Equipped With Happiness


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Don’t Just Find A Happy Place—Bring One To You

photoWhen things get rough, everyone knows you just have to “find a happy place.” Maybe you picture yourself on a tropical vacation, or maybe you think about climbing your favorite childhood tree. Escaping to a happy place in your mind can certainly make you feel a lot better, but it might also pose a bit of a problem if you are in a situation that necessities being mentally present.

Fortunately, happy places don’t always need to be the result of mental escape. It is possible to make a happy place rather than finding one—all it takes is filling your current surroundings with things that make you smile! The possibilities are endless when it comes to ways to do this, but here are some ideas to start with:

Fill the room with stuff you like.

This could mean decorating with photos of family and friends, a vase full of your favorite flowers, stuffed animals or your best Lego creations. Or, it could mean covering everything in your favorite color. It could even mean hanging a giant picture of bacon on the wall, because hey, why not?

Satisfy your senses.

How could you possibly be happy in a room that smells like a combination of one of your coworker’s gym shoes and another coworker’s headache-inducing perfume? It would be a challenge, that’s for sure. But you can create a happier atmosphere by finding a candle or air freshener that makes you feel all good inside and keeping it with you at all times.

Of course, satisfying your senses goes beyond just smell. Try filling your cabinets with your favorite foods, and looking for opportunities to play music that inspires your happy dance.

Leave yourself happy notes.

You can take this to the extreme, and leave “you can do it” post its on every surface of your house, or you can do a milder version and simply add a smiley face to the top of your grocery list (or a drawing of Godzilla, if that’s what does it for you). The important thing is giving yourself a little reminder to smile.

Make a mobile-friendly happy place.

Even if you don’t have a stable location that you can transform into a “happy place,” you can still bring your happy place with you. This might mean carrying around a good luck charm, adding something fun to your key chain or wearing a friendship bracelet. Or it could mean changing the background on your phone to something that makes you smile.

After all, why settle for simply imagining a happy place when you could be in a real one, instead?


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Be Happier By Putting Bad Stuff In Its Place

bad mood cartoonIn a certain light, even the smallest objects can cast giant, menacing shadows. The same is true of negative events in our lives. If we view them in the wrong light, they can create a shadow that covers a much larger area than is warranted by their actual magnitude. This dark shadow can block the glow of happiness that shines from other parts of our lives.

Fortunately, by changing the light in which we view these negative events, it is relatively easy to prevent this shadow from forming. We simply need to focus on a few reminders that help keep our problems in perspective.

Reminder #1: Most bad stuff isn’t permanent.

When something goes wrong, or we find ourselves in a less-than-ideal situation, it is easy to get so caught up in the frustration of the moment that we forget our discomfort will not last forever. Often, negative circumstances are only temporary. For instance, we only need to tolerate an unpleasant job until we are able to find a better one (or until we can retire).  But even if the circumstances are permanent, usually our extreme aversion to them is not. As we get some distance from a bad break up, for example, we are able to adjust to the situation and feel less miserable.

It is important to remind ourselves that no matter how bad something seems, it’s only “for now.” It is easier to cope with unhappiness when we remember that eventually we will find some relief. Just think of how much easier the knowledge that Friday exists makes it to survive the workweek!

Reminder #2: Bad stuff has a tendency to create more bad stuff.

If a day starts with an alarm clock that doesn’t go off, followed by a flat tire, it is tempting to label the entire day as a “bad day.” But the second we decide we are having a bad day we severely decrease the chances that things will turn around. Once a day has been identified as “bad,” we’re more likely to interpret everything that happens in that context. A burnt dinner becomes yet another failure, when it could just as easily have been a good excuse to eat out.

Not only that, wallowing in a bad mood makes us unpleasant to be around, and may drive away people who could have made us feel better. When we bump into an attractive stranger, who might have offered us a flirtatious remark if we were smiling, they might respond to our obvious bad mood with a sharp, “Watch where you’re going,” instead. Of course, we will then take their rudeness as further evidence of our bad day. It’s up to us to avoid letting the bad things multiply.

Reminder #3: Taking time to appreciate the good helps keep the bad from taking over.

Knowing that it isn’t productive to let a bad mood influence everything else is one thing, but actually stopping that from happening is a whole different animal. It can be helpful to try to counter bad moods by actively reminding ourselves of the things we have to be happy about. These don’t even need to be big things; simply thinking about the taste of warm apple pie, or the feeling of sliding into a refreshing swimming pool on a hot day, can be enough to brighten our moods. The more time we spend thinking about the good parts of life, the less space there will be in our minds to fixate on bad stuff.

Life may not always be perfect, but, if we commit to reducing the shadow cast by less-than-ideal circumstances, these imperfections do not have to ruin our happiness.

 


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Be Happier By Making Decisions Creatively

creative decisions cartoonSometimes we over-complicate our decisions by keeping them too simple. We view choices in terms of two polarized options, and often find ourselves dissatisfied with both. Then we spend hours, or longer, trying to determine which list of evils we might somehow be able to tolerate.

But decisions don’t necessarily have to be that way. More often than not, we really do have more than two options. If we expand our decisions by adding choices “c” and “d” to our original “a” and “b,” we may find an option that’s far better than tolerable.

The tricky part is identifying those alternate choices. Most of the time, the best options will not be the most obvious. Finding them requires creativity, and an understanding of where to look.

Don’t Look for “c” where you found “a” and “b.”

Usually, when we are faced with a seemingly black-and-white decision, our two choices aren’t options we have invented independently.  We often only see two options because someone else has presented the decision to us in those terms. For instance, if we are discussing budgeting with our partner, they might say, “We can afford either a new dishwasher or a new couch.” If this happens, we are likely to focus entirely on picking between those two options. In the process, we completely miss other ideas, such as cutting down on entertainment costs, getting a loan, or selling our old possessions so we could purchase both items.

The appearance of limited options may not always result from an explicit choice someone presents to us, however. Sometimes we also find ourselves trapped by our assumptions about “normal” or “common” ways to go about life. For example, we may feel we have to pick between starting a family and building a career because we frequently hear stories about people sacrificing one for the other. In reality, the “lonely, career-driven woman,” and the “family man whose kids cost him a job” are just stereotypes. There are many middle grounds between those two extremes.

Finding the route that will make us happiest requires deviating from our preconceived ideas about the options open to us. It also requires facing the challenge of developing new alternatives.

New options can be created from the best elements of our original choices.

Sometimes the simplest way to find an ideal option is to combine the things we like about our other choices. For example, consider the decision of whether to go out for dinner or cook a meal at home. We might want the freedom to stay in our current un-showered, pajama-wearing state (a point in favor of cooking at home), but also want the convenience of not having to prepare our own food. If we combine those options, we might come up with the additional ideas of ordering delivery, begging a friend to bring us food, or scrounging in our freezer for something quick and microwaveable.

New options can also be found by completely abandoning our original ideas.

When we find ourselves stuck with two options that seem to have no redeeming features, sometimes it is best to look for new options in a totally different direction. Take the decision of whether to spend date night at the movies or a sporting event, for example. If none of the movies appeal to us, but we know our significant other gets bored watching sports (and we dragged them to a game last weekend), it may seem like we are destined for an unsatisfying date. But wait, maybe we could change “date night” to “date day” and visit the beach, or Disneyland, or the zoo, or the park.

Once we learn not to limit ourselves to the obvious options sitting right in front of us, we open ourselves up to a whole world of possibilities. And out of all those possibilities, we stand a pretty good chance of finding at least one to get excited about.


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Be Happier By Finding Outlets For Bad Moods

breaking plates cartoonBad moods happen sometimes. Maybe we’re down because we had a conflict with a loved one, got sick, made a mistake, had to face disappointment, etc. Or maybe we just had a day full of little, less-than-ideal moments. When these moods happen, it is important to process them (see Be Happier By Accepting Sadness), but it is also important to figure out ways to pick ourselves up and feel happy again. One way to do this is to find an effective outlet that allows us to release the bad feelings and welcome in good ones.

Everyone is different, so the best outlets may vary from person to person. The trick is figuring out exactly what will be most effective for us as individuals. It is also useful to find more than one method that works, so we have an arsenal of happy-making activities. This may require a bit of trial-and-error, but considering some basic qualities of good outlets is a place to start.

Good outlets tend to be related to things we already like.

Some people love exercise, some love art, some love cooking, some love video games, and the list goes on. Engaging in an enjoyable activity can help remind us of the parts of life we enjoy, and the good feelings we get from having fun may be able to crowd out some of the bad ones. If we can identify some things that consistently put a smile on our face, we can turn to them when times get tough.

Good outlets allow us to release the bad stuff.

This could mean pounding on a punching bag, venting to a friend, writing a poem, or drawing pictures of our problems and setting them on fire. Sometimes finding a way to symbolically let go of negative experiences and feelings can help us feel better. And if that alone doesn’t cure the bad mood, it still makes us more prepared to feel happy when we engage in other fun activities.

Good outlets do not damage us.

Frustration, anger, and sadness can sometimes lead us to destructive behaviors masked as outlets. For example, we may turn to working out (not inherently a bad outlet), but push ourselves way too hard. Or we may find comfort in food (also not inherently a bad outlet), but overindulge to the point that we damage our health.

In order to determine whether we are partaking in an effective outlet or damaging ourselves, we need to consider our motivations and the results of our behavior. If we realize that we are motivated by a desire to punish ourselves or by an urge to give up (e.g. overeating because we have decided to give up on weight loss goals), it is likely that our actions will cause us harm. But even if we are motivated by a genuine desire to improve our mood, we should still monitor the effects of our actions to ensure we aren’t carrying a previously healthy outlet too far.

Good outlets do not damage others.

It really might improve our mood to chop off our little sister’s ponytail or knock all of someone else’s belongings off their shelves. But, ultimately these kinds of outlets are unethical and lead to greater sadness in the long term. Taking our bad moods out on other people can create a chain of bad moods if they start feeling unhappy, too. Not only that, it can damage relationships that might otherwise be a source of joy.

Identifying ways to improve a bad mood allows us to take our happiness into our own hands. While we will always have to face unhappiness from time to time, it is helpful to have some options for lessening our sadness and moving forward with life.


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Be Happier By Making The Right Comparisons

comparisoncartoonThe temptation to compare ourselves to others seems to affect pretty much everyone. We might find ourselves wondering if we make as much money as our coworkers. Or we might sneak a quick peek to find out if the person on the treadmill beside us is running faster than we are. Comparisons can be beneficial to us, if we approach them in the right way. But, if we aren’t careful, they can also damage our self-esteem.

Recognizing how self-image is impacted can help us learn to make more productive comparisons.

People often let the way they measure up to others determine how they feel about themselves. If we evaluate our own assets as superior to the assets of the person next to us, our self-esteem goes up. But, if that person is more successful, attractive, or talented than we are, we may start feeling rather discouraged. Neither of these scenarios is ideal.

It is important to remember that when comparisons increase our self-esteem, the effects are only temporary. If our feelings of self-worth are dependent on being better than someone else, we run the risk of our self-esteem being shattered when someone below us eventually surpasses us. Lasting confidence comes from pride in our own strengths, not pride in having more strengths than others.

Not only that, we may damage our self-esteem by cutting ourselves down when we feel inferior to others. This is unproductive, especially because the comparisons we make often aren’t entirely fair. People seem to have a tendency to compare themselves to celebrities, models, billionaires, and other uncommonly successful figures. When we do this, we set ourselves up to feel subpar. Even when we do compare ourselves to people “in our league,” we may not take the full story into account. For instance, the acquaintance whose quick climb up the corporate ladder made us question our own career choices may in fact be the CEO’s nephew (a significant advantage).

Instead of using comparisons to evaluate our worth, we should use them to help us become the people we want to be.

Comparisons can help us see ourselves more accurately: While it is certainly good base our sense of accomplishment on our individual progress, it is also valuable to understand where our abilities fit in the grand scheme of things. For example, if we begin taking piano lessons, we have every right to take pride in mastering “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” But perhaps we would be wise to see how we compare to other pianists before we start calling ourselves Beethoven.

Comparisons can help us identify goals: If we do happen to find ourselves feeling insecure in response to someone else’s accomplishments, we can turn it into an opportunity to improve. Instead of convincing ourselves we are weak because we can’t lift as much weight as our friends, we could focus on creating a new workout plan that allows us to build more muscle. Not only that, if we notice the majority of our self-esteem seems to come from feeling superior to others, it is possible that we have some underlying insecurities. Awareness of our insecurities gives us a chance to examine their cause. This allows us to set, and accomplish, goals that will make us feel more confident.

If we are careful about how we use comparisons, they can help us maximize our happiness. Comparisons made in the spirit of self-improvement give us valuable opportunities to develop ourselves, and our lives, in directions that bring us greater satisfaction. We just have to make sure our self-esteem doesn’t get involved in the process.


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Be Happier By Smiling More

smile cartoonAs a well-known song from Annie reminds us, “You’re never fully dressed without a smile.” Sure, it might be more problematic to go out in public without pants than it would be to go without a smile, but remembering to wear a smile is still beneficial. The simple act of smiling has an amazing ability to inspire happiness.

Studies show that smiling may actually generate positive emotional experiences.

The idea that facial expressions contribute to emotional states, rather than simply reflecting them, can be found as far back as the work of Charles Darwin. For many years, researchers have been performing experiments aimed at studying the effects of smiling on the experience of happiness.

These researchers have used a variety of methods to mimic the physical act of smiling (eliminating happiness as a precursor), which has enabled them to study the expression itself as a cause of emotion. Repeatedly, results have indicated that arranging the facial muscles into a smile can actually produce positive emotions.

A study conducted by Robert Zajonc, Sheila Murphy, and Marita Inglehart even found a possible reason for this phenomenon.  According to their research, the muscular movements associated with smiling cool the blood flowing to the brain through particular veins. This leads to fluctuations in brain temperature, which causes the release/blockage of emotion-related neurotransmitters (the chemicals cells use to communicate).[1]

If these studies are correct, smiling might just be the quickest and easiest way to feel happier.

Smiling also creates a happiness-inducing environment.

People generally respond more favorably to those they perceive as friendly.  When we smile, we become more approachable (and often more attractive) to others. This is likely to improve our existing relationships, as well as increasing the likelihood that we will form rewarding new connections.

A smile can also improve the moods of those around us. Think about the difference between waiting in a line of happy people having animated conversations or waiting in a line of irate customers yelling at the cashier for going too slow. It might take the same amount of time to reach the front of those two lines, but it’s pretty clear which line will leave us feeling better. Smiling helps build a positive atmosphere, which can lead to a happier experience for everyone involved.

Of course, that isn’t to say we should force ourselves to smile all the time. If we are unhappy, it is perfectly okay to feel and process those emotions, rather than hide behind a mask of happiness. But on those occasions where we find ourselves making a “neutral” face, it might be worth showing off those pearly whites (or lack thereof), instead.

 

References

[1] Zajonc, R.B., Murphy, S.T., & Inglehart, M. (1989). Feeling and facial efference: Implications of the vascular theory of emotion. Psychological Review 96(3), 395-416.


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Be Happier By Consulting The Impossible

impossiblecartoonWhen making decisions, people naturally tend to limit themselves to options they deem “possible.” This seems like a logical approach, since focusing on impractical ideas uses up time and energy that could be spent on formulating a feasible plan. But sometimes, considering impossible, best-case-scenarios can lead to decisions that are actually more satisfying.

Occasionally, this satisfaction comes from discovering that the “impossible” is actually doable.

In order to avoid wasting effort, we often limit ourselves to ideas we are certain will work. This means we quickly label riskier options as impossible, never giving them a second thought. But some of these uncertain paths may be more possible than we think, and pursuing them can lead us to happiness.

Identifying those kinds of situations requires changing the way we initially categorize our ideas. Instead of trying to find the most practical options first, we should try to find the most appealing ones. Once we find an idea we like, we can begin to evaluate the steps necessary to make it a reality. Examining these steps in detail, after we are already fond of the idea in question, can make something that seemed impossible into a completely viable option. And that option could be just what we needed.

Even if our favorite idea does turn out to be impractical, contemplating the idea is still beneficial.

Decisions can be a little overwhelming at times. Thinking of a perfect outcome, no matter how impossible it is, can be a good starting point in the decision-making process. A brief fantasy about the best-case-scenario can help end the feeling of mental paralysis that often seems to accompany difficult decisions.

Not only that, sometimes working backwards from an impossible idea leads to an alternative that is still pretty great. It may be that a few simple sacrifices can be made to bring the idea into the realm of possibilities. If not, the original idea can still provide a direction for future ideas. By identifying factors that made the original idea appealing, new options that offer similar benefits can be developed. This process may illuminate opportunities that wouldn’t have otherwise occurred to us.

Considering impossible ideas also helps us understand ourselves better. When we think in terms of “possible,” we depend on a predetermined evaluation of our capabilities. This leaves little room for growth. But, when we think in terms of “ideal”, we gain insight about what truly makes us happy. This allows us to make efforts to grow in ways that maximize our happiness and to make decisions that bring us greater satisfaction.

It is important to remember that impossible is not the same thing as useless, and uncertain is not the same thing as impossible. If we consider the “impossible” when making decisions, we increase our likelihood of finding opportunities to be happy.

 


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Be Happier By Reaching Out To Others

reach out cartoonWhile our happiness should by no means be entirely dependent on others, there is certainly joy to be found by connecting with fellow human beings. The happiness that comes from interacting with others can be found in a variety of relationships and come from many different kinds of connections. This means it’s available to all of us, regardless of our circumstances.

 Reaching out is beneficial to us, and others, in a few ways.

1.  It is a chance to share joys: Good news gets even better when someone else is just as excited about it as we are. It seems that happiness feeds on itself, and the more of it we share, the more of it there is. Happiness is contagious, so when others share their joy, it can improve our moods, too.

2.  It is a way to unload burdens: Sharing our struggles with others can help lift some of the weight off our own shoulders. Another person can be a shoulder to cry on so we don’t feel alone, a sounding board to bounce ideas off, a source of a fresh perspective and advice, or a helping hand that relieves us of some stress.

3. It is an opportunity to improve the lives of everyone involved: Actively making an effort to bring joy to other people increases their happiness as well as ours. It is satisfying to know that our actions put a smile on someone else’s face.

 The great thing about these benefits is that they are found in close relationships, casual relationships, and even with complete strangers.

In close relationships: If we are lucky enough to have friends or family members with whom we can share intimate details of our lives, these people can be a source of emotional comfort. They’re our loudest cheering section when things go well for us, and they are able to figure out exactly what to say when we’re down. Bringing joy to our loved ones is often especially satisfying, since we are likely to know precisely how to make them happy. Since we care about these people so deeply, good things that happen to them can make us just as happy as our own good news.

In casual relationships: Neighbors, coworkers, classmates, etc. can also provide a place to share joys, unload burdens, and inspire happiness. When something positive happens in our lives, it’s possible we could brighten someone else’s day, and our own, by sharing it. And, by seeking information about the joys happening in the lives of those around us, we get the opportunity to find extra happiness in their good news. Not only that, sometimes the people we form casual relationships with have similar struggles to our own. For instance, the people we work with may feel equally stressed about recent company layoffs. Talking about these concerns with them might provide some relief. We can easily generate happiness for our acquaintances, and ourselves, by doing them favors or giving them compliments.

With strangers: Sometimes simply observing happiness in others can be a source of joy. Seeing a child playing or a couple holding hands can inspire a smile. If we are the ones having fun, a stranger’s day may be brightened by our smiles. And if our own days are in need of brightening, we can find similar happiness in a stranger’s delight. Strangers can also help in times of need.  During natural disasters or other emergencies, people who have never met before often band together and even save each other’s lives. We can experience the satisfaction of bringing a smile to a stranger’s face by participating in charity, offering a friendly greeting, paying it forward, or engaging in any other gesture of kindness.

 Even though we increase our opportunities for happiness by connecting with others, it isn’t always easy to do so.

Sometimes we experience internal and external struggles that cause us to shut out the very people who matter to us most. Sometimes we hesitate to interact with casual acquaintances because we fear that they will judge us or that we will accidentally overstep boundaries. And sometimes we are too shy or distrusting to risk being friendly to a stranger.

If we experience these kinds of difficulties, we can challenge ourselves to take baby steps toward reaching out.  That could mean making small efforts to communicate more openly in our close relationships, baking a treat to share at work, or simply making eye contact and smiling as we pass someone on the street.

Reaching out to others increases the number of happy people in the world. And the more happy people there are, the more happiness there is for everyone to catch. It’s a wonderful cycle to be a part of!


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Be Happier By Treating Yourself Lovingly

treatyourselfwithlovecartoonAt some point in their lives, most people have felt mistreated by someone else. But sometimes the greatest cruelty we face actually comes from within ourselves. When this happens, we often aren’t even aware we are treating ourselves poorly.

That’s why we might benefit from living by a new “golden rule”: Treat yourself the way you want others to treat you. Before we perform actions or engage in thoughts directed towards ourselves, we should stop and consider whether we would appreciate that same treatment if it came from someone else.

Of course, each of us has unique desires regarding how we would like to be treated, so the way we should act toward ourselves may also differ. But the following guidelines might be a reasonable place to start. After each “don’t” is a happier, alternative “do.”

Don’t criticize yourself too harshly: No matter how much we wish it wasn’t true, we all have less-than-perfect moments.  When we make mistakes, we often fling mental insults at ourselves. Sometimes we are so good at this that we manage to convince ourselves we really are terrible people. But I think most of us would feel abused if another person tore us apart over our failures that way. So, we should be careful to show ourselves compassion, even when we are disappointed by our imperfections.

Do praise yourself: Compliments make us feel good, and we like it when others notice and express positive things about us. We can extend the same courtesy toward ourselves by acknowledging our personal successes and valuing our strengths.

Don’t Make Excuses For Yourself: While it is important to avoid being overly critical, we should not go to the other extreme of allowing ourselves to get away with everything. Almost anything we do wrong can be justified somehow, and it is tempting to accept questionable justifications to avoid the pain of admitting a mistake. The problem is, doing that means being dishonest with ourselves (which is treatment we wouldn’t want from others). It is better to acknowledge our errors, forgive ourselves, and try to do better in the future.

Do Encourage Yourself to Grow: Moments of imperfection can be great opportunities for self-improvement, if we take the time to analyze them and correct whatever went wrong. Rather than feeling bad about mistakes, or pretending they don’t exist, we can take on the challenge of bettering ourselves by not repeating them.

Don’t Punish Yourself:  Sometimes feeling bad about ourselves escalates into a belief that our shortcomings are so severe  we don’t deserve happiness. We end up undermining relationships, missing opportunities, and denying ourselves satisfactions because we feel unworthy of them. But the natural consequences of our mistakes are punishment enough. After all, if we accidentally spilled tomato sauce on a friend’s shirt, we would hope the friend would simply allow us to pay for a new one, rather than seek revenge by attacking our own wardrobe with grape juice.

Do seek enjoyment for yourself: When other people take the time to do nice things for us, it generally makes us happy. So, we should take the time to do nice things for ourselves, too. This could mean indulging in a favorite dessert, taking a day off from work, going for a long run, planning a day with friends, or engaging in any other activity that brings us pleasure.

Frustrating as it is, we can’t always control the injustices inflicted on us by others. But we can avoid mistreating ourselves, and we even have the chance to create some extra happiness in the process.


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Be Happier By Finding Your Self-Discipline Sweet Spot

self discipline cartoonSelf discipline is a tricky ingredient to work with. It is often difficult to determine exactly how much of it we need and the best ways to mix that amount into the rest of our lives. But when we are able to use it effectively, self-discipline can help us find tremendous satisfaction. If we want to optimize our self-discipline, there are some common mistakes we need to avoid.

1. Having too much or too little self-discipline.

It is undeniable that all of us need a basic amount of self-discipline in order to avoid getting fired from our jobs, letting down those who depend on us, or permanently fusing to our couches from lack of movement. But beyond that basic level, we actually have a fair amount of choice about how disciplined we are. That’s why it is important to recognize the signs that we need to adjust our level of self-discipline.

You might need more self-discipline if: You are constantly frustrated by how little progress you are making toward your goals, you know what steps you could take to make more progress, and the reason you aren’t taking those steps can really only be described as “laziness.”  

You might need less self-discipline if: You are constantly working toward achieving your goals, no amount of accomplishment ever feels like enough, and you are starting to feel burnt out and exhausted.

2. Using self-discipline in all the wrong places.

Unfortunately, life often gives us responsibilities we would rather not have, and handling those responsibilities requires self-discipline. When we give those things our best effort, we often find ourselves with no energy left to be self-disciplined about anything else.

In order to ensure that we have enough self-discipline to go around, we have to budget it carefully. We need to determine where in our lives we can afford to make some self-discipline cuts, and where we might benefit from some extra self-discipline. This means evaluating which areas are most important to us, and focusing our resources on those areas.

Sometimes this gets confusing, because there are certain things we would rather not put effort into that are actually very important to us. For instance, we might dislike going to work, but having a source of income is important to us. So we have to use up some of our self-discipline on work. However, if we don’t care about being promoted, we may be able to put in slightly less effort, giving us more self-discipline to use on something else.

3. Basing our own self-discipline needs on the opinions of others.

It is important to realize that there is no universally accepted ideal for self-discipline. Some people are happiest with more self-discipline, and others are happiest with less. Neither way is right or wrong, so we just need to figure out which type of person we are and embrace it. Most of us fall somewhere between the following categories.

 A) People who benefit from high self-discipline. These people are happiest when they are actively engaged in a challenge. The feeling of satisfaction they get from putting in a full day of work is worth any stress they encounter in the process. They are easily bored with downtime, and spending a while relaxing makes them feel lethargic, rather than recharged. People like this might be able to maximize their happiness by pushing themselves as hard as they can.

B) People who benefit from low self-discipline. These people are happiest when they are able to put their feet up.  A full day of hard work is likely to leave them feeling frustrated and exhausted.  They don’t mind taking a longer time to accomplish a goal, if doing so prevents stress. For them, downtime is rewarding and enjoyable. People like this might be able to maximize their happiness by not pushing themselves all the way to their limits.

Once we finally master the use of self-discipline, we can create our own perfect recipe for happiness. Then, all that’s left is smiling and enjoying the delicious rewards of our labor.