The holiday season is full of joy, love and peace — at least all the cards say so. Yet, many of us feel overwhelmed by stress and anxiety about work, family and holiday preparations.
Jude Bijou can relate. A psychotherapist for more than 30 years, Bijou always wanted to be happy, but she wasn’t.
“I thought there should be some kind of manual, but there wasn’t one,” she said. “So, combining what I learned from my renowned psychologist father, my own marriage and family counseling practice, and Eastern meditation, I wrote my own. It only took me 20 years.”
“Attitude Reconstruction: A Blueprint for Building a Better Life” (Riviera Press, 2011, $16.95) offers insight into human emotions and practical ways to trade negative feelings for more positive ones.
“There are just six emotions: sadness, anger, fear, joy, love and peace,” Bijou said. “How we handle or mishandle the first three keeps us from experiencing the last three, and who wouldn’t want more joy, love and peace in our lives?”
Achieving happiness is especially important in the workplace, where most of us spend the majority of our time, she said. Negative emotions and bad moods can impede performance, productivity and relationships with co-workers and customers.
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“Making small behavioral changes can improve your mood at work,” Bijou said.
Here are eight strategies for doing just that.
1. Stop “what-iffing” and “deadlining.”
“ 'What-iffing’ is when your thoughts are focused on what you should have done or said. 'Deadlining’ is worrying about your future projects or the outcome of that presentation,” Bijou said.
If you’re overly concerned about the past or the future, you aren’t going to be happy in the present. Stop, take some deep breaths or shiver like a dog, she suggests.
“Shivering releases tension and helps you to shake off the negative energy,” she said.
Pause, stop thinking about the past or the future, and just be present in the now. That should help you feel better.
2. Drown out negative chatter.
“The negative thoughts that we tell ourselves are untrue and based on false assumptions derived from anger, sadness and fear,” she said.
Stop them by finding a true statement and repeating it when a negative thought arises.
“Instead of 'I blew it’ or 'I’ll never get this done in time,’ tell yourself, 'I’m doing the best I can.’ Finding a contradictory statement to repeat what’s 100 percent true will change your mood,” she said.
Feeling overwhelmed? That comes from fear. Make a list, organize your desk, then just accomplish one thing and you’ll feel better.
3. Don’t gossip.
“Putting others down or complaining just makes you feel worse. You can say nothing, or say something nice,” she said. “Once you stop gossiping, you’ll find spaces opening in your day that you can fill in more pleasurable ways to lift your mood.”
4. Be grateful, not grumpy.
“If you’re having a hard day, take a brief timeout and concentrate on something or someone that you really love. Remembering that trip to the Grand Canyon or how your sister is always there for you will interrupt your negative tangent and let you recharge your battery,” she said. “You can’t think about something you’re grateful for and something you’re unhappy about at the same time.”
5. Just get over it.
“Practice accepting what is,” she said. “We have this fantasy that if everyone would just do things our way the world would be a better place, but that’s not reality. Remind yourself, 'People and things are the way they are, not the way I want them to be.’
“You can make it personal, as in 'Mary is the way she is’ or 'staff meetings are the way they are.’ If you repeat the phrase 11 times and ham it up, you’ll probably find yourself laughing. When you get over your frustration that things aren’t the way you want them to be, you will enjoy yourself more and maybe even learn a new way of approaching a problem.”
6. Find the source of your bad mood.
“Instead of waiting for a bad mood to lift on its own, ask yourself when you began to feel that way? Was it when your husband mentioned his fishing trip? If so, then you need to address that specific issue,” Bijou said. “If it was something tragic that happened at work — and health care workers see so much sadness, hurt and loss — then allow yourself to cry when you get home. Honoring your emotions and moving through them can keep you from trudging resentfully through each day.”
7. Be the happy one at work.
Approach the day with an upbeat attitude and others will respond. Moods are contagious, so pass on a happy vibe. You can avoid a lot of the common workplace squabbles by smiling and making positive statements about the good things you see.
“People will love to work with you because you’re happy. What they don’t know is that you’re making yourself happy, too,” she said.
8. Wear someone else’s shoes.
“Instead of being self-absorbed, listen to others. Listening well is the ultimate in giving and brings about feelings of connection and love,” Bijou said. “Happiness at works comes when workers have the sense of 'we’re all in this together,’ that we have each other’s backs.”