Three inches of rain has fallen on this gloomy day. What better atmosphere for recording our episode on CHEERFULNESS!
Welcome to Relationship Helpers! If you are joining us for the first time, we hope you find our podcast informative and, well….helpful! Today’s episode is the third part in a series entitled, “A Better New Years Resolution.”
Rather than focusing on external qualities, we are taking a look at what we can do to improve who we are as people. (Ironically, if you work on the character traits that we talk about in our series, you will improve the way you look from the inside-out anyway!) In the previous weeks we have talked about gentleness and friendliness, now we shift focus to being more cheerful.
1.) Morning Daily Devotional
Start your day off on the right foot by beginning with a morning devotional. It sets your mind on things above and puts perspective into the start of your day. It helps to get your mind set on the positive things. This can really transform your day and help your interactions with others. Bear in mind it is a spiritual discipline, meaning that it does require your consistency and effort.
During our series, “101 Activities to Improve Depression & Anxiety” you may remember us discussing EMOTIONAL REASONING. Emotional reasoning can set the tone for the day, if you allow it. An example of emotional reasoning is if you wake up in a bad mood, you would tell yourself “Today is going to be a bad day because I woke up in a bad mood.”
If you start with a morning devotional, you are combating emotional reasoning. You are challenging it. It gets you on the right track. As therapists, Vincent and Laura often assign couples and individuals daily devotionals to center them as they go about the day.
Rather than focusing on self, we focus on God when include daily devotionals as part of our routines. It allows Him to take our burdens and to take the lead on our days.
2.) Gratitude Journaling
Another assignment Vincent and Laura give to clients is gratitude journaling. It’s really hard to complain and be negative when you have a practice of identifying what you’re grateful for each day. It is being disciplined about recognizing what is good in your life. This is great for everyone—especially those that are depressed.
Don’t misunderstand; this is not meant to magically erase your pain and loss. We do not intend on minimizing your suffering by suggesting gratitude journaling. We are trying to encourage you to feel motivated.
Often those struggling with depression feel that they lack motivation. It can be hard to think positively, but if you create a practice of gratitude journaling it can help to change the way you look at things.
Another benefit of gratitude journaling is that you can reference it when you’re feeling bad. You can look back at what you’ve been grateful for in the past and help “reset” your mindset. It is a perspective-shifter. It helps you see how others and God have been there for you in the past.
Prayer journaling can help too. Documenting your requests gives you a record of your pleas to God. You can also date when and HOW they have been answered. Knowing that God hears those prayers builds us up. This really helps to further develop a cheerful spirit.
3.) Be an Encourager, the World Has Enough Critics
There is a lot of negative out there, especially since social media has proliferated our culture. Interestingly, statistics show that positive memes get more shares than the negative ones.
Vincent mentions that sometimes his homework for his male clients is to stop watching the news so much. This also applies to talk radio. When you bombard yourself daily with this negativity, it influences you.
How can we encourage others? Focus on what is good. Talk about what God is doing in your life. Ask others how He is working in their lives. Don’t forget, the gospel means the good news!
4.) Conquer “Emotional Reasoning” & Catastrophizing By Enacting the Authority To Make Your Day Cheerful Or Good
Recognize the negativity in your life. Put it in God’s hands. Take each day one day at a time. Don’t get so consumed about yesterday or the future.
Be in the present. Be attuned to what is happening in the moment. Pay attention to your five senses. Slow yourself down by noticing these things. You’re better able to be present with others and pay attention to their social cues, body language and what they are saying if you’re not focused on your worries.
Vincent mentions how being a parent has taught him the importance of being in the moment. Even his nineteen month old knows when you are not in the moment.
We have a tendency to be self-focused, which leads us to be disengaged from everyone else. Laura talks about how many people have the misconception that their lives are the worst. When they think this way, they cut themselves off from other people.
This usually means that they prevent themselves from engaging with people that would benefit from being with them and who may even be “worse off” than they are. This is a trap that Satan has created. It serves to alienate and isolate. Once this is achieved, Satan can really use us. It shuts us off from our spouses, kids, family, and co-workers and damages these relationships.
Being in the moment with people means that you’re better able to communicate with others because you NOTICE what they are saying. You’re not focusing on your past or future and how bad you have it.
5.) “Formula for Making Any Day Good”
In Norman Vincent Peale’s book “Enthusiasm Makes the Difference”, Dr. Peale shares a formula for improving your day.
1. Think a good day. To make a day good, first see it good in consciousness. Do not allow any mental reservation that it will not be good. Events are largely governed by creative thought, so a positive concept of the day will strongly tend to condition it to be as imagined.
2.Thank a good day. Give thanks in advance for the good day ahead. Thank and affirm a good day. This helps make it so. (See gratitude journaling above.)
3. Plan a good day. Specifically and definitely know what you propose to do with the day. Plan your work and work your plan.
4. Put good into the day. Put bad thoughts, bad attitudes, bad actions into a day and it will take on bad characteristics. Put good thoughts, good attitudes, good actions into a day and they will make the day good.
5. Pray a good day. Begin each day with that powerful affirmation from Psalm 1[18:34]: “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” Start the day with prayer and finish it the same way. Then it is bound to be good even if it brings tough experiences.
6. Fill the day with enthusiasm. Give the day all you’ve got and it will give you all it’s got, which will be plenty. Enthusiasm will make a big difference in any day and in any job.
A Smile Study
In 1988, Fritz Strack performed a study where participants were told to put a pencil in their mouth while they rated how funny cartoons were. Some were told to bite on the pencil which caused them to smile and others were told not to bite on it which caused them to frown.
Because of the mechanics of our faces, we naturally smile when biting on a pencil and we naturally frown when we hold a pencil in our lips. The study found that those told to bite the pencil were more likely to find the cartoon funny, whereas those told to hold the pencil in their lips found the cartoons less humorous.
This speaks to the fake-it-til-you-make-it concept. There may be some science to back it up. The takeaway from this is that there very well could be a brain-face connection that we need to consider. When you’re thinking about improving your level of cheerfulness, think about what you do with your face and how it influences your mood and how it can influence others.
“Cheerfulness, in most cheerful people, is the rich and satisfying result of strenuous discipline.” – Edwin Percy Whipple
“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.” -Victor Borge
“A joyful heart is good medicine…” Proverbs [17:22]
We hope that you resolve to be a more cheerful person. As Proverbs 17 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine.” It is a health matter!
Cheerfulness is contagious. If you start out cheerful, others feed off of that and reciprocate. It lifts the mood and the atmosphere.
Being cheerful makes a great first impression. Many people want to change the world. It starts with what you do with yourself.
The so-called mundane interactions we have with others do not have to be so. This means when you are in the check-out line, you can smile at the associate. You may be the only smile they see today.