Recently, I was out for a run when I suddenly noticed an ache in my right foot halfway through. I was wearing new running sneakers, and I must have tied my right sneaker too tight. A myriad of thoughts and solutions ran through my head, from “just keep going and run through the discomfort” to “grin and bear it.” Then a kinder, more compassionate voice broke through and said, “Why choose the option to run in pain when you have the choice to fix it—to actually feel better?”
Thankfully, I took my own advice and loosened my laces. Not only did I immediately feel better, but I could run longer if I chose to. Most importantly, I was happier while exercising.
Despite the fact that emotional health is largely determined by factors like our constitution, genetics and upbringing, studies also show that roughly 40 percent of it is within our control. In a nutshell, happiness is a choice. Here are five things you can do to take control of it:
1. Simply try to be happier. Be open to new and varied activities that bring about feelings of accomplishment and contentment. Doing what we love is a big step toward increasing our level of happiness.
2. Practice self-compassion. Critical and harsh self-talk sets us up for a life for misery. Develop self-compassion by imagining what you’d say to a friend in the same situation.
3. Savor happy moments. Make pleasurable experiences last as long as possible. Work on this by reflecting on one or two positive experiences for two to three minutes each day. The longer you reflect , the longer you’ll focus on the joy you derived from it.
4. Follow inspirational and motivational social media accounts and influencers. It’s best to start the day with things that foster a sense of psychic grounding and anchoring—like exercising, journaling, savoring a cup of coffee or tea. Mindfully following inspirational and/or motivational social accounts can be anchoring, too.
5. Make meditation a daily practice. Meditation has the capacity to completely change the brain. Research shows that daily meditation can actually increase its capacity for happiness, thanks to neuroplasticity.