Between our busy lives of work, attempting to stay fit and healthy, sustain our relationships, and keep up with the go-go-go of D.C. life, we find ourselves barraged by the Me-Too-North-Korea-Russia-School-Shootings-Trump news cycles, Facebook rants followed by unproductive Facebook arguments, and the fact that hate crimes are on the rise (see Brock Thompson’s “With hate crimes on the rise, what’s to do?”). As a result, I find myself and my peers dancing between a feeling of anxiety, exhaustion and hopelessness.
So, what’s my point? It’s certainly not to just stress you out. I’m writing to help answer the question: “How do I stay happy when everything around me is stressing me out?”
I’ve thought about this question at length. It started over two years ago when I started a non-profit called Strength in Our Voices (SiOV). The impetus was a desire to create a positive ripple effect in my immediate network and help people feel comfortable talking about their stuff. In the process of figuring out how we were going to accomplish that mission, I found this program called Sources of Strength, an upstream strength-based suicide prevention program. In reality, it’s a wellness program. I fell so in love with this program that I obtained certification as a regional trainer. Though this program is trained into schools, adults often feel as if they received the most benefit after experiencing the training.
I’m no master magician – I’m not able to just summon happiness. If I could, then I would be cashing out on that like the Hollywood Medium, not consulting for the federal government. The reason I get such positive feedback is because the Sources training does a spectacular job making sense of positive psychology and teaching people the active practice of seeking happiness.
A really easy way to understand positive psychology is through a common example, which will which will resonate with D.C. workaholics. That is, “if I work harder, I will make more money. If I make more money I will be happier.” This is a flawed belief impugned on us by society our entire lives: work hard and you will get everything you want, the American Dream. Sources seeks to flip the recipe on happiness by focusing on happiness first. In fact, studies show that happier people tend to be more productive and successful in their professional and personal lives.
Back to the initial question: How do I stay happy when everything around me is stressing me out? Unfortunately, there is no perfect recipe and I am still no wizard. But, based on what I’ve learned, I’ve provided some recommendations for things you can do NOW that help helped me and can improve your levels of happiness and well-being:
1. Make a list of things that have helped you when you’re down. Why do we only take care of ourselves when things are going poorly? Writing those things down will make doing them a priority regularly
2. Start a gratitude journal. Gratitude is one of the most powerful means of sustaining happiness. Write down three things for which you are happy, once a day.
3. Tether yourself to the real world. We spend so much time on our phones and in our heads. Put down your phone, slow down, and spend time in the physical world; do yoga, go for a walk, pet a dog, lie in grass. It sounds kumbaya but it can help your happiness levels.
4. De-clutter your digital life. This is one of my biggest challenges. All of the checking and re-checking of your digital devices depletes your glucose levels. Instead make your phone task-oriented – change the notification settings so that those apps do NOT show a red dot allowing you to choose when you want to check.
Bobby Donohoe is the founder and president for Strength in Our Voices. Tickets are on sale for its upcoming 3rd Annual Summer of Strength Benefit for Change, being hosted at the Four Seasons in D.C. on May 12 from 6-8:30 p.m. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or inquiries.