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How to Change Habits and Be Happier

Habits can change. Think about one behavior you used to engage in that you no longer do. Two newly published books on the subjects of changing habits and finding happiness (there’s a connection!) instruct you on how to create a better life for yourself. Here’s what they have to say (Sarasota Herald Tribune, 5/5/15, 2E, 18E).

In Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Every Day Lives, Gretchin Rubin describes how four types of people respond to changing behavior—Upholders, Questioners, Obligers and Rebels. According to her, understanding which type of person you are will help you change your habits and keep them changed.

  • “Obligers find it very easy to meet external expectations, but struggle to meet their internal expectations.” They’ll do something for others, but not for themselves.
  • “Upholders meet both external and internal expectations.” Their expectations of themselves are as important to them as the expectations of others.
  • “Rebels resist expectations—outer and inner alike” and need to give up the desire to not do what’s expected to make changes.
  • “Questioners resist outer expectations, but readily meet inner expectations.” They won’t do something unless and until it makes sense to them and need lots of proof.”

In The Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness, Dr. Amir Sood, professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, provides “step-by-step practices to help you decrease negative stress and intentionally choose happiness.” I wonder how many of you recognize that happiness is a choice. Perhaps you think happiness is about good luck and happy childhoods. Not true. Happiness is a choice, every minute of every day. Fortunately, you can actually retrain your brain to be happier.

Sood recommends these practices. We need to actively move our attention from the negative to the positive because we’re wired to have fears for our survival. He calls “intentional attention” a necessity in order to train your thoughts to go in a particular direction—stopping negative thoughts (yes, it’s possible) and encouraging positive ones. He’s saying that you can think yourself into happiness or away from it, and recommends that we pursue “gratitude, compassion, acceptance, meaning and forgiveness” on a daily basis to build our emotional core.

What are you feeling right now? Are you telling yourself that changing habits to find happiness is too hard, that you’ve tried and failed, or that it will never happen? If so, that kind of negative thinking is all that is preventing you from changing. Choose a thought that will direct you toward happiness and hold on to it.

The Importance of Mirroring in Connecting to Self
Decision-making via Pride and Shame

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