Sometimes what drags us down is how we approach things that we do. The mood we put ourselves in, can sometimes set us up for having a bad time and not enjoying life to the fullest.
I remember a couple of years ago I was visiting Olvera Street in Los Angeles with a couple of friends. One of my friends, Claire, absolutely loves visiting that location and was looking forward to it. I was kind of in a neutral mood about the whole situation. I had been having a rough past week and was letting it affect my mood. My negative mood was fairly obvious to both of my friends who were present. After visiting a store that sold eclectic items, my mood was clearly lackluster. The other friend present, Simon, finally commented and said “you are only having a bad time because you want to have a bad time. If you try to have a good time, you’ll start to have more fun. Either way, it’s your choice but I want you to have a good time. Claire wants you to have a good time. So just have fun with us.”
As much as I didn’t like to hear it at that moment, I knew he was right. I was starting my day in a slightly negative mood. I wasn’t even trying to be enthusiastic in the slightest. We had planned a fun afternoon and evening together, but I was not putting myself in the mood to have fun. After he said that, I tried to smile more. We had a late lunch, and I tried to be enthusiastic and really enjoy the food. The rest of the day, I was mentioning how excited I was for the sports game we planned to see that evening. I shared some amusing jokes with my friends and just had fun. I felt much better too. I was having far more fun than before. I was enjoying myself and just having a good time. By the end of the night, my mood had drastically improved and I was in a more positive state of mind. Thanks to the words of my friends and some effort on my end, I changed what could have been a day full of negativity and pessimism into one that was memorable and really enjoyable.
Sometimes the only person preventing you from being happy and enjoying your day really is you. If you find yourself sometimes having bad days and you simply don’t know why, then it’s possible you are approaching something with indifference. It’s also possible you are cultivating an environment of enthusiasm.
Some things you might want to consider…
- Try to smile, laugh, and show enthusiasm. Showing excitement can often impact how we feel on the inside.
- What do you get excited about? Sometimes we are doing things that just don’t make us enthusiastic. Try and find things that make you excited or give you something to look forward to. If you dislike your job, then find things to be excited about after work. If you are uninterested in most of the activities you do on the weekend, then encourage your friends to do more things you enjoy.
- If you are not sure what makes you excited, then this is the perfect time to start trying new things. Find things you are interested in and get out there and do it. Not only will you make new friends but you will learn something new. Join clubs, view online forums or blogs for ideas, try a new hobby or ask your friends and family for advice about what they think you may really like.
- Surround yourself with people who have positive attitudes. Being around others who are negative or unenthusiastic will not help your enthusiasm. Try to spend more time with people who are enthusiastic and positive.
Developing your listening skills can dramatically improve your social relationships with others. Listening allows us the opportunity to really show empathy towards another and have a greater understanding of someone you know. Many of us fall into a trap where we spend more time talking about ourselves. We may not notice that we are spending more time speaking than listening to what another has to say. This can result in a relationship that seems self-centered and that could be preventing you from forming close relationships. Listening is an educational experience which helps you learn about another and maybe even provides insight into your own life. Listening also allows you to have better communication with others which can help solve issues with your partner, friendships or in a work environment. Learn to listen with sincerity and begin to experience the happiness associated with opening your ear to another.
- Create an environment for good listening. It’s easy to get distracted from listening with the television on, cell phone in sight, or around children or pets. Remove any potential distraction so you can focus entirely on the person you are speaking.
- Resist talking. This is one that many of us break, especially people who are ready to chime in with advice. Wait for the person to finish what they are saying. If it is not clear when the person is done talking, then simply ask if they are finished and if you may say something in response.
- Be open to what the person is telling you. Remember, we cannot assume that we understand how a person is feeling or what exactly they mean. Be prepared for the person to say anything. Be prepared for your assumptions to be wrong.
- Try to see things from their perspective. This requires some active thought. You must be actively trying to place yourself in their shoes and not allow your feelings or assumptions to influence how you perceive what they are telling you.
- Do not fault the person for what they tell you. Everyone is different. Sometimes it’s easy to listen to someone and think, “I would never have done that!” or “this is how you should be doing things”. Let the person talk to you and try not to judge them for that.
- Do not interrupt! No matter how tempting it may seem, just take a calm breath and let them continue. You can come back to whatever you wanted to say later.
- Allow the person the time to speak. You need to show patience. Some people need time to formulate their thoughts. Give the person enough time to be able to really say what they mean.
- Avoid making the conversation about you. If you feel you can relate to the other person, then stop yourself from saying “oh, I went through the exact same thing” or “oh this sounds exactly like what happened when I…”. Remember, this is not about you, but about the other person. If you can relate then that’s great but right now the other person just needs their time to talk.
- Don’t change the topic of conversation. Stay on topic. It’s easy for some people to think the conversation has ended and switch topics. Let the speaker switch topics. Do not change the topic since you may be doing it prematurely.
- Encourage the person to keep talking. Show them you are listening and are happy to listen. Nobody feels comfortable speaking to someone when they aren’t receiving cues that the person is listening or gets the vibe that the person wants to stop talking. Consistently show you are interested. Nod, smile, or make brief comments such as “I understand” or “Keep going” when appropriate.
- Try not to keep repeating what the other person is saying. That can get annoying easily and may turn the other person off from speaking with you.
- Don’t make the problem less than it is. The issue is important to this person. Remember importance is relative. Try not to trivialize the problem.
- Don’t attack the person. Try not to be insulting. You may be hearing things that are not easy to hear. Remember all you need to do is listen and be there for the person. Try not to judge and attack the person. Just sit back and listen to what he or she has to say.
- Try to look relaxed. Tension is easy to pick up on. It’s easier for the person to open up to you when you seem calm and not stressed out. Someone will feel uncomfortable speaking to you if they feel you are not in a good state for listening or are not in the mood to talk. Look relaxed. If possible, try to find a place to talk that is comfortable such as sitting on a couch or in a calm environment.
- Summarize what the person has been saying when they finish speaking. This will convey to the person that you have been listening to what they have been saying and it will also help you know if you are really understanding the situation from their perspective.
- Allow the person to correct you if any misunderstanding occurs. Giving the person the chance to clarify exactly what they mean will show you really want to understand.
- Ask meaningful questions. Remember to be a good listener involves you asking questions to get a better idea of what the person is going through.
- Be aware of facial expressions or changes in tone. A person may close up or feel hesitant about bringing up something. Try and be aware of this, and encourage the person to keep going. If you sense someone is hesitant then respond with phrases like, “tell me more”.
- When the person is done speaking, offer them whatever advice he or she needs. Wait for them to respond and continue the listening process again.
- At the end of the conversation let them know you are happy to listen. Tell them that if they ever need someone to talk to that you are there for them and you care. Let them know if they want to discuss the topic further, then you happy to keep listening.