10 Secrets To Being More Content (So Nobody Can Take Your Joy Away)

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Woman with smiley face balloon looking happy and content

Well-being is a positive state of mind. It emanates from self-acceptance, acceptance of others, activities that you enjoy, and a sense of commitment to your goals.

Your sense of well-being indicates that when negative feelings come up or you face bumps in the road of life, you know what to do to feel better soon. Well-being is enhanced by feeling that you know who you are and with whom you belong. Does positive well-being sound appealing to you?

Here are ten tips on how to be more content so nobody can take your joy away.

1. Specialize in generating and sharing positive energy.

Gratitude generates joy. How often do you count your blessings and have awareness of the good that has entered your life lately? Seeing what is good in your circumstances enhances feelings of well-being. How often do you express appreciation, agreement, and affection to others? How often do you smile at others, meet gazes, or pat someone on the shoulder?

Sharing positive connections and feelings increases others’ sense of well-being, which in turn will cause you to feel more pleasure.

Interestingly, prayer offers an ancient remedy to the tendency to forget to focus on the blessings in your life. Most prayer centers on appreciation and expressing gratitude to a higher power, which is probably why church or other religious observances engender warm and positive "spiritual" feelings.

Folks who think appreciative thoughts when they first wake up in the morning or just before going to sleep at night reap similar benefits. So, skip the criticism, complaints, blame, and snippy comments. The negative energy that you generate from these kinds of comments doubles, while your positivity declines. That’s because people remember negative moments more readily and intensely than positive ones.

2. Decide to be a problem-solver.

When problems arise, do you find yourself feeling mad, sad, or scared, and then getting stuck in irritation, depression, or anxiety? As soon as you hit a bump in life — a dilemma, an annoyance, a tough decision, a conflict, or an issue — go straight to problem-solving mode and ask yourself what you can do to fix the difficulty. In most cases, as soon as you figure out a plan of action, your negative feelings will flow away, replaced by satisfying feelings of well-being. Look for what you can add to a solution instead of telling others what they could or should do, unless they ask for suggestions from you.

Why grumble and regret, suffer from anxious feelings, get annoyed, or sink into discouragement when you can feel better by just looking for solutions?

3. Harness yourself to a project.

I once visited a Sufi guru in Pakistan. One of the favorite sayings of this very wise man was: "Cars run best uphill." I found his way of expressing this principle amusing. At the same time, I realized that many religions express this wisdom and that it highlights an important reality: people feel best when they have a project, a mission, or an objective to which they can harness their energies.

Christians emphasize finding a "calling." Jewish wisdom describes an overall self-enriching goal of making the world a better place. Hikers talk about leaving the trail better than you found it. Athletes enjoy working toward the goal of getting better and better at their sport. Business people seek to earn money.

Neurobiologists identify that pursuing a goal — a goal of any type — stimulates the production of dopamine which is, as writer Loretta Breuning says, a "happy chemical." So, harness your energies to work projects, earn money, to raise a family, or create beauty. Whatever it may be, attaching yourself to a project, or multiple projects, is life-enriching.

4. Learn from mistakes.

People were not designed to be perfect. To the contrary, we all make mistakes. No need to sit around beating yourself up after you've made a mistake. Instead, regard your errors — large or small — as opportunities for growth. See others’ mistakes as learning opportunities, as well. After each mistake that you or others have made, say to yourself, "Mistakes are for learning."

Punishing yourself just adds to your misery. Don’t spend too much time or thought on regret, shame, blame, guilt, criticism of yourself, or of others. Instead, look back and learn. Then focus on the road ahead— the road of self-acceptance, growth, and well-being.

5. See yourself and others in the best possible light.

Eliminate negative labels. End name-calling toward others and toward yourself. Anytime you feel tempted still to use a negative word to describe someone, reframe the phenomenon you observed in an empathic or at least neutral way. For instance, are you thinking that your child is bossy? Label it as “budding leadership”. Do you think your friend is stupid? Label it “uninformed” or “slow to pick up on new ideas”. Avoid negative terms for yourself, as well. Change the self-berating thought "I was an idiot" to "I was confused." Or, instead of "This is a stupid thought," tell yourself, "This is a surprising thought."

At the same time, accurate observation can be helpful. So instead of saying to yourself or others, "My boss is a nasty snot," which makes you feel superior but does little to enable you to work effectively with him, aim for non-judgmental descriptions, try, "My boss often gets impatient, especially when his expectations have been unrealistic. Keeping up my good humor in that atmosphere is challenging."

Equally important, as you see yourself having a habit that does not serve you well, ask yourself, "If I look at that habit in the best possible light, what is it trying to accomplish?" Once your intention has become clear to you, ask a second key question, "And what might be a better, less problematic, and more effective way to accomplish that intention?" Ah, now you are staying on the pathway of well-being.

6. Agree, augment, and add instead of disagreeing.

When someone expresses an opinion with which you disagree, skip the "But…" Also, skip the rebuttals like, “That’s not true!" Those responses turn a friendly discussion into an adversarial argument. "I’m right and you're wrong" assumptions also invite fights. Instead, listen closely to find at least one aspect of what you are hearing that you can agree with. Verbalize your agreement with that specific bit of information.

For example, instead of "I hate babies. They are ugly and burdensome," say, "Yes, I agree that they are often funny-looking, especially when they are newborns." Then, after you have agreed to something specific that you heard, begin with the words, "And at the same time…" to add your alternative viewpoint. Using the example above, you can add, "And at the same time, I love holding babies. They are so soft and warm."

With agree and add, you stay on the road to a win-win situation. You can be right and the other can be right, as well. Feeling right and enabling others to feel right raises your sense of well-being.

7. If it's in the past, it's for the good.

Once something has already happened, you can decide the impact it will have on your life and on your feelings. You can harbor resentment if it was something that hurt you. You can sink into disappointment and grieve for too long, or you can decide, "If it’s in the past, my job is to make it turn out for the good."

8. Cherish your circle of loved ones and friends.

Make time for your friends and family members. Do fun activities with them. Verbalize your positive feelings toward them. You will feel your loving feelings and you will receive positives in return. Expressions of appreciation and affection breed appreciation and affection in return, creating more well-being for everyone.

9. Treat your anger as a stop sign.

Expressing anger creates further anger, both within you and within the person you’re addressing. So, any time that you begin to feel angry, regard anger as a stop sign. What do you do at a stop sign? Would you pick up the stop sign and clobber people with it? No. At a stop sign, you pause to look about, figure out what’s going on, and decide how to proceed.

As you stop in response to feeling angry, you may need to change the topic first in order to give yourself time to calm down. It may also help to take several slow deep breaths to refresh and calm your energies. Consciously release the tension building in your muscles.

If changing the subject for a bit and taking a few calming breaths does not suffice to cool you, remove yourself from the triggering situation. Then distract yourself for a bit — maybe read a magazine, play with children, or finish a work project — to be sure you are not bringing the provocative situation with you. Return when you feel calm enough to talk cooperatively about the problem. If neither of you can calm down enough to dialogue in problem-solving mode, leave again. Early and frequent exits prevent needless anger from spoiling your relationships. Speaking and acting in anger is seldom constructive.

At the same time, your angry feelings — mild irritation, growing frustration, as well as feeling outright mad — are valid and indicate that there is something you want that you are not getting, or something you are getting that you do not want.

Your anger is an important clue that there is a problematic situation that you need to pay attention to. Then put the anger aside and calm down. When you are quieter, you'll be more capable of figuring out how to handle the situation cooperatively, cleverly and effectively.

10. Enjoy life's pleasures and let the laughter flow.

Indulge in life’s free sources of joy. Let yourself play and be playful. Sing a song or put music on your favorite electronic device. Go outside and enjoy the natural greenery and the sunshine. Connect with friends and family. Do something new, go somewhere new, or meet someone new, as new things tend to generate positive feelings.

Move around and exercise, even if all you do is run in place. Look for beauty. Make something. Give something to someone— anyone. Do an act of kindness. Express appreciation. All of these actions are natural emotional enhancers. The more that you let yourself enjoy, laugh, give to others, and appreciate your blessings, the happier and more filled with well-being your life will become. Happiness is a choice. Enjoy!

Dr. Susan Heitler is a clinical psychologist and author of Prescriptions Without Pills: For Relief from Depression, Anger, Anxiety and More. She is a subject matter expert in breaking bad habits and addictions.

This article was originally published at Prescriptions Without Pills. Reprinted with permission from the author.