We are living in tough times. It seems, in this world of the 24/7 news cycle, and constant streams of information, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. And if any proof of this were needed, then here’s one statistic: Anti-depressant use is at an all-time high – according to the US Government Statisticians who published the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a whopping one in every 10 Americans are taking some type of antidepressant, and a full 23% of American women in their 40’s and 50’s rely on them daily. The figures are probably pretty similar here in the UK too. There are those who say this is a good thing, because depression has been under-diagnosed and under-treated in the past, but other critics say that aggressive pharmaceutical marketing may be, in part, responsible for the 400% rise in antidepressant prescription use in recent years, and antidepressant usage certainly does not come without significant risk and side effects.
What if there is some middle ground? What are the secrets used by people who seem to be “happy”? Wellm here are 10 strategies that actually seems to work in helping you to feel better, and take control of your mental health.
- Learn to enjoy the ride: Happy people realise that happiness is not a “destination” to be obtained, but rather, an attitude during the journey of life. There will be times when things are easier, and times when things are more difficult, but accepting that you will never fully arrive at a destination of happiness helps you to understand that the happiest people are the ones that are least focused on their own attainment of happiness. They are just along for the ride.
- Focus on the good and not the bad: Simple as it may sound, unhappy people are generally unthankful people. Granted, it’s sometimes difficult to think of something to be thankful for, but practice gratitude, even for the little things, really seems to help. Try keeping a diary or a list of all of the good things in your life. Thinking about these things daily will help you to stay on track and resist becoming stuck and worried about the difficult circumstances in your life – it’s helps keep the current hardships in context.
- Keep your expectations realistic: It’s important to determine what you want from life, and why you want it, and try to identify the source of your expectations. Are you trying to obtain the unobtainable “ideal” sold to you in movies, the media, your parents? Happy people are able to keep in mind the difference between the slick, shiny fantasy and realistic expectations for their life.
- Be willing to forgive: If you hold unforgiveness in your heart toward those who have hurt you, you are ultimately only hurting yourself. Choosing to forgive those people who do not deserve or ask for our forgiveness can work to break the power they continue to hold over you. If you’re a religious or spiritual person, ask God to help you find forgiveness for those who have done you wrong, and be willing to let it go. Where forgiveness is concerned, it is also crucially important to go easy on yourself too. Be willing to forgive yourself your own failures. If you have wronged someone, consider asking for their forgiveness when you feel strong enough – making it right with them will help make it right for you too.
- Be Generous: Studies continue to show that happiness comes from giving of our time, energy and money to a cause bigger than ourselves. Volunteer. Get involved. You will likely find that taking the focus off yourself and instead, focusing on others will help you achieve greater balance once again.
- Slow down and enjoy life: Happy people know how to pace themselves, to take a break now and then. If you are a type-A, always-on-the-go kind of person, then schedule time into your diary for a rest. Spend time with your family and friends, rediscover an old interest or hobby, or even take up a new one. People who are hyper-focused on one particular part of their life often end up neglecting their mind’s and body’s true needs, which include a need for rest and relaxation.
- Change what you don’t like: Again, this may seem simple, but if you are living with regrets, take action to change. If you don’t like your job, do whatever it takes to get training and skills to find the job you will like. If you regret that you never learned to run a mile, then start running! Do you regret not making more friends, or never marrying? Get out and find someone. It’s not easy and you may need to build yourself up for this but, as a strategy to get you feeling happier, it really is that simple.
- Choose your attitude: The old adage holds true here, “fake it ‘til you make it.” Every day, wake up and choose to have an attitude that’ll help you be and feel the way you’d like to be. Give it your best acting performance, regardless of the way you might feel. Choose to control your emotions, rather than let them dictate to you. If you don’t particularly feel happy, smile anyway. A smile on your face will affect how others around you perceive you, and will cause them to treat you more positively, ultimately improving your mood and attitude. Studies have shown that the physical act of forced smiling releases endorphins in our brains, even when our mood is not necessarily happy.
- Stop looking for shortcuts: Your mum and dad were right here. The best way to be successful and happy in this life is to work hard, get your education, and pursue your dreams, both big and small. Nobody owes you anything in this life. It is up to you, and you alone, to make your life what you wish it to be.
- Make a difference: Generally speaking, people who are happiest are those who fill their lives with significance, and leave the world a better place than they found it. Your contribution doesn’t need to be massive, but it will count, both to you and to those around you.
…and in short: Even from the depths of the darkest places you might find yourself in, you will still be called upon to make daily decisions about all sorts of things: What to think, how to behave, what to eat, whether to go out or not, and these decision points are where you can start to take back control of your life again. Even the tiniest of changes you decide to make away from your usual decision will count… and will begin the process of getting you back into the light again. So what are you waiting for? There’s no time like the present, so just go for it!
To view our range of medication-free options to help manage the symptoms of stress, anxiety and low mood states, please click here. If, instead, you’d like to explore our main website more generally, then a good starting point is our home page, here