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Busting Stress with Smiles: Four Steps to Creating Happiness

Image of child on rocking horse in restaurant. Raleigh Psychotherapy, counseling, Stress, Katherine  Broadway,

The holidays are supposed to be a time of joy and happiness, yet sometimes it's hard to cultivate those feelings simply because a calendar says it's time. When fear, anger and uncertainty are in abundance, how do we find an attitude of thankfulness?

Dr. Robert Emmons has a simple yet powerful solution:

“Life is a series of problems that have to be solved — and a lot of times those problems cause stress. Gratitude can be that stress buster.”

Research shows there are attitudes and behaviors that can help us lead calmer and happier lives. Performing a random act of kindness could be all it takes to turn your day around, even in times of transition, uncertainty and stress. Let's look at four actions you can take in order to embrace gratitude as a stress buster.

Four Ways to Impact Your Own Happiness

1. Accept that life has difficult times and events:

Denial and avoidance do nothing but cause anxiety and stress, and they compound the difficulty of dealing with hardships and problems. As you accept reality, you can get help, create solutions, and work toward change. This will lead to an attitude of empowerment rather than one of discouragement and fear.

Think of a time in your life where you had a problem and were able to solve it. This will build your sense of internal power and your ability to deal with life and its problems.

2. Small actions and events have power:

Life is a series of little things. It is important to pay attention to what happens in your daily life. We miss so many things that bring encouragement and well-being. A smile from a stranger, a thank-you for a helpful gesture, or an unexpected compliment or gift can all brighten a day or a mood. When you look for the positive, you will create an internal positive attitude and expectation.

Research out of UNC Chapel Hill supports the idea. A study there showed that awareness of the little things in life and expressing “everyday” gratitude increased connection within relationships and overall satisfaction for both men and women.

Look for a kindness in your day and find a way to pass it on to someone. Look for an opportunity to perform a random act of kindness. Acts of kindness activate the pleasure centers in the brain, thus creating feelings of well being. You will both feel better and add positive energy to the world.

3. Use Social Media to find the positive in the world:

Certainly, social media can spread bad news and negativity faster than today's generations have ever seen. Research also shows that positive thoughts shared on social media spread even more quickly than the bad news. The internet is full of websites that contain positive thoughts, meditations, funny stories, inspirational videos, and even cartoons. If you need a happiness fix, it exists online.

Develop a daily habit of reading something positive or funny. Make the items easy to find - create a folder on your computer that contains postings from Facebook and Instagram that make you laugh, inspire you, and remind you of the goodness of people. Save links to websites that have positive meditations and stories.

4. Take action everyday:

It is important to feel like you have the power to make an impact on your life and the lives of those you love. One way to give yourself that feeling of power is to take action. That action doesn't have to be big, it simply has to be something.

Try something new, such as learning a skill, taking a walk, or volunteering. There is so much fear about what is going to happen in the future, so take action by becoming part of the solution. Decide what is important to you and use your energy to work toward change rather than getting stuck in worry.

In the words of M. Scott Peck, “life is hard.” However, we can actively make it easier for ourselves and others. By paying attention to ourselves and those around us, by seeing the small things in life and by passing on the good things we find, we can create hope in a world where there is fear and uncertainty, and we can help others do the same.

Are you having problems with paying attention to yourself and finding ways to smile? I can help you, call me at (919) 881-2001.

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