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DON'T WORRY, BE HAPPY

20-01-2007

Happiness - it's the holy grail isn't it? But according to The Stirrer's resident psychologist Dr Mike Drayton it's not an unattainable goal. Here are his tips on getting a smile on your face.

Okay, if you are clinically depressed or something you can go and see a psychologist for some professional help. But what if you aren't depressed as such, but are just naturally miserable and grumpy? What if you are one of life's Victor Meldrews and rather than being grumpy all the time you just want to be happy?

Being happy is a good thing. If someone is happy with life, they are more popular. We all like being with happy people. All the research shows that happy people are more productive, healthier and live longer than grumpies .

So how do you get from being grumpy to being happy?

Lets start with optimism, which is a good defence against unhappiness. If you're optimistic and you convince yourself that life will get better, this will often become a self-fulfilling prophecy. This attitude will mean that you get more involved with life and find more opportunities. You will probably look after yourself more in terms of your health and thus feel physically better.

However, being grumpy usually means that you are a pessimist. So what can you do to change?

Optimism can be learned. It's easy. The thing to do is spend time consciously thinking about all the things that have gone right for us, and all the things we have done well rather than dwelling on what has gone wrong and what we have failed. One of the biggest causes of depression is thinking about and worrying about things that have gone wrong in the past, and our own cock ups. The worse thing you can do is keep thinking about failures over and over again, like a dog returning to lick up its vomit.

The opposite also holds true in that dwelling on things that have gone well will make you feel happier . Whenever you start to feel fed up and grumpy, just take a moment out and remind yourself of the stuff that has succeeded in your life. It doesn't have to be dramatic - just the ordinary day-to-day events that make life worth living. This is a simple and deceptively powerful technique to up your level of happiness.

Happiness does not simply mean getting rid of negatives; that just leaves us empty. In order to be happy we have to work on replacing the negatives with positives.

By reminding ourselves what went well instead of what went wrong we can inoculate ourselves against unhappiness, making us better able to take life's knocks when they come.

Psychological research has found that what many people think will make them happy, actually won't really work. Money, for example. Being rich, in itself does not lead to happiness. The world is full of unhappy rich people. Research has found that once we have enough to pay for life's basics such as food and a roof over our heads, more money adds little to our overall level of happiness.

Similarly, a comfortable life, fame or good looks do not automatically lead to happiness. Nor do sex and drugs and rock and roll; a life bent on instant pleasure and gratification offers short-term happiness, it is ultimately unsatisfying.

What really leads to happiness is finding a meaning to our lives. That meaning can be anything from religion, politics, your family, voluntary work, music or football. It is irrelevant what it is. What's important that you have something that really means something, that you believe in and matters to you.

Has Mike got it right? What are your tips on finding happiness? Leave a comment on the Stirrer forum

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