5 Simple Steps Guaranteed to Make You Happier
Frustrating and upsetting things will happen, both at work and in your personal life. But you don't need to let them hijack your mood. Jude Bijou, a psychotherapist and author of "Attitude Reconstruction" says there are five simple tools anyone can use, at work or at home, when upsetting things happen. Following some or all of these steps will help you back to a better frame of mind.
1. Fight bad feelings with good feelings.
"During my years as a therapist, I realized that our bad attitudes and behavior are always caused by sadness, anger, or fear," Bijou says. "Emotions exist in opposites, and we also have joy, love, and peace."
The key, she says, is to activate those opposite feelings. "I have to rewire my thinking. What thoughts aren't serving me well and what would be better?" So, for example, if you're angry at a client or your boss, you can remind yourself that people are the way they are, not the way you want them to be. Remember (if you can) an occasion when that person was kind or helpful. Replacing negative thoughts by making a choice to focus on positive ones will help you out of that negative emotion.
It will also help if you focus on the present moment, rather than the past or future. That's the simple principle behind mindfulness meditation, and you can make it work even without a formal meditation practice.
"If I'm worried or overwhelmed and feeling like I've got too much to do, I'm thinking about the future and about deadlines. I'm not in the present," Bijou says. "If we're more present, we can say, 'One thing at a time. I'll just do what I can.' That helps when we're in fear and anxiety."
2. Let your feelings move your body.
This step isn't for everyone, Bijou admits, and it requires you to find some privacy, but it can be highly effective. "Emotions are e-motions--energy in motion," Bijou says. "Moving that energy out will create space to think new thoughts."
So, she suggests, physically express the emotion you're feeling. If you're angry, you can go into the restroom and repeatedly slam the stall door. If you're frightened, she advises literally shivering, for instance by imagining a tingly feeling up your spine. If you're sad, letting yourself cry or even burying your face in your hands can release that emotion. Once you let it go, you can move on.
3. Find your own truth.
The next step for dealing with negative emotions is to tap into your own insight. "Ask yourself, 'What's going on for me? What do I need to do?'" The important thing is to put the focus on yourself, not on whoever or whatever is troubling you, Bijou says. And then listen for your own answers.
"When we hit what's true for us, there's a relaxed feeling," she says. You may find yourself breathing easier, perhaps actually sighing out of relief. This is the time when you can usually start figuring out a solution to the problem.
4. Use thoughtful communication.
Once you've used the first two or three steps to bring yourself to a calmer state, it may be time to communicate with your employee or boss or spouse--whoever set off these negative feelings. "When we're angry, it's all you-you-you!" Bijou says. "I have to turn from you out there and talk about myself."
Tell the other person specifically what you need at the current moment. Limit it to the immediate problem without bringing "the pent-up stuff you haven't said for the last year," she advises. Make sure to listen as much as you speak, and treat the problem as one you will work together to solve.
5. Do one thing.
The last step is to take action, however small, to make things better. "If you're feeling angry and need to feel loved, what can you do to make that happen?" Bijou says. "Maybe give someone a compliment, or offer to help with a task."
Likewise, she says, if you're feeling frightened and need to feel more peaceful, take a few minutes to organize your desk, or write down a list of things you need to do. That will help you decide which task you need to do first, and perhaps which tasks you can ask someone else to handle. "Now I've dealt with it on the level of action," Bijou says. "I no longer have to go around in a panic."
MINDA ZETLIN | Columnist | Co-author, The Geek Gap
Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and speaker, co-author of The Geek Gap, and president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.