Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Be a Big Picture Thinker

Five things you can do to feel happier tomorrow.

Question: Marci, things are scary out there! People are worried about their bank balances, lost jobs, retirement funds disappearing...What's the #1 thing people can do to stay sane and centered right now?

Marci: First, Know that you're all right in this moment. Stop and take a deep breath. Look around and ground yourself in what's actually happening right...this...second. This is what Eckhart Tolle calls the Power of Now; it anchors you to a place of inner calm.

Some people are lying awake at night because they can't stop worrying-I call that "awful-izing!" We imagine in gory detail the awful things that might happen to us in the future. It causes us so much suffering and it doesn't help our current situation at all. In fact, it's really bad for our health!

Focusing on our fears triggers the release of stress chemicals in our bodies, which can build up over time and create fatigue and a whole multitude of diseases-hypertension, heart disease, auto-immune disorders, you get the idea. So whether you're coping with real challenges or just potential ones, allowing fear to run you isn't just a waste of time, it's actually harmful. Interrupt this old pattern by breathing in the present moment and realizing all is well right now.

Question: As research for your book, Happy for No Reason, you interviewed scientists all over the world and 100 unconditionally happy people to learn how to be happy from the inside out. What did you discover that we can apply to dealing with our fear?

Marci: It's my tip # 2: Don't believe everything you think. We humans have what psychologists call a negativity bias, which means we're hardwired to pay more attention to our disturbing thoughts and experiences than to our positive ones. While this wiring was useful when we were cavewomen trying to survive in the wild, today it just makes us more likely to go into freak-out mode and get stuck there.

Simply understanding that negativity sticks to our brains like Velcro and positivity slides off like Teflon can help you take your worries less seriously. People who are "happy for no reason" know how to over-ride their internal alarm systems when necessary. This gives them more energy to deal effectively with what's actually happening in their lives.
So when you start to spin out and "awful-ize" your situation, interrupt the downward spiral of worry and anxiety by questioning your negative thoughts. Just because you think something doesn't make it true.

Question: What role does money really play in our happiness?

Marci: All of the research shows that once you're over the poverty line (you have food to eat and a place to live), no amount of money will make you happier. Which brings me to tip #3: Know that what truly matters is not in the bank. This is an opportunity for all of us--as a nation, and as individuals--to re-evaluate our priorities and values, and go beyond materialism. What do you need to be happy? When you dig deep, you'll find that meaning, not money, is at the top of the list.

Question: You believe that self-care is particularly important for us in dealing effectively with economic stresses.

Marci: Yes! Tip #4 is Make Your Cells Happy. Take a break from trying to mentally figure out what to do, and take care of yourself on the physical level. Be aware of your body in the moment and tune into what it needs. Get your energy moving, take a walk, drink some tea, smile-even if you don't feel like it. Studies show that smiling triggers the release of happiness-enhancing neurochemicals which can help you feel better fast.

Question: What's your 5th tip for keeping the big picture in mind today to make tomorrow happier?

Marci: Switch From Me to We. You want to feel wealthy? Give of yourself! It doesn't have to be money that you contribute-simply look around you and see if there's a need you can fill for someone else. Remember, we're all in this together. If you haven't lost your job, do you know someone who has? Think of things you can to do to help them in simple ways-bring them dinner or keep their kids for an afternoon so they can get out and go to the gym or look for more work. If you've lost your job, consider forming a support/networking group with others in the same situation. Switching from "me" to "we" is always a guaranteed happiness booster.
The very challenges we face can actually help us build a new refuge of unshakable peace and well-being inside if we know we can count on one another to help us get through. When you think and act on that, you'll begin to turn things around, not just for yourself, but for every life you touch as well.

For more information, go to