A 24-year-old guy – I’ll call him Will – sat in my office not too long ago. He was in his first job after graduating from college, living in a city far from his family. He liked his job and he’d made a few friends, but he found himself unhappy much of the time.

“I’m always stressed and sometimes even depressed,” he told me.

As he struggled to explain what had led him to be some stressed and unhappy, he came to the conclusion that it wasn’t any one big thing. He’d not suffered a major loss or faced extraordinary pressure at work.

Instead, it seemed to be a million little things: the tense political climate, his new phase of life, the lack of personal time outside of work, the distance from family and old friends, and so on.

He’s not alone. Every day I talk with young adults who aren’t as happy as they want to be. In many cases, they aren’t facing any catastrophic stressor. Rather, they feel the cumulative effect of living in a stressed-out culture. The wear and tear on them are taking its toll.

 

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Recent studies confirm that rates of depression are increasing and anxiety is higher in the United States and other wealthy countries than anywhere else in the world. In a time of so much negativity and stress, it’s harder than ever to be truly happy and contented.

For young adults, being happy seems to be more elusive than before. With a shifting employment landscape, hostile political climates, and less social support, it’s become tougher to live a joyful life.

Perhaps you relate to this. You find yourself at a point in life where you expected to be happier than you are. You desire to be happy but you don’t know how to get there.

The good news is that it’s still possible. In this series, I’ll give you six highly practical steps for living a happier life. I’ve created the acronym OMEGAS to make it easier to remember:

 

OOptimism: Cultivate a more positive, hopeful mindset.

MMindfulness: Discover this practice that leads to greater well-being.

EEmotional Awareness: Increase your emotional intelligence to manage feelings.

GGratitude: Incorporate this discipline into your life for greater contentment.

AAcceptance: Adopt this outlook for less suffering and more harmony.

SStress Coping: Develop these skills for increased resilience.

 

These six components are skills, mindsets, or practices that lead to a happier and emotionally healthier life. Each of them by themselves is powerful, but the combination of all six can be life-changing.

I don’t want to overstate the impact of OMEGAS, nor do I want to undersell how consequential they can be in your life. While some of these, like mindfulness, may take time and practice, others can begin having an immediate impact on your quality of life.

If you think of getting happier the same way you might think of getting physically healthier, it makes sense. To get physically healthy, you might decide to start exercising, eat healthier, get your sleep schedule under control, and eliminate harmful habits, like smoking or excessive drinking.

 

“OMEGAS: Optimism, Mindfulness, Emotional Awareness, Gratitude, Acceptance, Stress Coping.”

 

Doing any one of these can lead to greater physical health, but doing all or most of them makes you even healthier.

In the same way, if you adopt any of the six OMEGAS practices, you’ll probably be happier, but the more you do, the happier and emotionally healthier you’ll likely become.

The good news is none of these practices is difficult to understand or hard to do. They just require a few minutes a day and some consistency.

Sign up for our newsletter and also make sure to check back here soon as we kick off this series. If you like what you read, make sure you tell your friends about us, too. The happier young adults, the better the world will be.

 

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Dr. Dave Verhaagen
Dave Verhaagen is the author or co-author of eight books, including Therapy with Young Men and Parenting the Millennial Generation. As a licensed psychologist who earned his Ph.D. in psychology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, he has served as clinical director for three mental health agencies and is the founder and former CEO of Southeast Psych, a large psychology practice in Charlotte, NC. He is one of fewer than 5% of psychologists in the U.S. to be certified by the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) and he is a Fellow of both The American Board of Clinical Psychology and The American Board of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology. His work has been featured several times in USA Today, Newsweek, and dozens of newspapers around the country. He works almost exclusively with young adults (16-29 year olds) in his clinical practice. Dave is a popular speaker at local, state, and national conferences. He has been married to Ellen for 26 years and they have four young adult children: Daniel, Christy, Maddie, and Abbey.Fun facts: He once broke a finger tucking in his shirt and broke another finger making his bed. He worked in radio for seven years on-air. He is a bad magician. He still dresses up each year for Halloween. Do with this information what you will.

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