How to look at life glass-half-full

Is your glass half empty or half full? Do you seek out happiness or wait for it to come your way? Keeping a good attitude and seeking out happiness in your life can not only make you feel better, it might also have positive effects on the brain and your health.

“Several research studies show that happiness and health are connected, and that happiness and an optimistic outlook on life might improve your brain function and lower your risk for heart disease,” said Geisinger internist Aliasgar Chittalia, M.D. “We also know that stress has a negative effect on our health.”

But feeling happy and having an optimistic outlook on life is based largely on personality. It’s easier for some people to have that glass-half-full mentality than others.

However, it is possible to learn to be happier every day by changing the way you see things. Here are five tips to feel a little happier.

  1. Surround yourself with happiness
    The people that you interact with everyday have a big impact on your happiness. To live a little bit lighter everyday, it helps to talk to others who maintain a positive outlook on life. Whether it’s your friends, co-workers or a family member—other people can help to liven your mood. And when you’re happy, you can help them stay happy, too.
    Importantly, this advice applies not only to face-to-face interaction, but also your interactions on the internet.
    “We’re more and more connected to people and news on social media and the internet, and it could be more of a stressor than you realize,” said Dr. Chittalia. “It’s important to recognize that if you are unhappy or stressed out, the source could actually be what you see in your social media newsfeed.”
  2. Write down positive thoughts
    You may have heard the quote that “not every day is good, but there is something good in every day.” If you’re feeling down or if you find that stress is playing a large role in your daily life, try starting a gratitude journal. In it, write down at least one thing you’re grateful for each day.
  3. Over time, you’ll accumulate thoughts and anecdotes that can brighten your day. Writing down what you’re thankful for and what makes you happy will also help you see more positives in your day. And if you want to pass on some of that happiness, tell someone when they do something that makes you happy.
  4. Use positive coping strategies
    It’s impossible to completely avoid stressful situations or negative thoughts, but you can develop strategies to deal with them.
    “Positive coping responses like deep breathing or meditation, going for a walk, laughing, crying or chatting about a problem with a friend can help you deal with a negative or stressful event,” said Dr. Chittalia. “If you find that these strategies don’t work, you can also seek out counseling to help you cope with negativity and stress.”
  5. Put stressors into perspective
    In addition to developing short-term positive coping strategies, it’s also helpful to learn to put things into perspective.
    It may take some time to begin thinking more optimistically, but you can begin by identifying negative thoughts and asking yourself if there is another way to look at a situation, and what you can learn from it. 
  6. Find meaningful activities
    Whether it’s cooking dinner every night, learning a new language or simply taking a walk each evening, engaging in meaningful activities can help you stay happy.
    “It’s important to make time for activities where you can set and reach a goal or try something new,” said Dr. Chittalia. “These activities can boost your self-esteem and give you a purpose, which will improve your happiness.”

Aliasgar Chittalia, M.D., is an internist at Geisinger Medical Group in Wilkes-Barre. To schedule an appointment, please call 800-275-6401.

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