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Get Back to Happy

6 tips for regaining your happiness after a setback.

3. Take Small Steps and Be Persistent.

"Start acting as if you were happier, by doing," Myers says. "Begin with tolerably small steps and do the things that happy people often do: Get out of the house, meet friends, and engage with your faith community."

After two years of studying karate, Jim Stevens' karate instructor suggested he try to work on his art again. He tried and failed twice.

His youngest daughter came to him on one of his bad days and said, "Dad, you promised not to quit." So he tried again. This time, Stevens experimented with different types of visual lenses to help him. He says he slowly started to make quality art again, using the lenses and his sense of touch, and in 2009 was honored by the Kennedy Center for his work.

4. Exercise Regularly.

Don't let a setback bench you. Physical activity may help you handle uncertainty and stress and may help to boost your mood. Exercise has been shown to increase the production of the feel-good chemicals endorphins.

If you haven't exercised in a while, check with your doctor before launching a new fitness plan. And don't forget about the other basics of self-care: a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, and tending to any health conditions you have. 

5. Don't Take Things Personally.

Try not to blame yourself or others for your problems. Instead, analyze your choices to strive to avoid making the same mistakes twice.

For example, if you've had a nasty breakup, try not to beat yourself up ("I have terrible luck with men/women") or trash your ex ("That liar deserves what s/he gets.") Instead of spending that energy rehashing the past, use it to move on.

"Taking things personally leads to guilt and shame, which are disempowering emotions," Borysenko writes in It's Not the End of the World. "Taking responsibility for your actions, on the other hand, can lead to helpful and empowering insights."

6. Be Flexible.

A setback often includes a life-altering change. Experts say many people would do well to be more flexible in handling those changes.

For example, suppose you lose your job -- but you know the exact job you want next. While on the hunt, you get another job offer -- but it falls short of your dream job, so you don't take it. In being inflexible, you missed a source of income and may have slammed a door that could have led to other opportunities.

"Just knowing you can be more flexible is half the battle," says George Bonanno,PhD,professor and chair of Columbia University's counseling and clinical psychology department and author of The Other Side of Sadness." You can reorient yourself during a crisis and change course as things change. You can say: "OK, I can handle this. What do I need to do now?'"

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