How Can I Be a Happy Person?

Why is it that some people always seem to be happy? My friend Jane is one of these people. We call her “Ms. Optimistic” because she always finds a way to make the best of things or is able to explain how to make a difficult situation work.

One day I analyzed how she processes what happens to her and noted that there is a difference in how she looks at what happens to her. If something goes wrong during her day, she sees it as a temporary setback. Rather than becoming immobilized, she seeks ways to deal with the issue. She looks for solutions.

We have all heard people say “why did this happen to me?” If we take it personally, as if someone is out to hurt us, we lose the energy to find a solution. If we look at the bigger picture, we can see the situation as merely a blip on our screen. Then it is easier to divide the problem into smaller pieces and find solutions.

Another healthy way to resolve problems involves what we label as adaptive coping. That is, learning ways to automatically identify our negative, unproductive thoughts and revise them to positive, adaptive thoughts. For example, let’s say I had a plan to finish my errands and meet a friend for lunch before going to my dental appointment. But what actually happens is that I get a flat tire on the way to my first errand. So, I can get caught up in a negative cycle telling myself that my whole day is ruined, or I can revise my thinking, decide to do fewer errands, delay or reschedule lunch or seek other solutions. Going over and over my disappointment and focusing on the setbacks will only increase my negative perspective.

This is what happy, highly functional people realize. They almost become resistant to depression or anxiety because they kick in these adaptive coping mechanisms. They create an optimistic outlook by looking for ways to revise their patterns of thinking. We can learn these patterns, but the patterns have to be developed in deliberate, mindful ways. It certainly seems worth considering this information and learning these patterns so that we can function with optimal positive energy.

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