Some people find that the symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) can dramatically reduce their quality of life, especially their chance of finding happiness. In these cases it is important to get treatment, but it is also important to know that research on happiness has shown ways to achieve an increase in your life satisfaction even when you struggle with anxiety. The following is the first volume of some things that you can try on your own, and future installments will build on this. For more on the specifics of GAD, check here
Some things you can change to make yourself more happy, others you may not be able to change. A lot of research has shown that there is genetics at work, which determines a “set point” on happiness. Also, stuff like what part of the world you live in, how much money you make (less important than you would think), and what you experience on a daily basis controls happiness. However, a third set is possible to change, which are your happiness-related activities, attitudes, and practices -- a few of which are covered below.
The Flow Experience
This is when you find an activity that is all consuming and enjoyable by simply being involved in it. It is the experience of doing something where you lose sense of time and place, and end up with a deeper feeling of satisfaction and contentment afterward. People who are involved in music, mountain climbing or other outdoor sports, and art often have this, and finding or engaging more frequently in an activity like this for yourself can produce quick results. It would be important that this is an activity that does not engage your anxiety response to get the full benefits.
Research has shown that simply setting goals, whether you actually end up achieving them or not, can increase your happiness. When people are in motion, striving, and working toward something, they are happier. Clearly setting realistic goals makes this have more effect, but if you are someone who is anxious about most things, try to find something in your life you feel comfortable striving for, that would not produce significant anxiety, and see if you can work toward something new with it.
Finally, research has shown that going out of your way to be kind to others, people you know or strangers, can change the way you feel. When we can be nice and make even a small difference in someone’s day, it makes us happier. I believe this is one of the easiest things people can try, so finding a smile and doing or saying something nice to someone today, even the cashier at the supermarket, could make a big difference for you and the other people.