Be­ing happy

Sharon Ní Chonchúir looks at how we can be hap­pier

Irish Examiner - Feelgood - - This Week -

DON’T worry. Be happy. Bob Mar­ley may have hit on the secret to good health when he sang this song. Stud­ies now link happy emo­tions to health­ier hearts, stronger im­mune sys­tems, and longer lives. One 2005 study even found that hap­pi­ness could im­prove chronic aches and pains.

In his new book,15 Min­utes to Hap­pi­ness, ther­a­pist Richard Ni­cholls shares some ways in which we can be­come hap­pier in our daily lives.

He be­lieves that if we take a few min­utes each day to mon­i­tor the work­ings of our minds, we’ll soon im­prove our sense of well­be­ing. Here are three ways in which he thinks we can do just that.

Num­ber one is writ­ing our feel­ings in a jour­nal. This is a good way of gain­ing a healthy per­spec­tive on things. Re­search has even shown it to have sim­i­lar ben­e­fits to coun­selling.

So grab a notepad and pen and start writ­ing. Date your en­try and try to write quickly so that your in­ner critic doesn’t get in the way of your self-ex­pres­sion.

If you don’t know where to be­gin, ask your­self a few ques­tions. How do you feel right now? What’s on your mind? Or be­gin by writ­ing the words ‘To­day I feel…’ or ‘I want…’ and carry on from there.

Ni­cholls en­cour­ages reread­ing pre­vi­ous en­tries so that you no­tice how time and ex­pe­ri­ence can change how you think and feel about what you wrote. This reread­ing is as help­ful as writ­ing be­cause it al­lows you to see how you’ve de­vel­oped over time.

Sug­ges­tion num­ber two is to use ‘thought-stop­ping’ tech­niques. These tech­niques have been around for a while and some­times in­volve wear­ing an elas­tic band on your wrist. When you find your­self ob­sess­ing over some­thing, pull on the elas­tic band and let it snap on your wrist so that you’re distracted from your thoughts and start think­ing about some­thing else.

In the case of emo­tional and men­tal health, try­ing not to think about up­set­ting things ac­tu­ally en­cour­ages the brain to fo­cus on them even more so you need to de­velop ef­fec­tive tech­niques that al­low you to con­trol where your thoughts go.

His third sug­ges­tion is to check for dou­ble stan­dards. This helps you to recog­nise if you are ask­ing your­self to live up to ex­pec­ta­tions that are sim­ply too high.

Ni­cholls’ ex­er­cise asks you to sit down for 15 min­utes with a pen and pa­per. Think about the stan­dards you set your­self in a par­tic­u­lar area of your life, be it your re­la­tion­ship, your work, your friend­ships or your chil­dren. Be as spe­cific as you can in de­scrib­ing what you ex­pect of your­self.

When you’re fin­ished, reread what you’ve writ­ten as if you are ex­pect­ing those stan­dards of some­one else, some­one close to you. Cross off any ex­pec­ta­tions that you think would be un­fair to ask of them.

Look at the items you’ve crossed off the list and con­sider how you could re­place them with health­ier ex­pec­ta­tions. For ex­am­ple, if you al­ways re­write work emails sev­eral times be­fore send­ing them, de­cide that you’re only go­ing to reread them care­fully once. Once you’ve changed that habit, have a look at an­other item on your list and think about chang­ing that too. Be­fore you know it, you’ll be more like Bob Mar­ley — hap­pier and hope­fully health­ier.

15 Min­utes to Hap­pi­ness is pub­lished by Blink Pub­lish­ing and re­tails at €12.60.

STAY POS­I­TIVE: Richard Ni­cholls shares some ways in which we can be­come hap­pier in our daily lives.

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