When asked ‘what do you most want out of life?’ most people say ‘to be happy!’
Yet, we often delay our happiness, thinking
‘I’ll be happy when I meet the love of my life’
‘I’ll be happy when I have children’
‘I’ll be happy when I lose 10 lbs’
‘I’ll be happy when the children are finished college’
‘I’ll be happy when I can afford to retire.’
You get the picture. Keep looking towards external sources to provide your happiness and before you know it, you’ll be looking back at life and reminiscing about all the happy times in the past.
So how can we be happier? Firstly, rather than looking externally, we look inward because cliché as it sounds, happiness really is an inside job. Think about when you last purchased something or got something you’d been striving for – chances are fairly soon after, you were looking towards your next purchase or goal. Research suggests that happiness is relative. Studies of people who’ve won the lottery and people who suffered a catastrophic accident, after about a year returned to their previous levels of happiness before the euphoria or devastation. The good news is you can increase your Happiness Set Point.
- Acknowledge a feel good moment as it’s happening. It might be something as small as a hug from a loved one, a smile, witnessing an act of kindness or enjoying the freedom of an outdoor run. Witnessing and taking a moment to appreciate these little moments of happiness cultivate our overall sense of well-being and feeling of gratitude. It’s a bit like putting coins in a piggy bank, or a tiny light in a string of fairy lights, they cumulate into a bank of savings – in this case a bank of contentment, or each little light shines in a string of lights to light up a whole garden.
- Develop an Attitude of Gratitude. It is impossible to feel gratitude and negativity at the same time. Find things to be grateful for each day – it’s about catching yourself if you find you’re grumbling, or pessimistic and reframing that attitude.
- Develop strong personal relationships. Look at the Wheel of Life exercise included here. Are you perhaps putting too much attention on one area of life and letting your relationships slide? This includes the relationship with yourself. If we’ve learned anything from this pandemic it’s our human need for connection – nurture how you relate to others and yourself.
Finally, how we start our day sets the tone of our day. Often first thing in the morning we reach for our phone and scroll the newsfeed and our emails. Try to get into the habit of taking a few minutes each morning for mindful breathing and practicing gratitude, before reaching for your phone, and let that set the trajectory of your day instead. And maybe, turn up the speakers and listen to ‘Three Little Birds’ the link included here – the world news can wait a few minutes, can’t it?
Until next time, stay safe, stay happy.