How to Develop a Happiness Mindset

Guest Post by Ralph Macey, Writer/Blogger/Health Care Coordinator

Happiness is all about mindset. Many believe that happiness depends on external factors, but this is not the case. Happiness depends on your mindset. Absolute happiness can exist even in the face of adversity when you have a positive mindset. 

Setbacks will always be a part of life. No one can avoid hardships or problems, not even monks or saints. When problems arise, you can tackle them head-on. And when there are joyous moments in life, you can savor them. And when you can remain relatively unaffected by whatever is happening around you, you can create a mindset of absolute happiness. 

“If you want to be happy, be.”

Leo Tolstoy (Russian Writer)
Image by StockSnap from Pixabay

Tips for Developing a Happiness Mindset

Here are nine mental health tips for cultivating happiness.

Have gratitude for everything you have.

Human beings have a disgusting trait. They tend to focus more on the negative aspects of life than the positive. Oftentimes, people are more concerned about the things they do not have instead of the ones they already possess. Hence, they become unhappy. 

When you dwell on the things you’re missing out on, it is easy to be unhappy. For example, you may feel resentful when you don’t receive a raise or promotion at work. However, when you look outside of yourself at the millions of unemployed people in the world, you may feel better. (At least you have a job!)

Have gratitude for everything you have. Gratitude helps to develop positive emotions, enjoy experiences, tackle adverse situations, and build healthy relationships. When you have gratitude for even the small things in your life, you feel happy. 

“Happiness will never come to those who don’t appreciate what they already have.”

Anonymous

Develop a growth mindset and discard the fixed mindset.

There are two kinds of mindsets. The first is the fixed mindset, and the second, the growth mindset

In a fixed mindset, you are resistant to change. You are rigid in your way of thinking and are not concerned with self-improvement or personal growth. When you encounter challenges, you choose to not learn from them. You tend to defend your position blindly. Hence, you become an angry, irritated, fearful, and unhappy person. 

In a growth mindset, you crave learning and personal development. Whenever there is a challenge, you view it as an opportunity for improvement. With a growth mindset, you evaluate the situation, acknowledge the drawbacks, and focus on the skills you need to be successful. You do not have an inflexible, narrow mindset and are not driven by ego. Instead, you embrace any new challenge as a learning opportunity. Thus, you become happy and content. 

If you want to be happy, adopt a growth mindset and discard the fixed mindset. Regard every challenge you face as a medium to grow and prosper. 

Make a list of the things that make you happy.

Make a list of the things and memories that make you happy. Every morning, jot down a few words or phrases (i.e., friends, a favorite vacation, a beloved pet, your favorite meal, a brand new car, etc.). Add to your list daily. Once you have a list of considerable length, devote 30 minutes to reviewing it. In those 30 minutes, reflect on the people, places, events, and things that bring you joy.

Do not overthink or judge yourself.

Human beings have 6200 thoughts per day. And not all of those 6200 thoughts are positive. You experience both positive and negative thoughts. Try to not dwell on your negative thoughts, and do not overanalyze them. When you overthink things, you may worry unnecessarily and feel unhappy. Also, do not be ashamed of your negative thoughts. It is okay to have negative thoughts; just don’t let them overpower you. Let the negative go, and instead, focus on the positive.

Think about the best moment of the day.

Before going to sleep at night, think about the best moment of your day. It will bring a smile to your face. Did you love the food your significant other cooked for dinner? Or, if the meal was mediocre at best, be happy that they took out time from their busy schedule to prepare something for you. (It’s the thought that counts, right?) Relish in the feelings of happiness and gratitude as you drift off to sleep.

Focus on your goals and the journey rather than the obstacles.

You will face obstacles in life. Sometimes, you will fail and fall flat on your face. But you can pick yourself back up. Focus on your goals and on the journey itself, not on stumbling blocks you encounter along the way. When you’re fixated on a problem, you become discouraged and are thereby less likely to look for the solution. Subsequently, you get stuck, and happiness may seem out of reach. 

To get unstuck, develop a plan, and then take action to achieve your goals. Get back on track with a renewed focus, and fight until you succeed. Your vision of success will help you move forward as you continue on your journey.

“Happiness is a journey, not a destination.”

Ben Sweetland (Author and Psychologist)

Think positive thoughts about others. 

When you think negatively about the people in your life, you become incapable of maintaining healthy, genuine relationships. Misunderstanding and miscommunication can lead to conflict. Heated arguments or giving the cold shoulder generates hostility.

As much as possible, assume that others have positive intentions. Do not judge their words, actions, or motives. Judgments cloud your heart with unhappiness. 

Stop comparing yourself with others.

Each life is precious. Every journey is different. 

Now, envision that you’re scrolling through Facebook. You probably see smiling, attractive faces and happy, perfect families. In comparison, your life may seem dull or pathetic. Suppose you just went through a painful breakup, and when you view your home feed, all you see is your friends getting married or having babies. You may feel disheartened. If so, remind yourself that Facebook only reveals a tiny piece of the picture, not the full story. You are looking at edited highlights of your friends’ lives. You don’t know what happens behind the scenes. Stop comparing your life with others, and write your own story.

“Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like and celebrating it for everything that it is.”

Mandy Hale (Author)

Seek medical help to regain your lost happiness.

Happiness leaves your life when you develop severe depression. Depression is like a thief. It steals optimism and joy. If left untreated, depression can lead to hopelessness and mental anguish and will rob you of the ability to feel any pleasure or enjoyment. It may impact your relationships with others, in addition to affecting sleep, appetite, and energy levels. 

Unfortunately, the stigma associated with depression and other mental disorders may prevent people from seeking the medical care they need. Many view mental illness as a choice, a weakness, or even a put-on. In reality, the brain, like all other internal organs, is susceptible to illness.

What would you do if you were having heart palpitations, dizziness, and chest pain? Would you ignore your symptoms… or would you ask someone to drive you to the nearest hospital? Certainly, you would seek immediate medical care. Urgent health issues require treatment; likewise, urgent mental health issues require treatment. 

When there are chemical imbalances in the brain, your thoughts, emotions, and perceptions are affected. As a result, you experience depression, anxiety, etc.

If you are depressed, consult with a psychiatrist to learn about available treatment options. After assessing your symptoms, the psychiatrist will recommend one or more medical treatments. The first line of treatment for depression typically consists of medication and psychotherapy. However, if your symptoms persist despite continued treatment, your doctor may prescribe an alternative treatment, transcranial magnetic stimulation therapy, or TMS therapy. 


What is TMS therapy? 

TMS therapy is a non-invasive treatment that involves the delivery of recurring magnetic energy impulses to the parts of your brain that regulate mood. The magnetic pulses stimulate targeted brain cells to enhance communication between different parts of your brain, restoring balance. When TMS therapy is given at regular intervals, it is called repetitive TMS (or rTMS). TMS therapy reduces symptoms of depression and improves mood. TMS therapy is also effective for decreasing symptoms associated with OCD, PTSD, anxiety disorders, chronic pain, etc. This treatment is painless and has little to no side-effects. It does not involve sedation. Even after undergoing a session, you can drive back to your home without any hassle. That’s the best part of TMS therapy.


Conclusion 

In conclusion, to cultivate a happiness mindset, you must master your mind, not the other way around. True happiness comes from within and is not influenced by external factors. 

To develop the happiness mindset, practice gratitude, strive to improve yourself and learn, reflect on the things that make you happy (daily), be kind to yourself (and others), be solution-focused, compare self with self (not anyone else), and seek psychiatric care for depression.


Guest Author: Ralph Macey, Writer/Blogger/Health Care Coordinator

Ralph Macey, a professional writer since 2008 and medical health/patient care coordinator at savantcare.com since 2014, writes articles on all mental health-related subjects. He holds a degree and two professional certifications in his field and continues to upgrade his knowledge with additional classes and seminars. He also provides mental health consultations and private fitness instructions for free in his local community.

Resources for Finding Happiness

This is a list of websites, books, and free online courses for finding happiness.

“It’s a helluva start, being able to recognize what makes you happy.”

Lucille Ball

WEBSITES

Authentic Happiness | A University of Pennsylvania website developed by the Positive Psychology Center with resources including readings, videos, research, questionnaires, and more

Center for Healthy Minds | A University of Wisconsin-Madison website with a mission to “cultivate well-being and relieve suffering through a scientific understanding of the mind”

Feeling Good | A David D. Burns website with free articles, assessments, podcasts, and more

The Greater Good Science Center | Free toolkits, articles, quizzes, courses, and more from the University of Berkely

Gretchin Rubin | Happiness resources from “one of today’s most influential and thought-provoking observers of happiness and human nature”

The Happiness Trap | Free resources from Russ Harris

International Positive Psychology Association | A professional membership organization dedicated to promoting the science of positive psychology

Positive Psychology | A science-based positive psychology platform with articles, trainings, and more

Pursuit of Happiness | A nonprofit site dedicated to providing articles, quizzes, quotes, courses, and more

Rick Hanson, Ph.D. | Resources for wellbeing

Thnx4 | An online gratitute journal

Zen Habits | A blog for implementing zen practices into daily life

“For every minute you are angry you lose sixty seconds of happiness.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson

BOOKS

Disclaimer: This section contains affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn a small commission from qualifying purchases.

The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People: What Scientists Have Learned and How You Can Use It (David Niven)


Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment


Feeling Great: The Revolutionary New Treatment for Depression and Anxiety (David D. Burns)


Flourish (Martin Seligman)


The Happiness Advantage (Shawn Achor)


The Happiness Hypothesis (Jonathan Haidt)


The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living: A Guide to ACT (Russ Harris)


Hardwiring Happiness (Rick Hanson)


The How of Happiness (Sonja Lyubomirsky)


How to Stubbornly Refuse to Make Yourself Miserable About Anything: Yes, Anything (Albert Ellis)


No Mud, No Lotus: The Art of Transforming Suffering (Thich Nhat Hanh)


Year of Yes (Shonda Rhimes)


“The greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.”

Martha Washington

FREE PDF WORKBOOKS


For additional printable workbooks, see Free Printable PDF Workbooks & Manuals – Mind ReMake Project.


“Happiness is a warm puppy.”

Charles M. Shulz

FREE ONLINE COURSES


Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

5 Instant Mood Boosters

Discover five ways to instantly boost your mood and uplift your spirits.

Image by Jill Wellington from Pixabay

Need a boost? Here are five evidence-based, instant mood boosters for when you’re feeling down.


5 INSTANT MOOD BOOSTERS

Click here for additional tips to improve mood and reduce stress.

Listen to music

Turn on the radio or search for your favorite song on YouTube. Music can evoke a powerful emotional response. Listen to something upbeat with a positive message to boost your mood. Music activates areas in the brain that are responsible for processing emotions.

“Music produces a kind of pleasure which human nature cannot do without.” 

Confucius

In one study, participants who listened to upbeat music while actively trying to feel happier experienced improved mood as well as increased happiness over the next two weeks.

A 2017 study indicated that listening to your favorite songs impacts the brain circuit involved in internally focused thought, empathy, and self-awareness. Interestingly, it doesn’t matter what type of music you choose; the mood-boosting effect is consistent across genres.

Music may also play a role in restoring neuroplasticity or as a therapeutic intervention. In 2013, researchers found that listening to uplifting concertos from Vivaldi’s Four Seasons was linked to enhanced cognitive functioning. An additional benefit to listening to music is improved mental alertness; memory and attention in particular may be enhanced.

Find a green space

Go hiking, find a sunny spot to sit outside, or simply open the window and listen to the sound of the rain falling. According the U.S. Forest Service, spending time in nature can reduce stress, improve mood, reduce anger/aggressiveness, and increase overall happiness. If you’re upset or frustrated, you’ll recover more quickly in a natural setting, such as a forest. Nature is a highly effective mood booster!

Alternatively, consider a stroll in the park for a boost. Researchers found that individuals with depression who took an hour-long nature walk experienced significant increases in attention and working memory when compared to individuals who walked in urban areas. Interestingly, both groups of participants experienced similar boosts in mood; walking in an urban area can be just as effective!

More recently, researchers found that people who regularly commute through natural environments (i.e. passing by trees, bodies of water, parks, etc.) reported better mental health compared to those who don’t. This association was even stronger among active commuters (walking or biking to work). If you commute through congested or urban areas, consider an alternate route, especially when you’re feeling down.

Spending time outside does more than just improve your mood. A 2018 report established a link between nature and overall wellness. Living close to nature and spending time outside reduces the risk of type II diabetes, cardiovascular disease, premature death, preterm birth, stress, and high blood pressure. Exposure to green space may also benefit the immune system, reduce inflammation, and increase sleep duration.

Read/view something inspiring or humorous

Do you have a favorite inspirational book or collection of poems? Do you like viewing motivational TED Talks? Do you enjoy comedy shows? Maybe you like watching videos of baby goats or flash mobs on Facebook. (I do!)

One study found that viewing cat videos boosted energy and positive emotions while decreasing negative feelings (such as anxiety, annoyance, and sadness). Internet cats = Instant mood boost. However, if cyber cats are not your thing, search around to find something enjoyable to read or watch for your happiness quick-fix.

Plan your next adventure

I’m happiest when I’m traveling the world. Unfortunately, I have limited vacation days (as well as limited funds), which means I don’t get to travel as often as I’d like. Happily, planning a trip may produce the same mood-boosting effects as going on a trip.

In 2010, researchers found that before taking a trip, vacationers were happier compared to those not planning a trip. A 2002 study indicated that people anticipating a vacation were happier with life in general and experienced more positive/pleasant feelings compared to people who weren’t. In both studies, researchers attributed happiness levels to anticipation. (The brain releases dopamine during certain activities, causing us to feel pleasure. Dopamine is also released in anticipation of a pleasurable activity.) For a mood boost, start planning!

Cuddle a pet

Spending time with your fur baby will instantly boost your mood. According to research, pets are good for your mental health. Teens undergoing treatment for drug and alcohol abuse experienced improved mood, positive affect, attentiveness, and serenity after brushing, feeding, and playing with dogs.

A 2018 study indicated that dog therapy sessions reduced stress and increased happiness and energy in college students. Earlier this year, researchers found that just 10 minutes of interaction with a pet reduced stress by significantly decreasing cortisol (a stress hormone) levels.

Other studies suggest that animal-assisted therapy reduces anxiety and loneliness and combats homesickness.

Research also indicates that pets help seniors and older adults cope with physical and mental health concerns. Dog ownership is also linked to better cardiovascular health and a longer life.

“Happiness is a warm puppy.”

Charles M. Shultz

The next time you’re having a bad day, listen to your favorite song, go hiking in the woods, watch a TED Talks, start planning your next vacation, or spend some quality time with a furry friend… you’ll feel better!

Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP

Free Online Assessment & Screening Tools

(Updated 1/20/21) Free PDF and interactive online assessment tools for addiction, mental illness, boundaries/attachment styles, relationships/communication, anger, self-esteem, suicide risk/self-injury, personality, and more. This list includes both self-assessments and screening tools for clinicians to administer and score.

Image by GuHyeok Jeong from Pixabay

This is a list of free online assessment screenings for clinical use and for self-help purposes. While an assessment cannot take the place of a diagnosis, it can give you a better idea if what you’re experiencing is “normal.”


For additional online assessment tools to use with couples, see Marriage & Relationship Assessment Tools.


Free Online Assessment & Screening Tools

Jump to a section:


Addiction & Substance Use Disorders

PDF and interactive online assessment tools for substance use disorders and other addictions

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Anxiety & Mood Disorders

PDF and interactive online assessment tools for anxiety, depression, and bipolar disorders

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Trauma, Stress, & Related Disorders Online Assessment Tools

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Obsessive-Compulsive & Related Disorders Online Assessment Tools

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Online Assessment Tools for Eating Disorders

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Online Assessment Tools for Personality Disorders

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Boundaries & Attachment Styles

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Relationships & Communication


For additional relationship and communication assessments, see Free Marriage & Relationship Assessment Tools.

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Anger


For additional online assessment tools and resources, see Resources for Anger Management.

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Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault

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Suicide Risk & Self-Injury

  • Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale | PDF scale
  • Deliberate Self-Harm Inventory | Measurement of deliberate self-harm (PDF)
  • Imminent Risk and Action Plan | Assessment/plan from the University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology
  • Lifetime – Suicide Attempt Self-Injury Count (L-SASI) Instructions Scoring | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The L-SASI is an interview to obtain a detailed lifetime history of non-suicidal self-injury and suicidal behavior. Citations: Linehan, M. M. &, Comtois, K. (1996). Lifetime Parasuicide History. University of Washington, Seattle, WA, Unpublished work.
  • Lineham Risk Assessment and Management Protocol | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) Linehan, M. M. (2009). University of Washington Risk Assessment Action Protocol: UWRAMP, University of WA, Unpublished work.
  • Non-Suicidal Self-Injury Assessment Tool Brief Version | Full Version | Assessment tool created by Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery
  • NSSI Severity Assessment | A PDF assessment tool from the Cornell Research Program on Self-Injury and Recovery to assess the severity of non-suicidal self-injury
  • Reasons for Living Scale Scoring Instructions | RFL Scale (long form – 72 items) | RFL Scale (short form – 48 items) | RFL Scale (Portuguese) | RFL Scale (Romanian) | RFL Scale (Simplified Chinese) | RFL Scale (Traditional Chinese) | RFL Scale (Thai) | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The RFL is a self-report questionnaire that measures clients’ expectancies about the consequences of living versus killing oneself and assesses the importance of various reasons for living. The measure has six subscales: Survival and Coping Beliefs, Responsibility to Family, Child-Related Concerns, Fear of Suicide, Fear of Social Disapproval, and Moral Objections. Citations: Linehan M. M., Goodstein J. L., Nielsen S. L., & Chiles J. A. (1983). Reasons for Staying Alive When You Are Thinking of Killing Yourself: The Reasons for Living Inventory. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 51, 276-286.
  • Self-Injury Questionnaire | To assess self-harm (PDF, assessment in appendix)
  • Suicidal Behaviors Questionnaire | SBQ with Variable Labels | SBQ Scoring Syntax | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The SBQ is a self-report questionnaire designed to assess suicidal ideation, suicide expectancies, suicide threats and communications, and suicidal behavior. Citations: Addis, M. & Linehan, M. M. (1989). Predicting suicidal behavior: Psychometric properties of the Suicidal Behaviors Questionnaire. Poster presented at the Annual Meeting of the Association for the Advancement Behavior Therapy, Washington, DC.
  • Suicide Attempt Self-Injury Interview (SASII) SASII Instructions For Published SASII | SASII Standard Short Form with Supplemental Questions | SASII Short Form with Variable Labels | SASII Scoring Syntax | Detailed Explanation of SPSS Scoring Syntax | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) The SASII (formerly the PHI) is an interview to collect details of the topography, intent, medical severity, social context, precipitating and concurrent events, and outcomes of non-suicidal self-injury and suicidal behavior during a target time period. Major SASII outcome variables are the frequency of self-injurious and suicidal behaviors, the medical risk of such behaviors, suicide intent, a risk/rescue score, instrumental intent, and impulsiveness. Citations: Linehan, M. M., Comtois, K. A., Brown, M. Z., Heard, H. L., Wagner, A. (2006). Suicide Attempt Self-Injury Interview (SASII): Development, Reliability, and Validity of a Scale to Assess Suicide Attempts and Intentional Self-Injury. Psychological Assessment, 18(3), 303-312.
  • Ask Suicide-Screening Questions (ASQ) Toolkit | Source: National Institute of Mental Health
  • University of WA Suicide Risk/Distress Assessment Protocol | (Source: University of Washington Center for Behavioral Technology) Reynolds, S. K., Lindenboim, N., Comtois, K. A., Murray, A., & Linehan, M. M. (2006). Risky Assessments: Participant Suicidality and Distress Associated with Research Assessments in a Treatment Study of Suicidal Behavior. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior (36)1, 19-33. Linehan, M. M., Comtois, K. A., &, Ward-Ciesielski, E. F. (2012). Assessing and managing risk with suicidal individuals. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 19(2), 218-232.

For additional resources for suicide risk, see Resources for Suicide Prevention & Recovery.

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Self-Esteem & Self-Compassion

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Online Assessment Tools for Personality & Temperament

  • Berkeley Personality Lab Measures
  • Grit Scale | Several versions available
  • The HEXACO Personality Inventory – Revised | Download either the 60-item or 100-item version to assess for six personality dimensions
  • Introversion Scale | PDF questionnaire for introversion
  • Jung Typology Test | Interactive assessment based on Carl Jung’s and Isabel Briggs Myers’ personality type theory
  • Keirsey | Take this interactive assessment to learn your temperament. (There are four temperaments: Artisan, Guardian, Idealist, and Rational.) My results were consistent with my Myers-Brigg personality type. (Note: You must create an account and enter a password to view your results.)
  • Personality Scales | 2 Word-document assessments
  • Personality Tests | A collection of assessments
  • The SAPA Project | SAPA stands for “Synthetic Aperture Personality Assessment.” This online personality assessment scores you on 27 “narrow traits,” such as order, impulsivity, and creativity in addition to the “Big Five” (Agreeableness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Neuroticism, and Openness). You’re also scored on cognitive ability. This test takes 20-30 minutes to complete and you will receive a full report when finished.
  • Similar Minds | A fun site for personality tests
  • Social-Personality Psychology Questionnaire Instrument Compendium (QIC) | A collection of assessments and screening tools

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Emotional Intelligence

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Health & Wellness

PDF and interactive online assessment tools for happiness, resiliency, exercise, sleep, nutrition, and other health/wellness topics

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Additional Online Assessment & Screening Tools

PDF and interactive online assessment tools for various topics related to mental health, addiction, and other topics

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Cassie Jewell, M.Ed., LPC, LSATP


If you know of a free assessment for mental health or addiction that’s not listed here, please share in a comment! Contact me if a link is not working.