10 mindset shifts for a happier life, according to psychologists

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We all want to be happy, fulfilled and living a meaningful life. 

But where to start? 

What actually works and what just ends up wasting our time? 

The answers can be learned through trial and error, heartbreak and years of bitter experience, but they are also something we can learn in the wisdom of psychology and happiness specialists. 

In fact: 

There are mindset shifts that are within our power to make right now that will directly lead to a happier, better life. 

Let’s get started! 

1) Realize that you do matter

The first thing about being happy is to treat yourself well. 

Feed your body and soul, shifting your mindset away from a disempowering or self-hating tendency. 

You matter, you deserve to feel good, and you are not a bad or shameful person. 

Cook a delicious pot of soup, wear comfortable clothes, put art on your walls that inspires you.

Listen to music that transports your soul to a sublime reality and energizes you for the day ahead. 

You matter, and what you do matters. 

You’re not just a cog in a machine, you’re a spiritual being having a profound journey through life and you are deserving of love and care.

As behavioral scientist Nicole Celestine explains:

“Real goods satisfy the natural needs of our bodies, such as our needs for warmth and sustenance… However, real goods also include “goods of the soul,” such as love, arts, music, and literature.”

2) Learn to recognise the seeds of success in your failures 

Shift from seeing failures as evidence of your unworthiness to seeing them for what they really are:

A chance to learn. 

When you experience setbacks, failure, heartbreak or disappointment, it doesn’t have to be the end of the story. 

It may be the close of a chapter, but it’s far from the close of the book. 

Keep going, keep learning, keep loving yourself and doing your best to apply your full energy to life. 

Happiness comes when you stop taking failure personally and reject black-and-white thinking such as “I’ll never be happy” or “I’ll always be alone.” 

Don’t stop believing… 

3) Treat painful emotions as guests instead of unwanted intruders 

Painful emotions like sadness, fear, shame and anger are often seen as “bad” by society and many religions and spiritual paths (including many New Age gurus). 

But who says they’re “bad?”

When we treat something we are feeling as evil and unwanted, we repress that experience and let it fester and grow. We create a split in ourselves. 

Psychologists from Freud and Jung to modern practitioners have formed a consensus that difficult emotions must be confronted and healed or channeled rather than being pushed down. 

You aren’t “bad” for feeling bad! 

4) You can often learn more about happiness from listening than from talking

Another big shift that will lead to a happier life is to listen more and talk less. 

There are times when talking a lot will be desirable or even required, but in general you’ll find that shifting to a more receptive and listening-based attitude can really shift your thinking. 

As social neuroscience professor Dr. Michael Banissy Ph.D. puts it:

“Sometimes it is easy to mistake hearing for listening. 

“Hearing is a sense–listening is about making sense and showing others that we are engaging with the information we hear.  It’s about creating a space where others feel acknowledged and understood.”

The more you do this for others, the more you begin to find that you can identify much more with what people are going through than you may have previously thought. 

An inevitable result is that you start feeling less alone, and begin feeling more connected and fulfilled in your life

This ties into the next point…

5) Measure life by what you can give away, not by what you can keep

As I highlighted in the first point, it’s crucial to realize that you do matter and that you can make a difference.

At the same time, this doesn’t mean egotism or having a me-first attitude. 

In fact, the more you look after yourself and care for your own well-being the more you create a wellspring of emotional, energetic and material surplus that you can share and give to others. 

THere are so many people struggling in the most literal sense even to put food on their table or to get through another day. 

When you reach a certain level of wellbeing and are able to contribute to them or make their life a bit easier, your life satisfaction begins to exponentially increase.

6) See relationships as sharing love rather than finding love

Relationships are a difficult subject, because they are so different from person to person. 

Some find love and happiness while others, including many extraordinary and loving individuals, seem left out in the cold, lonely and unwanted. 

It’s understandable to hurt from loneliness or feel disappointed in those you meet. 

But one very much happiness-increasing mindset shift is to see relationships and love not as something you gain or find, but rather as something you already have within yourself and choose to share with others. 

You aren’t seeking a partner to be loved by, you’re seeking a partner to share your love with, a love that already exists and is flourishing. 

7) Happiness is communal, not just personal

As this recent study shows, happiness has a lot to do with who is around you and how happy they are

The study demonstrated that the chance of being happy goes up by 25% if you live a mile or closer to a good friend who also reports being happy. 

If your partner is happy you have a 16% higher chance of also being happy, and if your neighbors are happy you have a whopping 70% higher chance of being happy. 

It’s not just your own personal emotions or journey in life.

It’s about who’s around you and how much time you spend around happy, empowered people. 

8) Start viewing your body as your best friend

Physical exercise has numerous benefits in terms of boosting happiness and serving as a foundation for enduring well-being.

The endorphins that flow during moderate to high exercise make us happier, but the longer-term benefits of exercise are even more extraordinary. 

These include feeling calmer, being more confident socially, having a more focused attention span and clearing mental fog, as well as boosting our long-term positivity and hopefulness in life. 

When you get into your body, you stop spending as much time stuck in your head.

Unhappiness has many causes, but one thing that makes it much worse is when we get stuck in mental loops or believing the relentless inner critic who tells us that we’re sh*t. 

You can’t solve a problem by the same means that created it, which means you can’t become happy in your mind when your mind is the place where you became unhappy. 

9) Focus on your wins and where you’re going right

You’re likely doing much better than you realize. 

There may be many areas of your life that you point to and say “come on, seriously?”

And I won’t claim that there aren’t serious, horrible problems that can cause unhappiness

But giving yourself some credit is also extremely important. 

You’ve survived this long and you likely have at least one or two areas of your life where you are hitting it out of the park. Give yourself some credit for that! 

As psychotherapist Linda Esposito, LCSW says:

“Rather than wake up each morning anxious about what didn’t get done on the to-do list, focus on what’s going well.”

10) Stop trying to be happy! 

It’s ironic to say, but one of the biggest blocks to happiness is trying to be happy. 

The reason is simple: 

It’s because happiness and fulfillment aren’t mental concepts and you don’t reach them as a kind of prize. 

Happy feelings and deeper fulfillment are experiences that occur along the way at unexpected moments, and thread their way through your life despite its joys and woes. 

True happiness isn’t about always feeling in a cheerful mood or seeing the bright side. 

True happiness is about radical acceptance and realizing that you have the tools and the ability to be happy within you. 

Maybe happiness has been with you the whole time and you’ve been looking so hard that you’ve become miserable, like a person desperately searching for their glasses without realizing they’re already wearing them. 

“Happiness might have been with you all along,” notes psychological researcher Arlin Cuncic, M.A.

“You just may not have taken the time to realize it was much less complicated than you once believed.”

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