Head's up, there might be affiliate links ahead!
According to this survey-based research, the 10 reported actions that can improve overall happiness are:
Giving: do things for others
Relating: connect with people
Exercising: take care of your body
Appreciating: notice the world around
Trying out: keep learning new things
Direction: have goals to look forward to
Resilience: find ways to bounce back
Emotion: take a positive approach
Acceptance: be comfortable with who you are
Meaning: be part of something bigger
These actions are listed in priority of how often they are performed by the surveyed people, however the researchers identified self-acceptance as being the most potent behavior for increasing happiness, even though it was practiced almost the least frequently.
The study goes on to suggest three ways we can increase our level of self-acceptance and therefore our overall happiness:
“1. Be as kind to yourself as you are to others. See your mistakes as opportunities to learn. Notice things you do well, however small.
2. Ask a trusted friend or colleague to tell you what your strengths are or what they value about you.
3. Spend some quiet time by yourself. Tune in to how you’re feeling inside and try to be at peace with who you are.”
I did a little more digging and found this Psychology Today article that recommends we
“start by telling ourselves (repeatedly and– hopefully–with ever-increasing conviction) that given all of our negatively biased self-referencing beliefs, we’ve done the best we possibly could. In this light, we need to re-examine residual feelings of guilt, as well as our many self-criticisms and put-downs. We must ask ourselves specifically what it is we don’t accept about ourselves and, as agents of our own healing, bring compassion and understanding to each aspect of self-rejection or -denial. By doing so, we can begin to dissolve exaggerated feelings of guilt and shame based on standards that simply didn’t mirror what could realistically be expected of us at the time.”
The article goes on to suggest that we excuse our past transgressions as though we had no responsibility for what happened and to assume we did the best we could at the time, or as we were hard-wired to do. This process apparently helps us to forgive ourselves for hurting ourselves and others in the past, but I’m not sure I buy that part. Do you?
Regardless of how you go about the process, finding a way to accept yourself as you are right now, clearly holds tremendous benefit in the quality of your present life and in the future, so why not make an effort to work on it? Personally, I know what areas I need to accept – much of it has to do with my body image (which shouldn’t surprise any of you), but I have other shadow elements of my personality that need some love as well.
As we move into this new year, I hope this idea stays with you. The practice is straight forward, but it might be the most difficult work you ever do for yourself. Self acceptance is simply knowing in your heart that you are enough just as you are. Do you believe that yet?