Nataly Kogan had the perfect life: good health, loving husband, beautiful daughter, a successful career as the founder and CEO of Happier, a global learning platform that has helped more than one million people live happier lives. But she wasn’t happy. Yes, that’s right, the woman behind an app designed to make people happier realized she just wasn’t happy.
Nataly realized she’d been chasing “The Big Happy” her whole life. We all do it. “I’ll be happy when I finish my degree . . . I’ll be happy when I find my soulmate . . . I’ll be happy when I get that promotion . . . I’ll be happy when we have children.” Whatever it is, striving to achieve our “Big Happy” can often block us from the very real joy that surrounds us every day.
It doesn’t have to be a big thing. Tiny shifts can make all the difference. Here are three simple practices to help you get happier now — adapted from Happier Now by Nataly Kogan.
1. It’s Okay To Be Not Okay
It may seem strange, but the first step in feeling happier is allowing yourself to feel terrible. Give yourself permission to be a mess! Sometimes the thing we need most when we’re sad or angry or overwhelmed is simply to feel safe in the storm. Try this journal exercise the next time you’re feeling low and slow.
Take a few moments to think and write about where or when you feel accepted and safe. It could be with a person, someone with whom you feel comfortable being yourself just as you are, without having to put on an act. Or perhaps it’s a special location, such as your favorite spot in nature. Maybe you feel as if you’re genuinely home when you’re doing an activity, such as yoga or writing.
It’s important to remind ourselves about the people, places, or things that help us experience that magical feeling of being okay just as we are. Even if we can’t always access them, knowing that they’re there for us can be comforting, especially when we’re going through small or big life storms.
2. Strengthen Your Emotional Immune System
Each time we experience pain and suffering and come out the other side, we strengthen our emotional immune system. It’s just like antibodies building up in your body when it is fighting off the flu. The next time you face something really hard in your life, allow yourself to remember all the times when life wasn’t okay, but you survived and thrived. You are stronger than you know!
Think back to a challenging experience you’ve gone through. Spend a few moments reflecting on and writing about what helped you get through it and the inner strength you might have discovered in yourself.
We often underestimate our resilience. Recalling your ability to persevere through tough times reminds you of the helping hand of your emotional immune system — and your ability to rely on it when times are tough. And this, in turn, helps you get through future challenges with a bit more ease.
3. Reframing Harsh Self-Talk
We all have an inner critic. You know her: she’s the one who’s always telling you that you’re not smart enough, pretty enough, rich enough, etc. etc. etc. She’s an awful roommate, but you’re stuck with her. The key is to recognize her when she’s talking. Create some distance between yourself and your inner critic. Here’s s a simple three-step practice to help you shift from negative to more compassionate self-talk.
Step 1. LISTEN. Be mindful of the words and tone you use when you talk to yourself. Practice witnessing your self-talk as it happens. What is the tone like? What words or phrases do you use when you talk to yourself?
Step 2. PAUSE. When you catch yourself engaging in negative self-talk, take a breath and pause for a second. In this pause, connect to your inner witness. Feel the depth of your capacity to be aware of your thoughts and emotions without the need to immediately react.
Step 3. REFRAME. Imagine you’re talking to someone you love and care about. Visualize this person and hold them in your heart’s attention. Now begin to reframe what you said to yourself and how you said it, imagining that you’re talking to this person.
We hope these simple practices are helpful. Allow yourself space to feel bad when things are hard, remember your own strength and resilience, and gently quiet your inner critic. Remember, genuine happiness isn’t about achieving milestone after milestone on your way to The Big Happy . . . it’s about finding joy in everyday moments.
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