1. Health

Q: What Can Make Me Happy?

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Updated October 02, 2011

Q: What Can Make Me Happy?

Sometimes it's the simple pleasures in life that can make you happy.

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Question: Q: What Can Make Me Happy?
Sometimes life gets so stressful, I have a hard time knowing what will make me happy. When I think of everything I have to do, and all the demands on my time and energy, it's hard to find time to do things that will make me happy, and I don't always have the ability to get into a good mood when I've had a bad day. What should I do? Can you help me figure out what will make me happy?
Answer: Many people find themselves feeling irritable, overwhelmed, and just not at their best when they feel overloaded by demands in their lives. And while what might make me happy might not be the same thing that makes you happy, certain things tend to create a greater experience of happiness in virtually everyone's life. These things are being identified and studied in the branch of psychology known as positive psychology, so we can know what specific changes can make most people happy. (I'm recommending several of them below.)

While you may not be able to control all of the factors that are causing stress in your life, there are a few things you can do to take the edge off of your stressors, so you feel less overwhelmed, and you can more easily shake off a bad day. Likewise, there are a few ways to increase happiness levels, even when life is stressful. Here are some "make me happy" tips I highly recommend.

Cultivate Optimism

While there are several things in life you can change to relive stress, there will also be things you have to deal with—job stressors, busy schedules (especially if you have kids), and other stressors that arise. However, because it's perceived stress that triggers the stress response, if you can shift your outlook, those things you can’t control may feel less stressful to you. So how do you shift your outlook? The following tips can help:

Stay Connected

As most of us instinctively know, healthy relationships are one of the best harbingers of happiness we have. Positive, supportive, and mutually respectful relationships can make our “wins” easier to celebrate, and can buffer us against stress when we face our inevitable challenges. (The trick is to give back all the support you get from your friends, and to weed out the toxic relationships.) To keep your relationships strong, it’s important not only to make time for your friends, maintain a sense of humor, and remember to have a lot of fun, but also be sure you have healthy communication and conflict resolutions skills. The following resources can help you maintain strong relationships that can help make you happy:

Take Shortcuts To Happiness

With a busy lifestyle, and with stressors that can seem to come out of nowhere, it's important to have quick routes to happiness, so you can create or restore positive feelings as quickly as possible. Knowing what can make you happy, and practicing a few "happiness shortcuts" each day is a quick and easy way to raise your spirits in general, and make happiness a habit.

Cut Down On Energy Drains

Certain parts of your can drain your energy. Life coaches refer to these as tolerations, and they can be anything from a person who brings negative energy or high demands, a messy desk that makes you slightly more tired when you look at it, to a part of your day that you wish you could just avoid. Much of the time, we get so used to these drains that we don’t notice how many of them we have in our lives, and we don’t try to eliminate them. Other times, we start feeling overwhelmed by them—like we’re being “pecked to death by ducks.” Either way, by becoming more aware of them and cutting down on drains when you can, you may be able to free up enough time and energy to engage in more “make me happy” activities. The following resources can help you identify and eliminate tolerations, and so you can find positive activities to add to your life—things that make you happy!

Make Room For What’s Important To You

One thing I’m noticing with what you’re saying—and something that’s all too common—is that there are so many things in your schedule that you feel you have to do (and that cause you stress), that you don’t have as much time for activities that you enjoy, and that are meaningful to you. You need to cut out some of those “make me stressed” activities to make room for the “make me happy” ones! This can be challenging, but definitely not impossible, and well worth the effort it takes to make the necessary changes! The resources above, as well as the following resources, can help you to create a schedule filled with activities that can make you happy:

Get Help If You Need It

There are people who can help—you may just need to ask for it. Can you delegate some of your responsibilities? Can you accept ask for additional support from friends? At times, this can make a big difference in how you feel. And sometimes stress can be overwhelming in a way that becomes difficult to handle alone. If you think you may need more help than these tips can provide, I urge you to speak to your doctor or another professional who can help.

I also recommend that you take advantage of some of the free resources I have on this site. This free self assessment—the Happiness Test—can assess several areas of your life and give you resources to enhance the areas of your life that might be causing you stress. You can also sign up for the free weekly newsletter, which actually comes twice a week and brings information on the latest research and techniques to use to relieve stress in your life. You can also get regular stress information from my Facebook group About Stress Management.

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