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Rachel Bédard, PhD and Mallory Griffith, MA, CCC-SLP
Most people expect that feeling happy and fulfilled is part of life. But sometimes stress gets in the way and we feel as though we might not feel happy ever again. Here are some tips to help you get back on track.
Consider: What makes you happy?
Think of a recent happy time and really sit with that memory. What made that experience so fulfilling? Was it the activity, the location, the people or the environment? Make a list of the essential ingredients of that event and pay attention to what drove your sense of happiness. Write this down on paper or on your phone.
Consider: What stresses you out?
Stress comes from many sources, some of which we can control. Think of a recent instance when you felt stressed. What contributed to your feeling stressed? Again, consider location, people, event, etc. Consider timelines, pressure from self or others, and your level of understanding of the task at hand. Also, consider sensory input: noise, smells, and the proximity of other people. If one thing could have been eliminated that would have lowered your stress, what would that have been?
For example, we often hear people say, “I could have enjoyed myself, but the music was TOO LOUD” or “In hindsight, I should have had a snack first” or “I like to hang out with 1 or 2 people, but certainly not 5 or more” or “I had no idea what my supervisor wanted from me! Some clarity would have helped.”
Once again, write your stress points down for reference.
Once you know what brings you happiness, and what drives your misery, you can start to savor the better times in life and minimize the stressful ones.
- When we recall the good things in life, our brain remembers the pattern and starts to look for other good things in life. When we recall a miserable experience…well, you know which pattern we want to reinforce.
- All moods are temporary. If you are in a happy state, you can maximize that happiness by focusing on what is going right. If you are in a stressful situation, you can use coping skills to mitigate the situation.
- What lowers stress? While coping skills vary by person, your coping strategies are in the lists you wrote! Coping skills might include seeking out a quieter location, fewer people around you, asking for help, outside time, deep breathing, a snack, music, or anything else you‘ve identified that lowers your stress.
Your path forward
As we compare the list of stressors and elements of fulfillment/happiness, we start to see patterns. And when we take care of ourselves, eat and sleep well, have supportive sensory environments, supportive social networks, and the right type of activity and stimulation, we can learn to thrive!
Rachel Bédard, PhD is a licensed psychologist practicing in Fort Collins. She uses a strengths-based approach. Her clients note she has the ability to help them laugh about even the most stressful or embarrassing events in life. Learn more about Dr. Bédard on her website www.drrachelbedard.com
Mallory Griffith, MA, CCC-SLP is a speech language pathologist living and working in Fort Collins. Primarily working with people on the spectrum, she offers coaching in social communications skills.
Mallory can be found at www.mallorygriffithslp.com.