Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of The How of Happiness: A Scientific Approach to Getting the Life You Want (Penguin Press, 2008) has researched the science of happiness for years. Here are her tips to help you cope with a bad economy, and increase your bursts of happiness throughout the day.
1. Focus on Your Relationships
You don't need an expert to tell you that relationships are critical to happiness. Not being the bread-winner anymore or not being able to fulfill your kid's needs can weighh down hard on your family life. But the trick is to stop feeling guilty and focus on nurturing your loved ones.
'I was at a psychology conference where an expert was talking about the effects of this economy on families and how parents can't afford to buy their kids luxuries like toys anymore,' says Lyubomirsky. 'But what they don't realize is that kids don't care about toys -- what they care about is parents being grumpy and taking it out on them.'
2. Practice Acts of Kindness
Now more than ever we need each other to survive. Lyubomirsky found that doing good things for friends, family, or strangers can make you happier. Think of practical, everyday gestures that can make someone's life a little bit easier.
For example, Lyubomirsky says, 'Maybe now many of us can't afford to take a cab to the airport, so offer to give a friend a ride.'
3. Avoid Overthinking
'You could spend a lot of time ruminating,' says Lyubomirsky. 'But that just makes you feel even more pessimistic, more out of control, and effects your self esteem. Your relationships will suffer and your job performance will suffer.'
Get rid of pessimism. One of the most effective ways to cope when things are difficult is to adopt a positive thinking strategy. 'What can I learn from this? Times are tough, I've been furloughed at work, but I can spend more time with the kids, adopt a new hobby, or learn a new set of skills.'
4. Pick a Goal
'If you find a happy person you will find a project,' says Lyubomirsky. 'Happy people all have goals they care about.'
Commit yourself to a project - whether it is a business you want to start or a dance you want to learn. But it's also important to remember to be flexible in these times. Don't get frustrated if circumstances are stopping you from meeting your goals. Adopt and change!
'If your spouse has lost their job you might have to change your goal,' says Lyubomirsky. 'Or you might have to learn a whole new skill for a new job.'
5. Take Care of Your Body
When times are tough, it's easy to get skip your regular workouts in favor of moping in front of the TV and eating a bag of chips. Your thinking is 'I have more important things to worry about right now than looking good.'
But carve out a small part of your day to give your body some TLC. It will go a long way in boosting your happiness. 'Even if you can't afford to go to the gym,' Lyubomirsky says, 'take time out to exercise at home or meditate.'