Dr. Romance writes:
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The founding fathers of our country saw the “pursuit of happiness” as an inalienable right – so important they embedded it in the DNA of the United States of America, by writing it into the Preamble to the Constitution. It was a profoundly new idea at the time. With it, they set wheels in motion that have been turning ever since. As a nation, we enshrined our gratitude for the blessings of our lives by creating a national day of Thanksgiving, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed into law on December 26, 1941.
In my private counseling practice, clients often tell me, “I want to be happy” We then pursue making it a reality. Positive, happy people do have an easier time in life, and bounce back from problems faster. Their relationships run smoother, too.
Your thoughts affect your mood, and how you relate to yourself can either lift or dampen your spirits. Neuronal activity in the brain activates hormones which are synonymous with feelings. Constant self-criticism results in a “what's the use” attitude, which leads to depression.
If you’re not nice to yourself, you eventually go on strike. Negative opinions are also roadblocks in all your relationships. There is plenty of research to demonstrate that we are hard-wired to focus on problems (as a self-preservation reflex) and focusing problems creates stress, which is physically and emotionally damaging.
Every day I see the positive effects of getting my clients to focus on gratitude. The things we feel good about are easily taken for granted, so making sure you spend some of your time noticing what you're grateful for gives you a chance to register the good things in your life, reduce your stress and anxiety, and feel better about yourself, your friends and family, and your life.
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While stress and anxiety cause the body to release adrenalin and testosterone, focusing on gratitude floods you with oxytocin, acetylcholine and other calming, relaxing agents. Hormones a emotions, emotions are hormones, so when you're flooded with happy hormones, you'll feel good.
Try laughter -- getting yourself a desk calendar with a new cartoon every day, sharing a joke you got via e-mail, telling a co-worker the cute thing your kid said (or listening to his story) or talking about the funny scene in the latest hit movie -- will lower your blood pressure, calm your pulse and generally help you release a lot of stress.
Your habits, your relationships, your environment, and especially what you think about them have a huge impact. As a psychotherapist, I know that those things determine more about how happy you are than your genes do, because I’ve watched so many people learn how happiness works. When you look at your own behavior, thoughts and feelings more objectively, you can change the things that are subtracting from your happiness.