The good news is that there are no big secrets out there about how to reduce your stress or what will bring you happiness. You probably already know the answers. Knowing is different from doing. You have to, have to, have to, You Must Do Something! You can claim greater happiness for free, but you have to Do It! Here are some resources to remind you how to be happier.
Essentially, if you put your energy into focusing on things that make you happy, you will become happier and you will reduce your stress. Mindfulness, aka paying attention–to your breathing, your thoughts, your reactions, and on a higher level, spiritual and universal truths –can bring you peace. For some it brings happiness as well. If you pay attention to other people and their needs, it boosts your happiness and cuts down on stress. Take a step back and get a wider perspective on life. It’s often easier to find something that makes you happy when you look at the big picture. Enjoying time with family and friends, having faith, doing spiritual and religious practices, feeling peaceful in nature, noticing how much good there is in your life… These are all tied to happiness. Perhaps it’s the altruistic part of your brain setting off a happiness effect.
If you want to calm down and enjoy some beautiful photography, check out National Geographic and click on Today’s Picks.
Shawn Anchor did an energetic, funny talk on Ted about the power of gratitude, writing in a journal, and positive thinking. See http://archive.org/details/ShawnAchor_2011X.
Harvard Medical School’s health blog is worth looking at for tips to reduce stress in 1, 2, 3, 5, and 10 minute “mini-relaxation exercises.” Check out http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/mini-relaxations-to-ease-holiday-stress-201211235568 or http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/mini-relaxation-exercises-a-quick-fix-in-stressful-moments. You might like to start at their home page and browse, http://www.health.harvard.edu/.
Harvard also has a great four pager at http://www.health.harvard.edu/web_premiums/your-portable-guide-to-stress-relief.htm. Harvard Health synthesizes six of the most effective ways to deal with stress. 1. How to deal with common stressors: “Frequently late, Often angry or irritated, Unsure of your ability to do something, Overextended, Not enough time for stress relief, Feeling unbearably tense, Frequently feel pessimistic, Upset by conflicts with others, Worn-out or burned-out, Feeling lonely;” 2. How to meditate on the go, 3. Mini-Relaxations like those listed in the paragraph above, 4. Journal what you are grateful for, 5. Deal with negative thoughts, 6. Put your worries in a metaphorical container.
We enjoyed The Purpose Fairy, http://www.purposefairy.com/4899/15-powerful-things-happy-people-do-differently/ and http://www.purposefairy.com/3308/15-things-you-should-give-up-in-order-to-be-happy/. The latter is touted as the most viral post on the internet (May 2012). Luminita D. Saviuc’s clever, visual site has a lot of popular wisdom.
MindTools‘ website posted a version of the Holmes Rahe Stress Scale that can help you measure your level of stress, http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newTCS_82.htm. Another way to measure stress is to subjectively pick a number from 0 to 100. In any case, it would be helpful to start tracking how stressed you are. Use today’s measurement as a baseline. Check out http://www.mindtools.com/pages/main/newMN_TCS.htm for great resources for dealing with stress.
From other posts, you will have gathered that we are big fans of Fred Luskin’s work. With regard to stress, we recommend his book, Stress Free for Good (published in 2005 by HarperCollins). There is no website associated with his book. However, his Forgiveness Project offers 9 Steps To Forgiveness, http://learningtoforgive.com/9-steps/.
Even though it’s a bit drier, Sonja Lyubomirsky’s book The How of Happiness: A scientific approach to getting the life you want (2008, Penguin Press) provides a very useful examination of happiness and how to be happy. Her blog appears at http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/how-happiness
We like Gretchen Rubin’s popular Happiness Project book. She spent a year researching and self-testing remedies for a happy life. Her website appears less informative, but if you’re interested in getting involved online, we recommend http://www.happiness-project.com/get-started/get-started/
Please, for your own sake, and world peace (smile), deal with that stress and claim some more happiness for yourself and all who surround you.