For longer than I care to admit, when I thought about how to be happier my mind went to my job. My body. My relationships. That is, once I graduated. Got a job I liked. Left a job I hated. Lost the last 10 lbs. Then I would be happier.
I dutifully held my feet to the fire. Found fault in what I did wrong so I could redirect my efforts. And, of course, repeated my positive affirmations. So why wasn’t I happier? Or more satisfied?
Well, I was doing it wrong. Giving up when I made a mistake made me feel worse than the mistake itself. Chastising myself didn’t make me do better. And then when a happy thing did happen, it didn’t make me happier. At least not for long.
Today, I feel better than I ever have and am making bigger changes in my life. I’ve figured a lot of things out along the way, and books are part of that journey. Here are three that helped me and I continue to refer back to the concepts in each of them. (And pinky swear, I read them all the way through!)
The How of Happiness: The best news from Sonja Lyubomirsky’s work is that we control up to 40% of our happiness. Research indicates that we’re born with about 50% of our “happiness setpoint.” Only 10% is related to circumstances, like a cash windfall or diagnosis. The rest is up to us and Sonja offers ten happiness activities to consider, based on your individuality. I especially like her work on gratitude, that goes beyond the typical advice. (BTW, I got to meet Sonja in 2019 when we both spoke at the MSMU Women’s Leadership Conference. I geeked out a little.)
One Small Step Can Change Your Life: As a recovering perfectionist, this book offers practical advice for making big changes through small steps. Do you ever start out gung ho with, say, eliminating sugar, but then eat an Oreo and then think “what’s the use?” If you feel like “change is hard” Robert Maurer shows you that it doesn’t have to be.
Self-Compassion, The Proven Power of Being Kind to Yourself: At least 92% of clients who coach with me need more self-compassion. If you’re over 50, for sure you’ve come to believe that chastising yourself for a Cheetos binge will prevent you from buying the next bag. Yeah, not so much. Kristen Neff shows how to be happier and healthier by being kind to yourself. Treat yourself like you would a good friend and you’re more likely to break out of unhelpful patterns.
There you have it, proven strategies for how to be happier, make big changes and feel better about yourself. One small step at a time.