Written by: Makensie Baker, LCSW
At different times in our lives, we may experience bouts of feelings of depression, hopelessness, sadness, loss of pleasure, etc. During those times, it is hard to find the motivation to go about with your usual daily tasks. It is also difficult to enjoy those things that usually bring you happiness or pleasure. Often people start to wonder if they are broken or will forever feel this way.
If nothing changes to your daily schedule and life, then nothing will change. It is wise to start implementing small changes, so that you can feel a shift in your mood, even if it is ever so slight.
If you were to google “ways to increase happiness,” there would be 1,000s of ideas on how to implement this. You can go ahead and start there, if you would like. It probably won’t hurt and you may run across something that speaks to you. If you are not interested in going that route, you can continue to read along.
I’ve made a short of list of some small changes that you can start to incorporate into your daily life, in hopes to boosting your feelings of pleasure, happiness, contentment. Remember, the goal is not to achieve total happiness every day of your life. Is that even realistic? Those individuals that do not suffer from bouts of depression, do you think they experience pure joy every day of their life? Doubtful. An honest and more achievable goal is to reach a place of feeling contentment more often than not. That may sound very ambiguous, but it can look different for each person.
First step to achieving contentment and happiness is to take part in activities that truly engage you. Seek out more challenging and absorbing experiences in which you “lose yourself” in the process. That could be a project at work, a creative outlet that you haven’t taken part in for awhile, a new workout regimen, a service opportunity, etc.
Second, savor life’s joys. Pay close attention to pleasures and wonders through thinking, writing, drawing, or sharing them with others. Writing is a wonderful way to fully elaborate on what you are experiencing. It is important to remember that your journal writing does not need to look pretty, be grammatically correct, or need to be read by others. It is a personal outlet for you to express what you want. If you know it is for your eyes, I think you will be less worried about what is written. It is meant to be a cathartic process.
Third, learn to forgive. Keep a journal in which you work on letting go of anger and resentment toward others who have hurt or wronged you. Holding onto past problems, often times only damages you and not the person to whom you are mad or hurt by.
Fourth, practice acts of kindness. Do good things for others- whether friends or strangers. Inviting positivity into your life through service is such a great way to get out of our heads and see others needs.
Fifth, nurture relationships. Pick a relationship in your life that needs strengthening and invest time and energy in healing, affirming, and enjoying it.
Sixth, cultivate optimism. Starting a gratitude journal daily, in which you see the good in everyday is a great way to shift our mindset and perspective. Part of this practice, may be counting your blessings. Expressing gratitude for what you have- either privately, through thinking or journaling.
Seventh, avoid over-thinking and social comparison. Social media is a hot topic these days for this very reason. If you feel that social media is affecting you too much mentally and emotionally, then it would be appropriate to reevaluate your relationship with it. Take steps to eliminate the amount of time you spend on social media. Take part in a purge where you eliminate those that you follow that are not good influence on you. Set an app timer on your phone to monitor the time spent on your social media apps.
Finally, commit to your goals. Pick one, two, or three significant goals that are meaningful to you, and devote time and effort to pursuing them.
Picking one or two things each week that you can focus on to elevate your mood will be beneficial for you. Remember, the goal is not to achieve pure joy everyday, but to have more feelings of contentment than hopelessness. Know that you are not alone in your struggle, we are all walking along side you in this journey.