solution, but rather a lot of small, partial, or incremental solutions. (And so, small victories should not be derided or dismissed because they don't fix everything, but should be given appreciation and possibly small celebration.)
One common unrealistic expectation some people have is that things "ought" or "should" be a certain way, when it's not really the case. If you stop and find yourself thinking that something ought or should be a way that it's not, stop and ask yourself, "Why do I expect that things should be this way? Where did I get that idea? Is it really a realistic expectation?" Then, rather than focusing how you think things ought or should be, focus on how it is, and how you can deal with it as best as you can.
A final and very ugly unrealistic expectation to get rid of is that setbacks shouldn't happen or that setbacks spell end of whatever it is you're trying to accomplish. In reality, setbacks are an inevitable part of life. Accepting that it's not a matter of if, but when a setback occurs, makes it much easier to deal with them and move on.
Watch out for catastrophic thinking.
Basically, thinking that something is going to lead to complete and total disaster of the worst kind.
Back when Twilight came out, people claimed that it was going to "set feminism back a hundred years" and "be the death of literature." Yet here we are a decade later, and neither of these dire predictions came to pass. Women are still voting, getting jobs, and living independent, self-motivated lives. Good books are still coming out.
During the West African Ebola outbreak of 2014, a lot of people were terrified that the disease would be carried to the US and start a massive outbreak. It didn't happen - partly because these days, people are actually pretty good at keeping dangerous diseases from getting around.
Back when 9/11 happened, a lot of people were afraid that it was going to lead to WWIII. Obviously, that never happened. Sure, what came of it wasn't good by any stretch, but it wasn't half as disastrous as many thought.
If you catch yourself thinking like this, remember that things rarely actually lead to some hyperdramatic worst-case scenario. (The slippery slope fallacy is considered a fallacy for a reason.)
Also, watch out for people who will get you thinking catastrophically. Many news sites do this by posting articles with headlines that scream doom and gloom. They do this just to generate clicks, but constant exposure to sensationalist headlines over time can create worry that there really is an impending and dire threat. Other sites do this with more sinister intents - they post these things to make some extremist agenda or another seem reasonable. Some of these sites are run by irrational people who think they must get others to think as they do for the good of the world. Whatever their intentions are, the potential effect of their content is the same: making you afraid of boogeymen and illusionary apocalypses.
Accept that it's not always your responsibility or obligation to help someone.
It's sometimes hard to step back when people seem to need help, because our instincts often tell us to do just the opposite. But in reality, there are times when you don't need to help. These include:
So if you don't help someone in these times, it's okay. It doesn't mean you're failing somehow, nor will it be the worst thing ever if this person fails or makes a mistake (again, adjust those expectations and watch that catastrophic thinking!). Nor does make you weak or selfish. (In fact, never refusing to help someone who has been taking advantage of you makes you a doormat.)
Avoid assuming the worst in people.
There are plenty of people out there who are truly rotten and terrible individuals, but there are plenty more who aren't. Try living by the rule "never attribute to malice what can be explained by ignorance, ineptitude, mistake, misunderstanding, or a really bad day."
Of course, this doesn't mean that you should always try and attribute everything to the above - that would be disastrously naive. Rather, you should at least try to rule them out first, and if you can't be entirely sure which it is, try to give the benefit of the doubt. And of course, it also doesn't mean that you need to let rude people walk all over you, nor that you must remain in a situation where you feel distressed or worried for your safety. It just means that you shouldn't jump to the conclusion that you're dealing with one of the worst kind of people there are.
If you do find yourself jumping to the worst conclusion, challenge it. Remind yourself that there are plenty of other explanations for what's going on, and that any of them are just as (if not more) likely than the one you immediately thought of.
Likewise, when you see strangers around you, be mindful of any negative judgments you might be passing. Do you ever look at someone and think, "Oh, I bet this person is a jerk!"? If you think a thought like that, remind yourself that you can't possibly know that for sure. The reality is that this person could be anything - bad or good, but almost certainly just another human being with hopes, fears, flaws, and strengths - just like you.
Be open to the new and different.
Change is inevitable. So is coming across strange and unfamiliar things. So, running around with a contemptuous or pessimistic attitude toward anything you're not accustomed to is a surefire path to misery.
Being open to new and different things doesn't mean expecting everything to be awesome and perfect - that's an unrealistic expectation that will set you up for a lot of disappointment. However, it does mean being open to the idea that these things might be good. For example, when you see or hear about something new, you might think:
Make a habit of trying and learning about things.
Whether it's a craft or a hobby, or some area of knowledge you don't know as much about as you could, there's a lot to look into. And between YouTube, documentaries on Netflix, and assorted websites out there, there's no shortages of places and ways to learn about all sorts of subjects.
A few sites you might go to for how-to type content includes Instructables, DoItYourSelf.com, and Howcast. Remember, even if you don't plan on making or doing anything right now, there's no such thing as useless knowledge. You might learn about something that might come in handy in the future - if not in real life, then perhaps in a roleplaying game or a book you're writing.
If science piques your interest, AAAS and The Naked Scientists are good sites to visit. If history sounds interesting, you might like Archaeology. (And remember, sites like these can potentially inspire ideas!)
Beyond that, there are other ways to try new things. It can be as simple as trying a new item at a cafe or restaurant. It can be watching a movie that belongs to a genre you've never watched before. It can mean going into a shop you've never been to before.
Ultimately, exactly what you do doesn't matter that much - what matters more is that you're doing it!
You might also like:
Ways Young People Are Making Themselves Miserable
Simple Ways To Brighten Your Life & Exercise Your Imagination
How To (Nicely) Speak Up, Assert Yourself, & Ask For Things In Your RPs (And Why You Need To)
Tips To Be A More Interesting Person