According to recent studies, happiness increases longevity. Many old wise beings confirm that having a positive attitude is a secret to feeling good, dealing with illness, and keeping themselves active.
Here are my own 11 suggestions that will help keep you young by increasing the amount of happiness you feel.
1. Have good communication; don't argue.
When you need to speak up about an issue that's bothering you, adhere to Attitude Reconstruction's Four Rules of Good Communication:
- Speak in "I's" — that is, talk about how you feel, rather than blaming others
- Be specific, and don't over-generalize with "always" or "never."
- Focus on kindness, not negativity
- Truly listen 50% of the time. With practice you will reap undeniable benefits.
2. Ditch your negative thinking.
Giving appreciation, praising, and expressing gratitude spreads good vibes. When you're thinking of saying something negative, look for what you like, and focus on that. Studies show that gratitude actually increases psychological and physical well-being.
3. Abide by the three Ultimate Attitudes.
Each time you align your thoughts, words, and deeds with one or more of the following three attitudes, the result will be a shot of joy, love, and peace:
- Honor and love yourself.
- Accept other people and situations
- Stay present and specific.
4. Handle emotions physically and constructively.
When you feel victimized or sad, just allow yourself to cry; you'll feel better and have more room to experience joy. Don't think or speak poorly of others when you feel angry. Instead, move out the emotional energy by hitting, stomping, pushing, or yelling. Express your anger physically and in a safe place. When you're gripped by anxiety, worry, insomnia, or panic, make yourself shiver, quiver, tremble, and shudder. It seems silly, but it really works.
5. Don't fight what is.
Accept that people and situations are the way they are, not the way you want them to be, then take the appropriate action. After accepting what is, you can look within for direction about what's true for you about the specific situation. Now you will be able to speak up and take action with confidence.
6. Take time off.
Doing nothing gives you a break from all the activity and distractions, and lets your body and mind integrate your experiences. Taking time for your brain to rest contributes to happiness. Maybe that means a solo hike or walk on the beach, maybe meditation, maybe nothing but vegging out and taking a nap.
7. Move your body.
Walking is good. Exercise is good. Team sports are good. Too much sitting or sleeping is not great for our bodies — our muscles, organs, bones, and our minds. Moving the body on a regular basis is what we humans were built to do. That means not just moving from the bed to the kitchen table to the computer. Research shows that sitting is the new smoking when it comes to decreasing life expectancy.
8. Laugh often.
Researchers are finding that laughing releases stress, lifts our spirits, and connects us with other people. We have a choice. We can laugh, we can cry, or we can be blasé and bored about the rich surprises life presents.
9. Create a bucket list.
Start doing some of the things you've always wanted to do; start now. We never know what tomorrow will bring, so it makes sense to treat ourselves well now because when we die, our bucket list also expires. Of course, that means being financially responsible so you can continue to travel, take courses, learn a new skill or hobby, or follow your dreams.
Helping others or getting involved in some cause outside yourself is good for your heart and connects you to your world. Contributing to a group that holds similar values is an excellent way to step outside of your own life, issues, and preoccupations. Selfless giving is a guaranteed way to increase feelings of love.
11. Just get over it!
Life's too short to live in the past. If you want to enjoy the present and future and live a nice long life, let go of all your regrets, what ifs, and spotty history — the injustices, violations, and hurts.
Jude Bijou, M.A., MFT, is a respected psychotherapist, professional educator, and workshop leader. Her award-winning book is Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life.