How to channel your inner happiness warrior
When faced with someone’s sadness, how often have you offered the hollow, “Cheer up!” mantra? If you’ve been on the receiving end of that suggestion, then you know how seldom it translates to feel-good emotions. So how do you alleviate sadness? Successfully conquering sorrow begins with understanding why it sticks around, and ends with specific steps you can take to give it the boot.
A recent study published in Motivation and Emotion sheds light on why sadness can be so all-consuming, and answers the question why we feel sadness. The study asked 233 participants to remember experiences of specific emotion, and how long each lasted. Out of 27 ranked emotions sadness lasted the longest, far outranking feelings of shame, hatred and disgust. Researchers concluded that the circumstances that cause sadness are ones we deem higher in value overall.
To banish sadness for good, you must take action to bring happiness in to your life – without being unauthentic. With that advice in mind, try implementing any of these five options to launch a crusade for feeling better:
- Suspend judgment: Like all emotions, sadness results from our assessment of a situation. Changing your attitude from judgment to observation reduces criticism and self-pity.
- Take action: Create a new experience for yourself by changing your psychology. Start looking at what you can do, rather than focusing on what you can’t. Then, develop a where-do-I-go-from-here strategy, equipped with action steps, a timeline and support.
- Revise expectations: Focusing on what’s missing or hurts creates thought patterns that expand and deepen the experience of sadness. Shifting focus to the values that a situation does meet allows you to connect to happier sensations.
What you are doing is shifting from a perspective of expectations – the staunch belief that something will occur in exactly the way you imagined it – to intention – a commitment to how you want to show up in any moment, despite the details it presents.
- Create good feelings: Every thought creates a chemical release echoed by a physical sensation. This means that feeling happier, even in sad times, produces new chemical reactions and sensations. Do this by revisiting past feel-good events and savoring them or fast-forwarding to imagine a better future.
- Increase serotonin: Known as the “happiness hormone,” higher levels of this neurotransmitter have been proven to correlate to increased happiness. Ways to holistically achieve this increase include eating serotonin-inducing foods such as eggs, cheese, pineapple, tofu, salmon and turkey; getting a good dose of sunlight; adding a B6 vitamin; taking St John’s Wort; and committing to an exercise schedule that includes plenty of aerobic exercise – running and biking are my personal favorites.
The famous Greek philosopher and scientist, Aristotle, believed that the very purpose and meaning of life is to be happy. He said, “To live happily is an inward power of the soul.” Feeling happy in the midst of sadness takes work, but through that effort you can activate an even greater power of the soul to transform disappointment, loss and grief into a catalyst for becoming a happier you!