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10 Ways to a Happier Life - Part Two

Our resident psychotherapist Dr Robert Owen shares the next 5 of his Top 10 Tips for a year-round happier life - and adds a bonus tip


Photo c.c. seanbjack


Happy New Year! I hope you’ve had a restful and restorative festive season and a good start to 2015. Here are the final 5 of my top 10 tips for a happier life (click here if you missed the first 5) - and a bonus tip.


Of course this list is in no way exhaustive - share your top tip(s) in the comments below. I look forward to hearing from you.





We often compare ourselves unfavourably with other people, making ourselves unhappy by choosing to believe they are better, and/or happier, than us when common sense tells us that appearances can  deceive. Social media doesn’t help, as this article in The New Yorker explains.


Receiving objective feedback on your own individual key character strengths can make a big difference. When you have a spare 20 minutes take the Via Survey - you might be surprised by what you find.



Practice being in the moment


Through practising mindfulness I've learned to slow down from time to time and appreciate what’s happening in the moment. For instance when eating, I now make a point of not having the TV on, nor reading a paper. The more attention you put both on the food and the process of eating, the slower you eat and the tastier the food. You also eat less.


I’m told this also works well when applied to sex - at least you enjoy it more; you might want more too! Being in the present means you’re not depressed about the past or anxious about the future, which will positively impact your happiness.



Direction in life


Much psychological research indicates that always having a project and a goal is an indicator of longevity and good health. Your goals or projects should obviously be realistic but you’ll get more out of them if they’re a stretch [see Succeed at New Year's Resolutions in this edition]. For example, if you set a goal of increasing your income in the next year, not only is ‘by 25%’ a more inspiring, if daunting, aim than by ‘by 10%’, it’s much more likely you’ll increase your income by at least 10% than if your target is just 10%. Conversely, if you set a 10% goal, you’re far more likely to end up with less than that, if anything.



Emotional Intelligence


Emotional Intelligence is recognising which emotion is dominant - in yourself, and others - at any time and acting appropriately. For example, if you’re angry with your child’s teacher, it’s not appropriate to hit them - shouting would probably be frowned on in most situations nowadays, so the answer may be to remove yourself from the situation for the moment. Many of our regrets in life come from times when we have been emotionally incontinent so practice identifying your emotional state before speaking and acting.



Resilience defines resilience as “that ineffable quality that allows some people to be knocked down by life and come back stronger than ever. Rather than letting failure overcome them and drain their resolve, they find a way to rise from the ashes.”


Positive Psychology research results suggest that how we deal with all the negative things that inevitably happen is one of the key factors in leading a happy and fulfilled life.  A tried and tested method of mitigating the effect of stressful times is to share them with a friend or a professional helper. It also helps to understand - and remember - that ‘bad’ things can and will happen to all of us, wherever we may be in life, and that they may not seem all that bad later; you may even come see positivity in them. Among the attributes that contribute to resilience are emotional intelligence (see above), the ability to see perceived failures as helpful and a positive mental attitude.



Bonus Tip: Get out more


The combination of fresh air, exercise and nature we experience whilst walking in a park or by a river can have almost miraculous effects on our mood. Walking is especially beneficially on crisp sunny days at this time of year, when the days are short and natural light is at a premium, although a walk in the rain or dark can have a beneficial impact too - if you’re in the mood for it.


When walking for recreation, put your mobile on silent for a while and try to clear your mind of its circling thoughts. In this digital age, we tend to rush through life and often don’t appreciate the beauty of the natural world as much as we might. We take, as the poet W.H. Davies said, ‘no time to stand and stare’.


If walking doesn’t appeal, get out and do something else - there’s a ton of recent research showing that experiences make us happier than possessions. So go to a museum, catch a film or play, or use your imagination and do something else completely. On your return you’ll be satisfied that, whatever the quality of your experience, you’ve achieved something.


Robert Owen

About the Writer

Dr Robert Owen has over 20 years' experience as a psychotherapist and group facilitator and is a quality assessor for a national counselling training organisation. He works from home in Strawberry Hill as a one to one therapist and couples counsellor and also co-facilitates personal development groups (a type of therapy group) at the Twickenham Therapy and Counselling Centre.


Until recently he taught the theories of groups, transactional analysis, emotional literacy and positive psychology to MA students at Brunel University. Husband, father and grandfather, he is passionate about yoga, mindfulness and healthy living & ageing. His short story, Bristol Bomber Boy - From  Bedminster to Bomber Command, is based upon his father’s experiences as an RAF pilot during World War II and available here in Kindle format. Robert's website is here.


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