Happiness ABCs |

Chloe Barron, used with permission

Source: Chloe Barron, used with permission

Life can be full of unexpected stressors and challenges. Here are some suggestions to help make it easier to cope with them and boost your well-being.

1. Adapt.

Since one thing you can count on is change, it’s good to be nimble and able to pivot in love, life, or work. This quote is often attributed to Charles Darwin: “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.”

2. Accept.

Know what you can control and what you cannot. As Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” The idea that things might evolve by pounding your point into an immovable other could be interpreted as a form of optimism or loyalty. That’s good, but giving up the headbanging might be better. Live with it, let it go, or glean why you engaged in the first place. Accepting your own role in an impasse, disagreement, or dysfunctional dynamic is always a plus.

3. Assert.

Excessive compliance can cause depression. Pushing back may feel risky, but your perspective could be helpful, so share it. You will get better at managing conflict, if nothing else.

4. Acorn Gather With a Roller.

This clever and fun tool creates a concretely satisfying experience. Roll and fill the silver-wired dome with acorns, dump them in a grass-stained, mud-caked bucket, and do it again. Repetition, nature, and five-sense experience in a tech-saturated world have wellness components. For instance, science backs up gardening as a therapy. (Learn more about five-sense experience in this post.)

5. Bask.

“Come on in and set a while” is a line from Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck. When something good happens or you have done good, bask. Set a while.

People often can’t let themselves stay surrounded by the positive. They may feel driven to solve the next problem, which is admirable, but can take the joy out of the moment. Guilt, a wish to master uncertainty, and anxiety about loss are other reasons one might not bask. Holding rather than dismissing success is useful for the internalization of self-esteem and shaping identity. Basking is also connected to gratitude, being in the present, motivation, and even wonder.

6. Beautify.

Groom your environment or yourself. Waiting rooms and practitioners that are kempt and clean show respect for clients. Environments influence mood. Beauty in action is another path. Doing a good deed when no one is looking is the essence of what we might call inner beauty or character. This contrasts performative altruism in the interest of ego or accolades.

7. Begin.

Goethe said, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it; boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.” The first step, toe in, rough draft. Starting is a challenge, but momentum can then carry you into a habit or project that bolsters well-being. Begin even if you are not sure of your path. The wrong track can lead to the right track. One hundred failed paths can be the road to success.

8. Birdwatch.

For whatever reason, the most popular activity of my college alumnae association in New York City is bird watching in Central Park with an Audubon expert. We saw two sap suckers, two blue jays, and a cardinal. We met alums of all ages and backgrounds carrying binoculars. This post discusses the health benefits of birdwatching and nature.

9. Commit.

Showing up for beloved persons, in spite of discord, is good. This bond continuity is called object constancy and is the opposite of an out-of-sight, out-of-mind dynamic. That said, sometimes quitting a relationship or a job is healthy, according to UT Austin psychologists Art Markman and Bob Duke. Good relationships and work that connects to your core can be the essence of a good life.

10. Care.

Find a pursuit that you care about. Emotion offers clues to sequestered drives and goals as well as unconscious conundrums. Just as you might love a film because you care about a character, you are more likely to stay motivated with work that contains heartfelt moments. Doctors are less likely to burn out if they spend more time caring for patients and less time on administrative tasks.

11. Create.

Embrace a process. Make things. It is not just about setting aside the time but finding a method of getting to a deep, authentic, and vitalized place in the self. One artist did calligraphy before beginning a new painting. Creative processes, from painting to baking to research, can provide euphoric moments because they access the core self. Deep work is often creative work. The journey can provide more pleasure than the outcome.

12. Learn to Country Western Dance.

Having lived in Austin for seven years, I have marveled at how many people master the Texas-Two Step during childhood. Three bands a night, lessons at 7 p.m., and all kinds of people dancing with all kinds of people. Music, movement, community, inclusivity, and diversity all on a Saturday night. That’s some serious wellness, y’all.

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