Our previous blog promised that our next posting would add to its list of suggested practices that can raise your set point for happiness. A set point is that point at which an organism or a system establishes an internal equilibrium or homeostasis and maintains it regardless of changes in external circumstances. Set points occur in numerous aspects of our lives and once they are established, they will stay in place unless they are reset. A household thermostat is an example of a set point. It will constantly respond to changing circumstances in a room by increasing or decreasing the flow of heat in order to maintain a fixed temperature.
One of the reasons that losing weight can be difficult for many of us is because after carrying a certain amount of body weight for an extended period of time, we tend to become predisposed to having that weight be set until we have pushed the reset button, which clears the setting and allows for it to be changed. As most of us have learned, it’s not a simple matter of pushing a button to clear the old setting. The good news however is that it is possible to do so.
Our last newsletter offered ten suggested practice that can support you in clearing the setting for your HQ (Happiness Quotient) and resetting it to a higher level. All of us have a level of happiness with which we are familiar and has been established over time. When times are hard and we fall below our normal level of happiness, we will (although usually not as quickly as we would like to) come back up to our norm and re-establish our old equilibrium level of well-being. On the other side of the coin, when we hit an unexpected bonus of good fortune, our happiness level moves upward, above its usual point but over time gradually comes down to its normal level. In studies and surveys conducted by psychologists, researchers found that lottery winners and victims of life changing illnesses and accidents both resumed their set point level of happiness within a year after experiencing either positive or negative life-changes.
As we stated in our last newsletter, set points can be changed. And if you’ve been engaging any of the practices that we described in last month’s newsletter, it’s very likely that you have already begun to experience a difference and perhaps even a new norm in what feels “right” for you. The key in raising your set point lies in making a habit out of your practices and integrating them into your life on a regular and frequent basis. If you’ve adopted one or more of the practices that we previously cited, congratulations! Keep going and consider adding more practices from that list or from this one:
- Practice self-acceptance. This has to do with the willingness to embody an attitude of non-judgment towards yourself. Living in this state of “radical self-acceptance” can be one of the most powerful things that we can do to increase our level of happiness and well-being.
- Tame your inner critic. That not-so-small voice in your head (Yes, that one. The one that said ‘What voice?’) that frequently offers you “constructive criticism” (now there’s an oxymoron!) for your own good of course. You may not always be able to silence those self-judging thoughts, but you can learn to take them less personally. “Thanks for sharing” is a good response to the inner critic’s feedback. Then just change the subject.
- Cultivate a good sense of humor. Although learning to take things less seriously is for some of us, easier said than done, even the most dour sourpuss can lighten up if he or she really wants to. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Spend more time around people who laugh easily and make you laugh. Watch comedy films that make you laugh out loud. Go to standup comedy shows. Lose your fear of looking foolish by looking foolish and surviving. Most people do survive even after they’ve been embarrassed.
- Practice responsible self-care of your body, mind and spirit, by getting enough sleep, eating healthy food, bringing more play into your life, exercising your body, and engaging in whatever spiritual practice feeds your soul.
- Make plans for activities and future events that you enjoy so that you always have things to look forward to. These don’t have to be elaborate or expensive once a year or once in a lifetime adventures. They can be simple, cheap, and frequent, like arranging to go for a walk with a friend, anticipating a delicious meal, or attending a live musical or theatrical performance, or just thinking about how good it’s going to feel at the end of the day when you can relax on the couch with a good book.
- Cultivate a new skill. Take up a musical instrument. Learn a new language. Study a subject in an adult educational program that you’ve always been interested in but never took the time to learn. Exercising the learning function of your brain will do wonders for raising your happiness set point.
- Practice generosity. Give of your time, money, attention, support, and energy to others. Experience the benefit of unconditional giving.
- Make the conscious choice to see what you consider to be problems as challenges and opportunities, by looking for the gift in the situation that you’re facing. Every challenge contains the seeds of growth and new possibilities. Cultivating this attitude is a powerful means of enhancing your long-term level of personal well-being.
- Learn and practice skills for managing interpersonal differences. A lack of skillfulness in regard to conflict management is a primary factor in having a low happiness set point. Commit yourself to mastering this ability by reading books, taking seminars, watching videos, and doing whatever you can to become a more effective agent for promoting mutual understanding with others.
- And last but by no means least, cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Don’t take your blessings for granted and share your gratitude and love with family and friends with whom you build increasingly stronger bonds.
And one more thing: While you’re doing all this, don’t forget to Enjoy!