By Carrie Barron, MD and Alton Barron, MD
Authors of The Creativity Cure
Sometimes we have to fight the urge to sink beneath the weight of our emotions. Just as you would remind yourself not to slouch—”Stand up straight, dear,” as my mother-in-law urges my father-in-law—remind yourself to follow these five steps for unlocking happiness, and you can turn your grimace to a grin.
Motion works. Swing, skip, run, dance, or move through your garden on a weed-pulling mission. Quickened pulses pump up moods.
Get it over with. Action lightens the load. Do all the things you dread in one day and you will feel great when you’re done: Clean the closet, pay the bills, check off the to-do list, as fast as you can without cutting corners. One fell swoop releases you from mood-plummeting procrastination. Fast and furious frees up energy and produces upbeat daydreams.
Plan an activity with a group of 8. Bring your close friends together and have an interesting themed meal: Mardi Gras, Tex-Mex, Maine lobster, California fruit, Tuscan feast. Eight constitutes a group in the therapy world, a number with which intimacy and distance (we need both) are equally possible. Plus, bringing people together is excellent for happiness. Researcher Simone Schnall found that even uphill backpacking appears more doable with a friend at our side. True connections to others brings joy, better health, and a sense of safety.
Combine pleasure with a task. Chores are not mind-numbing if your mind moves to a new place while performing them. Listen to NPR. Start learning a new language with audiobooks or follow podcasts on a subject that interests you. Not only will you feel stimulated, you will also have less regret about working through an otherwise mundane task. Even if you can listen for only a few minutes, know that one wise comment can alter the entire trajectory of the day. It’s true. A smart person with empathy, tact, and timing can say the thing that changes your mind.
Make a “My 100 Favorite Songs from My Youth” playlist. The Beatles. The Temptations. Madonna. The Beastie Boys. Find the music you love and toss it on a playlist. The process alone will trigger memories from meaningful moments in your life. Even sad memories, recollected in a peaceful space, can help you rejuvenate.
If you are feeling alone, fill your mind with another place or time. Nostalgia serves.
Unlocking happiness is a reachable goal if you know what to do. So let’s go!
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