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How to Train Yourself to be Happy

By Debbie Mandel

Yes, by now we have all sighed, ďLife isnít fair;Ē those annoyingly cheerful people in our midst lucky enough to be hardwired for happiness genetically. No matter what problems land on their doorstep, they resiliently return to their happiness set point to flow with lifeís currents. How wonderful that todayís research community has allocated some of its resources and attention on happiness instead of depression, documenting the observations, reflections and attributes of happy people. The joyously surprising news is that even if you are born to be sad, you can imitate the characteristics of happy people to change your nature. This is a huge emancipation from the leg iron of depression.

What do happy people do? Basically, they are conscientious people working and achieving. They set goals and accomplish them. This is the big secret to happiness: Working towards a goal, achieving it and then moving on to the next goal like a series of small victories.

Many unhappy people commit self-sabotage by setting unrealistic goals or giving up way too soon. Patience is not a quality many of us cultivate. Focused on instant mastery, we get discouraged, labeling ourselves as failures with the ďI canít do it mindset,Ē or assuming the victim mentality that other people either stand in our way or will never give us a break. No wonder we get depressed and defeated quickly. We stop trying. If we donít try, we canít fail and feel disappointed. Ironically, not trying makes us even more depressed and feeling unfulfilled.

Feeling happier entails returning to basic principles, what your grandmother always told you. You reap what you sow. Here are the seeds which will change your nature and allow happiness to take root within you:
  • Set small, manageable goals. Achieve and go on to the next. No matter your age, keep advancing your achievements.
  • Celebrate each small victory. A shiny kitchen, a clean drawer, getting over a cold, losing two pounds, exercising for 10 minutes, or supervising your childrenís homework. Donít minimize the success, qualify it or dilute the effect.
  • Connect with others to network and support your goals with cheer leading and accountability.
  • If you are not successful, find out why. Get a reality check from friends, colleagues or professionals. Update your skills. Keep growing and achieving.
Now you can understand why exercise is a major component of stress-management and happiness because it is about meeting physical challenges and achieving mastery over your muscles. People who exercise always set goals and accomplish. For example, weight lifters can quantify their goals and runners can set distance or speed goals. You donít have to be a professional weight lifter or a marathon runner. You can set a goal of walking for fifteen minutes every day. Instead of verbalizing your goals which invites making excuses, when you exercise, you just do it. This is why exercise is a great way to train your brain to be conscientious for ultimate happiness. While you are training your brain through exercise, you are filling a happiness reservoir. Animate your body and you will begin to feel that you have some control over your genetic predisposition. Let your legs carry you to your next happiness!
Debbie Mandel, MA is the author of Changing Habits: The Caregivers' Total Workout and Turn On Your Inner Light: Fitness for Body, Mind and Soul, a stress-reduction specialist, motivational speaker, a personal trainer and mind/body lecturer. She is the host of the weekly Turn On Your Inner Light Show on WGBB AM1240 in New York City , produces a weekly wellness newsletter, and has been featured on radio/ TV and print media. To learn more visit: www.turnonyourinnerlight.com