What Should We Do Instead of Grimly Trying to Be Happy?

Dr Susan David, Harvard Medical School psychologist, author and consultant, says we need to apply “emotional agility”: a process of “holding difficult emotions and thoughts loosely, facing them courageously and compassionately, and then moving past them to ignite change in your life.”

In her TED talk, The gift and power of emotional courage, David says the worst thing you can do is try to push down your annoying feelings.

“When we push our difficult emotions aside, we fail to learn from them and recognise those difficult emotions contain signposts to things that we value, and if we can pay attention to the data we can adapt.”

David says the first step is to label our emotion, so we can separate from it. She advises using the phrase, “I’m noticing that I’m feeling…”, such as “I’m noticing that I’m feeling sad.”

“Research now shows that the radical acceptance of all of our emotions – even the mess, difficult ones – is the cornerstone to resilience, thriving, and true, authentic happiness.”

When feeling difficult emotions, follow this four-step process from Dr Susan David:

1. Show Up: Face your thoughts or feelings with curiosity and acceptance.

2. Step Out: Label your emotions so you can detach from them. See them for what they are, simply emotions, not who you are.

3. Walk Your Why: Use your core values to decide what to do about the emotion. For example, if you value fairness, you may choose to have a difficult conversation, rather than avoiding it because doing so reflects fairness to the individual, yourself and those around you.

4. Move On: In moving forward, make small, purposeful adjustments to align your mindset, motivation and habits with your core values. Make sure that these tweaks are connected to who you want to be in your life.