How to be Happier This Year
by Thao Nguyen
If you were to ask the people closest to me to describe me, they’d probably say one of two things: “She’s hella dramatic,” or “She’s the most cynical/negative person ever.” And they would all be right. I wasn’t always like that, in fact I was relatively happy-go-lucky growing up (probably annoyingly so). But as I grew older, I adopted the idea that being happy and nice all the time was a sign of naivete. I thought that being cynical made me more aloof and interesting.
But being negative all the time is really draining - both emotionally and physically. It is exhausting always looking for a reason to be unhappy, and negativity has been shown to have physical effects as well. I’d gotten so used to looking for all of the bad things in my life that I started taking all of the good things for granted. So I’ve taken it upon myself to be more positive. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve found that there are a few things that have really helped in bringing about a more positive outlook.
Focus on the “now.”
Worrying about the future was one of the things that caused me the most grief. Trying to control everything about my future made me really negative when things didn’t go my way right away. I forced myself to stop trying to control everything in my future and instead tried to “live in the moment,” as cliché as it is. When I accepted that the only thing I could really control was how I reacted to the present, I became a lot less stressed out and a lot happier.
Take count of all of the good things in your life.
It's cheesy, but counting your blessings definitely works. There were so many things I took for granted, but once I started being mindful of all that I had, instead of what I didn’t, I became much more positive. It can be easy to be caught up in all the goals or objects you have wanted and worked towards yet haven't been able to get, but instead of seeing that as a failure or a loss, see it as an opportunity to grow. Be proud of your efforts and be thankful for all that you already have.
Do everything with a smile.
Fake it till you make it! Research shows that smiling is correlated to higher levels of happiness. If you project happiness, you will improve your mood as well as the moods of those around you. And if you’re surrounded by happy people, their happiness will rub off on you.
Find an accountability partner.
Choose a friend who isn’t afraid to call you out and have them hold you accountable if they ever find you slipping up and being super negative all the time. It might even help to have them make a promise too, and if either of you slips up, you BOTH have to do something to make up for it, like doing 20 push-ups. Holding yourself accountable is difficult, having someone you know you can depend on will keep you on your toes. Their presence will also be a reminder of another reason to be happy: you have someone who cares about you and wants you to feel better!
It may be hard to see that things can be good when there seems to be more and more bad happening everyday. Don’t let yourself get caught up in it. Being pessimistic and negative won’t change anything. Be the optimism and hope that will inspire your society, don’t add to the darkness.
At the end of the day, it’s worth it. Being more positive has allowed me to hold myself to a higher standard and appreciate myself more. Being cynical and negative may make you seem more worldly or mysterious, but ultimately, it’s damaging and exhausting. Choose to be happy and choose to value your happiness more than people’s opinions of you. Some people may think you are naive or simple-minded for trying to be happy all of the time, but is that worth the price of your emotional well-being? Put your opinion of yourself before anyone else's. Once you can say that you are proud of who you are, positivity will come naturally.