Learn How to Be Happy with Yourself

By Elizabeth R. Lombardo, Ph.D., M.S., P.T

happy_healthy_womanMy grandmother was an amazing piano player. In fact she was so good that, despite only have a few university credits, she taught piano at the college level. One of the courses she instructed was entitled “How to play the piano DESPITE years of practice.”

Grandma used to talk about the bad habits people had picked up- either on their own or from poor instructors. She would spend hours teaching her students the proper techniques to create beautiful music by unlearning what they were already doing. This concept is important not only in playing the piano but also to being happy.

Looking for Happiness in all the Wrong Places:

As a society we tend to look for happiness in all the wrong places: overeating, excessive drinking, using drugs, “shopping therapy”… We think these acts will bring more joy into our lives. And while they may offer a brief high, disappointment, despair, distress and even depression often take over.

Why do we do this? Sadly, this country is suffering from an undiagnosed epidemic that I have named “If Only” Syndrome. Here are some examples:

“If Only I was thinner, then I would be happy.”

“If Only I had more money, then I would be happy.”

“If Only my kids would put their stuff away, then I would be happy.”

“If Only my ex wasn’t so difficult, then I would be happy.”

And yet “If Only” syndrome causes us to be even more miserable.

Take, for example, the thought “If only I win the lottery, then I would be happy.” Did you know that the average lottery winner is not any happier than anyone else? Even those who win hundreds of millions of dollars. Sure, they may experience more exhilaration initially. But after about 6 months, research shows they return to their original level of happiness. Sadly, many even become more UNhappy because of the stress of suddenly having so much money.

We fall victim to “If Only” syndrome and look for happiness in all the wrong places, not because we are stupid. Rather, it is because we have not learned the proper skills to being happier. Just like one of my grandmother’s students who practiced the piano for years without reaping the benefits, we keep trying to be happier but are not always successful.

So, let’s vaccinate ourselves form “If Only” syndrome and become happier moms.

In order to do that, we need to start by developing some new skills. In effect, we need to take the course “How to be happier DESPITE years of practice.”

Happiness is a skill. Just like playing an instrument or sport. And if you practice the right skills, you can improve. Isn’t that promising?

Even better, you can be happier REGARDLESS of what is going on in your life. You need not wait for your financial situation, relationship or children to improve. You can become a happier you right now.

“How is that possible?” You might be asking.

To be happy, just be GREAT. That is an acronym for:

G = Gratitude

R = Relaxation

E = Exercise

A = Assist others

T = Take care of yourself

Gratitude: Be grateful for what you have rather than discontent about what you lack. Every day write down at least three things you feel grateful for, that you appreciate. Maybe it is a sunny day, your child putting his shoes away, a good cup of coffee, or a call from a friend. It doesn’t need to be huge, just something positive.

Relaxation: Stress can be the nemesis of happiness. And we all know how stressful being a single mom can be. So make sure you take time out to take some deep breathes, meditate or listen to relaxing music. You don’t need to carve out an hour of time (although that would be great). You can do diaphragmatic breathing in the car while taking your children to soccer practice or even while you are in the bathroom.

Exercise: Research show exercise reduces depression and stress, enhances your mood, improves your self-confidence and even helps you sleep better. So, get your body moving today. You can even do this with your children- bounce with them on a trampoline, ride bikes, take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Assist Others: Helping out others will increase your own happiness. Look for opportunities to help out others- and include your children. It could be opening the door for someone, inviting a lonely neighbor over for a meal, collecting change to donate to a worthy cause.

Take Care of Yourself: Make sure you get the nutrition, sleep and fun that you need to be happier and healthier. I realize many of you might be thinking “Is she crazy? When do I have time for that?!” But hear me out- it is vital to your psychological and physical health. The average American watches 5 hours of TV each day. Imagine if you took just one of those hours to focus on you. Give yourself and your children set bedtimes that you stick to. Choose healthy choices for meals for yourself and your children. Swap babysitting with a friend so you can take that craft class you are interested in. Use the same creativity you applied when your toddler was crying to find time for yourself.

A happier you will not only experience more sustained joy but you will also benefit in so many other areas of your life. People who are happier tend to also enjoy better relationships, improved health, less stress, higher levels of energy, more self-esteem, a greater sense of purpose and a longer, more prosperous life. And being happier makes you a better mother and makes it more likely that your children will be happier and healthier, too.

So how about it? Be GREAT and become an even happier you!

Elizabeth Lombardo, PhD is a clinical psychologist, physical therapist and author of “A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness.” She has been featured by CNN, Glamour, Redbook and Woman’s Day for helping people have less stress and more happiness. For more information and free happiness resources, go to www.AHappyYou.com


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