Happiness From The Inside Out

Life Balance

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Happiness From The Inside Out

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"Most people are about as happy as they decide to be."

That quotation is commonly attributed to Abraham Lincoln, but the idea is much older than him. For thousands of years, some of humanity's wisest thinkers have emphasized how much we bear responsibility for our own state of mind.

Happiness From The Inside OutTrue, some people who suffer from mental illnesses such as schizophrenia or clinical depression cannot improve their state of mind without medical help. If that describes you, get help without delay.

For the rest of us, though, how we choose to think is the biggest factor in our sense of happiness and well-being.

Admit That You Have Control

As old as this idea is, it seems like there's something in human nature that wants to resist it. After all, if we persist in thinking that happiness is created outside of ourselves, then we'll always have an excuse for being unhappy, because there will always be something flawed in our lives.

But think about the ten most joyful people you know. They're probably not the ten richest, the ten best looking, or the ten best educated. They've probably all gone through divorce, illness, bankruptcy, the death of loved ones, or other serious hardships. Yet they embrace and celebrate what is good in life, despite all the bad stuff.

Until you adopt their mindset, you'll always be dependent on things outside yourself for the way you feel.

  • That might mean that you put yourself at the mercy of other people's actions -- even when they're immature, selfish, or mean-spirited.
  • It might mean you connect your self-worth to your financial net worth, such that you beat yourself up for being broke even while you're making great strides toward good financial health.
  • It might even mean that you let the weather determine how happy you are.

That's no way to live.

Set Your Own Course

What do you do after you admit that you are in control?

Well, the possibilities are endless, but here are four key habits that I recommend:

  1. Expand your sphere of responsibility. No, you're not responsible for tornadoes or malaria or the big ears you were born with. But you probably bear at least some responsibility for most of the conditions in your life -- and you're certainly responsible for how you react to the conditions in your life. Admit your role in the things that happen to you and around you. When you don't like the role you're playing, change it.
  2. Improve your ability to stay positive. Psychological research suggests that some people are wired to be more optimistic than others -- but that even those wired to be more pessimistic have a lot of control over their own mindset, based on how they choose to look at things. So practice seeing the good in things. I mean "practice" literally: next time something makes you unhappy, pause to write down something good that came out of it -- even if the best you can come up with is "Now I know what not to do."
  3. Sharpen your ability to change your mood. What does it take to get you in a better frame of mind? Does music help? Exercise? Meditation? Looking at pictures of your family? Start making a list of mood-changers, and start practicing them regularly when you feel unhappy.
  4. Take bite-sized chunks. I'm a big believer in taking baby steps to get where you're going. Pursuing happiness is a great application for this, because many people cripple themselves emotionally by drawing up a long list of conditions that must all be met before they can be happy. If you commit to a baby-steps approach, you can appreciate it when anything on your list of ideal conditions comes true -- and start to embrace the reality that you can be happy with every step you take.

Please use the comments below to add your own practices to these four. We can all use more techniques for highlighting the good things in our lives -- and reinforcing the idea that we can decide to be happier from day to day, even before conditions change to our liking.

Think back about that list of the most joyful people you know. By setting your own course toward persistent happiness, you'll be adding yourself to that list. That's a commitment worth making.

What are you doing to build happiness from the inside out?

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Tim WalkerTim Walker

Tim is a writer, marketer, and social media pro living in Austin. He joined CareOne's blogging team as a contributing writer for the Life Balance blog in 2009. As a blogger who has personally overcome debt challenges, he draws from his own experience to provide tips on living a balanced life and keeping fit. You can read more of his thoughts (on fitness and everything else) at his personal blog, What I've Learned So Far. Compensated Blogger for CareOne Debt Relief Services.

Follow Tim on Twitter or follow us by clicking here!

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  • Positive thinking is always the best way to get through anything. It makes you do positive things that yield positive results.

  • Just think about what's important to YOU and write it down, starting with your most cherished wish. Do you want to run marathons? Get married and move away with your new spouse to some exotic corner of the world? Run your own business? Write a book? All

  • Although, I graduated from college, earn a good income, I still think that I can save more than I currently am. There are always minor developments to alter my current financial situation.

  • That's the kind of person you'd want to look up to. Sure, he was successful in his profession. But he also did what he loved and put a high premium on his relationships, not just his work or the money and accolades that came with it.

  • Why do I put money and happiness together? Because for a lot of people money troubles seem to lie at the root of their unhappiness. Any couples' therapist will tell you that money issues are often a major source of friction for their clients.

  • But what about after the Halloween party is over? What if this week you started pretending to be somebody you could be -- your best self?

  • Sometimes it's hard to be thankful. Even if it's Thanksgiving and you're surrounded by loved ones and good food, you might still be thinking about the downsides -- lousy job, no job, being out of shape, troubled relationships, or money worries. I'm sure

  • Here's an open secret for you: Mindset is everything. If you think you can go out and do something great, you'll at least try, which gives you a shot to succeed. If you think you can't . . . you probably won't go after a tenth of what you might achieve

  • This month's theme is motivation. How do you motivate yourself to pursue what you want from life? How do you maintain that motivation with your fitness, your finances, and your relationships?

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