If you want to be happier, you can* (*disclaimer: not to sound trite or dismissive of all the circumstances we are forced into that take away from our lives, happiness, or desire to want to be happy. Happiness isn’t the only thing in life and there are many ways to live [or many other ways we HAVE to live in order to survive]. You only have to have the time, space, energy, and resources in addition to potentially trying some of what I am about to say below. Easy right?
It is a paradox of both being simple and not simple at all. There are insidious complexities to living in this society and, honestly, I am not going to just say something ignorant like “if you wanted to be happy, just change your perspective.” It casts unnecessary blame on the individual who is actively going through a lot. However, if you are in a place where you can receive these messages, please, I invite you to do so.)
There are now pretty well-documented ways of being happier through psychological intervention. Although there are simple ways of feeling better at least for a bit, in keeping with the theme of this month, I will focus on multi-component positive psychology interventions (MPPIs). As the name suggests, these interventions will speak to multiple parts of your life.
In short, MPPIs have reliably related to subjective well-being, psychological well-being, depressive symptoms, and anxiety symptoms. For more information on that check out some of my other work (visual abstract, write-up, podcast).
What I want to do here is apply an MPPI intervention to a situation. This situation is known as the life of Daria, a popular show back in the ’90s. She is often pessimistic with a dose of cynical, a dash of angst, and sprinkled with realism. However, if she wanted to be happier (which I can’t blame her if she didn’t want to be), here is a potential intervention that could help.
Below, I’ll start with a Daria quote and then follow that up with a way to address that concern.
The MPPI I’ll be applying is one that focuses on an acronym called “BET I CAN” which focuses on behaviors, emotions, thoughts, interactions, context, awareness, and next steps.
Now, onto Daria.
(No copyright infringement intended)
Quote 1: Is there any time when how you look doesn’t affect how you’re judged? This quote focuses on thoughts. We can change thoughts. In the intervention, the researchers use some skills from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a therapy that can help us reframe our thoughts and change our behaviors. In this case, we’ll want to change the idea that our identities are so completely tied to the way we look.
How can we do that? This intervention would likely have you watch a video that explains CBT and then have you engage in some activities. One activity could be for you to write down your thoughts throughout the day and then point out the times your thoughts were due to your looks or being judged for your looks. Think about 1) how it made you feel and 2) what did you do in reaction to those thoughts/feeling judged. From there you can start to replace those thoughts and behaviors.
For example, if you had the thought, “People think I am lazy because I wear the same thing every day.” First of all, whoever is saying that to you is gross. Second, are you judged or do you actually believe that? If you don’t believe it, you can detach from that idea; you definitely know better than these people that only see you every now and again. Instead, you can start to think of yourself as comfortable or economic. Perhaps you can really just think of yourself as more than your clothes and remind yourself of all the things you accomplish in a day or a week and how that has no connection to the clothes you decide to put on.
Why would this make you happy? The less we focus on others’ judgments, the more we can focus on ourselves. And the more we can focus on ourselves, we can appreciate who we are and what we have to offer. People say such crazy things with no basis. We don’t have to listen to them. This will allow for more positivity and acceptance leading to happiness.
Quote 2: I don’t have low self-esteem. I have low esteem for everyone else.
This quote focuses on interactions. For interactions, the intervention focuses on building empathy and listening skills. When we have empathy and listen to people, we can start to regard them more highly. This doesn’t always happen this way (there is science that shows more empathy can actually lead to more anger, but that’s another post). But, I imagine, in the context of wanting to build positivity in your own life, the empathy you engage in and the listening you do will lead to happiness.
You might want to task yourself with reflecting on how your conversations go over the next week. Focus on how it went. Focus on how much you spoke versus the other. Focus on if you acknowledged what they said or if you just moved on. The more you listen to the intricacies of their lives, the more you will see them as a full human and a human deserving better, from you or from society.
Why would this make you happy? There are