Does Being Unhappy Stress You? 10 Ways to Increase Happiness

What IS intentional Happiness? Why is intentional happiness important?

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It turns out you CAN be happy.  It is not a question of just BEING happy, but actually taking the necessary actions to promote happiness within yourself and those around you.   At least 40% of it!

Easy to say?  After all, with things being the way they are in our world today, it is hard to believe that we are responsible for our own happiness:  the economy, our family, our marriage or relationship, unemployment, cost of living, social media and the information overload, the everyday wear- and- tear, whatever the circumstances… need I say more? 

Amidst all that is going on in our lives, WE CAN BE HAPPY.  Just as our surroundings make us unhappy, those same surroundings can be an immense source of happiness.  In other words, you CAN control your state of happiness and well being.  It’s all about making the necessary conscious and collective actions to get there.   And if we are happy, those around us will be happy – for people like me, the WHOLE WORLD will be happy!.  And THAT is the Intentional part of our own Happiness equation!

Considering that only 10% of happiness (or unhappiness) comes from life circumstances, and 50% is already in our genes, what about the 40% of Happiness that we CAN control? Here is a simple list of many of the actions we can take for that 40% remaining:

1.    Avoid the NEGATIVES in your life: Don’t participate in gossip, cut out the griping and moaning and don’t waste time on things you CANNOT control.   It all boils down to increasing and practicing your POSITIVES – those seemingly little things that just make you feel better.

2.    Start by doing 3 little, positive things every morning.  Have you ever noticed when your beloved dog wakes up?  The first thing he/she does is stretch.  Stretching gets your muscles and your brain moving.  Quite simple.  Other examples?  Smell the coffee in the mornings, go pet that dog, look out the window and find something that YOU think is beautiful.  Chances are if you are in a good mood, your interactions with other human beings WILL be positive!

3.    Stop Being SO judgmental! Learn about positive interactions.  Although at times it seems you just want to lash out at the person in front of you, b-r-e-a-t-h-e!  Research shows that 3 (YES!  Only 3!) positive interactions for every negative one substantially reduce the stress of being judged and promote positive interactions.  Even though it might be difficult, look HARD, you CAN find the positive in people. 

4.    You have probably heard Einstein’s definition on Insanity:  “Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.  AVOID your own TOXIC thinking! Reframe and Refocus on the positives in your life. Take a walk or read to distract your brain from thinking in negative terms.  And for God’s sake, don’t listen to that sad song over, and over, and over….


5.    Reduce the amount of time you spend around negative people.  No more.

6.    Be grateful.  There is someone in worse circumstances than you are.  The practice of gratitude within the family, for example, helps kids be more enthusiastic, interested, and determined; feel 25% happier, are more likely to be kind and helpful to others and sleep better.  And while we are at it…

7.    Help.   Give back.  UNSELFISHLY! Knowing that you helped releases that feel good hormone that makes you move, be positive and ultimately be happy.  Teach your kids to give back and promote the culture of community within your family.

8.    Set attainable Goals.  Let’s face it… truth is the chances of being President of the US WILL NOT happen.   And the added frustration along the way is just a sure recipe for unhappiness. What you can do is be the best you can be…  Even though it sound like a cliché,  being conscious of your strengths and acting upon them gives you  positive meaning in your own life.

9.    Stop being So Stubborn: Knowing when to quit is a valuable lesson in life.  When the cost is just too high and there is no benefit, refocus and redirect your energies to strengths.   Teach your kids to set their criteria and meaning of success, to identify when things are just not achievable, and to take a corrective action; all based on their own strengths. 

10. There is a difference between setting expectations and expecting perfection. For us parents, our children are the most perfect human beings on EARTH! So while we are making sure our kids stay that way via judgment and criticism, we negate their learning critical life skills required to succeed as individuals and within their society.   Being critical of our child’s actions produces a chronic feeling that nothing is good enough and elevates stress hormones.  Eventually, our children learn to focus too much energy on avoiding failure or criticism, conceal mistakes and avoid feedback.   Helping your kids to embrace failure and learn from mistakes by talking about it makes it easier to move on, and yes, be happier.

My math?  If I can be 40% happier, the pieces of the puzzle of my life will start falling in place. 
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To learn more on the science behind happiness and supporting documents click here 

For the Howell Foundation Health and Happiness Evening Series click here 

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