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Published: Tuesday, August 20, 2013, 12:01 a.m.

Mental tricks that can help make you happier

  • Kim Carney, The Herald

Happiness.
It's an inalienable right, along with life and liberty.
But for many of us, it's an alien feeling.
You can change that, starting now.
Happiness is a mindset: Thoughts influence satisfaction.
"The key is to appreciate and accept things as they are," said psychologist Paul Schoenfeld, director of behavioral health at Everett Clinic. "Live in the present. Appreciate the moment for what it has to offer you, what there is for you to experience."
Happiness, by nature, tends to be fleeting.
"People are always experiencing disappointment because happiness doesn't endure. It is very transitory, happy one moment and unhappy the next," he said.
"What people are looking for is an enduring sense of well-being."
Schoenfeld said a recently published study of more than 10,000 participants from 48 countries found that respondents rated happiness as being more important than other highly desirable states, including having meaning in life, becoming rich or getting into heaven.
The famous Harvard Grant Study, which followed 268 white males for 75 years, basically concluded that loving relationships, starting with Mom, made people the happiest. Sure, it didn't hurt to have money and career success, but it didn't help all that much either.
The road to well-being is paved with simple mental tricks.
Here are some tips culled from Schoenfeld, blogs and a happiness junkie who read 27 self-help books on the topic. (These are not intended for people with clinical depression or other mental illnesses.)
Guilt, grudges and resentment: Get rid of it, get over it. Sure, you can learn from it, but move on. Otherwise, it's tying up your time and energy by clouding your head with bad things.
Gratitude: Appreciate what you have. Focus on what's good in your life. There's lots of good things that ooze out when you stop dwelling on the doom.
Don't compare yourself to others: Truth is, most people really aren't any better off than you anyway. A lot, in fact, are worse.
Like who you are: Hollywood is proof that gorgeous skinny rich people aren't any happier than you.
Accept things you can't change: These include the weather, your height, your age, your losses.
Don't take on other people's unhappiness: That's their problem. Hang around whiny people and guess what you're going to start doing?
Do good: Be nice to people. When people around you are happy, it rubs off.
Tell the truth: Telling lies drains energy and makes you feel rotten about yourself.
Embrace change: Take the initiative. Don't wish things were different, do something to make them different. Dream big.
Let go of the past: Don't obsess over something stupid your mate said or did 10 years ago or even 10 minutes ago. "Much unhappiness comes from living in the past," Schoenfeld said. "Anything that happened two minutes ago is unchangeable."
Balance: Yeah, those fries you scarfed down tasted totally delicious. So don't beat yourself up over it. Skip dessert. Take a walk. Eat a salad.
Sex, drugs and rock and roll: Have a glass of wine at dinner. Dig that sexy nightie out of the drawer. Play music. Sing in the shower.
Downsize: Get rid of the extra belongings, people and other stuff cluttering and overwhelming your life.
Upsize your support network: As "Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz put it: "Happiness is a warm puppy."
Andrea Brown; 425-339-3443; abrown@heraldnet.com
Get happy
For more information about happiness:
Paul Schoelfeld, www.familytalkblog.com
Life'd: http://tinyurl.com/c4hsa3d
Successify: http://tinyurl.com/lrvnpkl
Story tags » Mental health

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