Photo of happy older couple in the fall.

Small habits can make us happier

insight Sep 20, 2022

The world is changing rapidly, and so are we for that matter. The ability to manage change is essential if we are going to maintain our sanity or have any semblance of a happy, productive life.

The problem is that we all have these nasty bad habits that can interfere with our desire to be better people passionately pursing things that really matter to us.

Dr. Tal Leead is a psychologist, author and founder of happierbeing.com. She helps people identify negative roadblocks preventing them from living happy and healthy lifestyles, and then provides them with tools and resources to optimize desired results.

Tal wrote an article for Thrive Global earlier this month in which she provides suggestions for ways in which we can reassure and reinforce the ideal people we'd like to become. She cited Dr. Daryl Bem, who proved our opinions about ourselves are formed exactly like our opinions about others – by judging our behavior.

That's why when we find ourselves engaged in a behavior for which we don't label ourselves, such as always being late, it causes us stress. Our thoughts and beliefs do not line up with our behavior and it causes cognitive dissonance.

For years, I saw myself as a relatively healthy person based on my previous experience where I would ride my bike 100 miles a day when I worked as a bicycle cop. Boy, was I fit and trim back in the early 1980s.

Then, when I got out of that daily routine and allowed myself to indulge in not-so-healthy foods, like pizza and pasta, without a corresponding increase in activity to burn off those calories. I started to stress. My physical appearance no longer measured up to the type of person I told myself I was.

However, when I recently committed to optimizing my well-being, Tal would say I started a process of becoming a happier being.

"Every day you commit to your Happier Being™ by creating healthy habits, you also lay the foundations of your new life," she wrote. "You are charging your energy and boosting your feedback that this is the person you are now."

For years, I tried to become healthier, but eventually the attempts failed. Tal would say that's because i was trying to tell myself I desire to lose weight at the same time I would remind myself how much I love In-N-Out Double Double cheeseburgers and Moose Tracks ice cream.

So, after failing again, I'd get depressed and tell myself I have no self-control, so there is no hope of ever achieving my desired weight. That put me on an endless cycle of indulge > regret > start over.

"Every day you commit to your Happier Being by creating healthy habits, you also lay the foundations of your new life. You are charging your energy and boosting your feedback that this is the person you are now," Tal wrote.

I finally figured out it is easier to avoid those foods by never bringing them in the house or by not leaving my home when hungry, than it is to resist the constant temptation to indulge.

"People with a lot of self-control don’t necessarily have more willpower than others. They’ve simply learned not to rely on willpower alone to stick with a plan – especially during times of stress," she added.

However, the more consistent we are in reinforcing our new identity and in following a new habit, the more positive emotions we experience. Soon, our actions become more about not breaking the streak until, eventually, the new habit is fully ingrained.

Tal's article is available at www.thriveglobal.com.

The book upon which the article is based, "Happier Being: Your Path to Optimizing Habits, Health and Happiness," is available on Amazon.


If you order Tal's book by clicking on that link, Forward From 50 may earn a small commission.

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