Runners, especially those of us who crave distance, are no strangers to training plans. We check the calendar for our recommended mileage and pacing, lace up our sneakers and bound out the door for the day’s prescribed workout. While there are days when the plan feels daunting, there is also simplicity and comfort in logging the miles and knowing that come race day, all we need to do is trust our training.
We’ve figured running and racing out. It’s not necessarily easy, but we know how to do it. Now, it’s time to chase that victory for our minds and learn how to train ourselves to be happy.
Inspired by a recent New York Times article, we’re resolving to adopt habits in 2018 that are known to promote happiness. It’s not about controlling our circumstances, it’s about adjusting our attitudes, behaviors and learning to live within the cards we’re dealt.
Acknowledge and own negative thoughts
When negative thoughts enter your brain, stop and think about why you’re feeling this way, and if it is how you want to continue. More often than not, you’re going to want to reframe your thinking into being more positive. If you’re unable to quickly flip the switch on your unhappiness, acknowledge and own your emotions rather than dwelling on them. The more you beat yourself up over feeling a certain way, the harder it is to stop the negativity. Meditation is a great tool to learn more about your mind, where it likes to wander and practice coming back each time it does.
Move it, move it
It’s scientifically proven that exercise makes us happy. It’s not always easy to get our butts to the gym, especially after a long day. To make it easier, reframe your thinking from needing to go to the gym for your body, to getting a sweat to improve your mood. A 2017 study found that people who moved in the previous 15 minutes, even on a walk, were happier than those who were dormant. To boost your own mood, sneak movement opportunities into your daily routine, whether it is starting the day with a kickboxing class or just taking a stroll around the block after work.
Get some sleep
There are many ways that not getting enough sleep impacts our daily lives, from worsened athletic performance to being more prone to certain diseases, like diabetes. Beyond our physical health, getting adequate sleep has dramatic implications on our mental health. Research has shown that when we don’t get enough sleep, we’re more sensitive to negative events. Not only does sleep deprivation worsen our reaction to things going poorly, it also lessens our ability to enjoy when things go well. When you’re not able to log your preferred number of z’s, go easy on yourself and try to get more sleep the next night.
Be nice to yourself
Searches for “self care routines” on Pinterest were up over 500% in 2017. While you’re likely seeing these rituals pop up all over your newsfeed, taking care of yourself isn’t just a trend and it isn’t just about face masks and bubble baths. Although these “treat yo self” rituals help promote temporary happiness and relaxation, true self care is about being compassionate towards yourself. Instead of being your own worst critic, find happiness by treating yourself like a friend. Forgive yourself when things don’t go perfectly and you have a misstep or two. If you feel negative self talk creep into your head, ask yourself how you’d help or comfort a friend in this situation and “treat yo self” with the same kindness.
Seek help when you need it
There’s no rulebook that says you need to do everything yourself. You can consider yourself like a friend, but there is no substitute for surrounding yourself with other happy, positive people who lift you up. Forget pride and acknowledge that there are times when you need the help of others, whether it is a shoulder on which to cry or a friend with whom to laugh. It is also healthy to consider if you’d benefit from seeing a therapist. Therapy is not just for when you feel like you’ve hit “rock bottom.” Professional counseling is a normal way to sort through your thoughts and build emotional resilience, whether it is with a few sessions or a longer commitment.