All of us want to be happy, whether we admit it or not. Yet few of us have any idea of how to go about achieving this goal. In this blog post, I will not only show you that it is possible to be happier but also share some research-based strategies that have proven to be life-changing in the pursuit of a happier life.
SOME MYTHS ABOUT HAPPINESS
If you are a positive person, you should be happy all the time
Happiness is off in the future somewhere; when I get that dream job, when I get my new car, when I marry the right person....etc., etc.
Having things makes you happy
Your happiness depends on your genetic makeup
I would be happy if I won the lottery
You are either a happy person or not
I can't do anything to change how happy I am
Happiness is a shallow, Polly Anna feeling
I don't deserve to be happy
I don't have time to be happy
Happiness means not having any problems or hardships
WHAT IS HAPPINESS?
We can see from these myths that happiness can be a misunderstood concept. Perhaps it would be beneficial to consider some alternative language to describe what we are referring to. I will suggest 6 words that have a similar meaning, and perhaps you can relate to one of these in a meaningful way:
I found a definition of happiness that I could really relate to. It's from Shawn Achor's book, The Happiness Advantage: "Happiness is not about lying to ourselves or turning a blind eye to the negative, but about adjusting our brain so that we see the ways to rise above our circumstances."
HOW DO WE GET HAPPIER?
In her book The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky points out that 50% of our happiness is genetically determined. In other words, if you are born into a dour family where nobody is ever smiling or happy, this will impact your chances of being a happy individual. A mere 10% of happiness is based on your life circumstances, such as whether you are rich or poor, healthy or unhealthy, plain or beautiful, married or divorced. This leaves a surprising 40% of happiness that is within your own control. One of the ways we can do this is by engaging in activities that make us feel good about ourselves. We can also improve our happiness levels by taking charge of how we think and how we behave.
In the following section. I will list some practical steps you can take to boost your happiness. These strategies have been researched and validated by psychologists, but they are not magic. It takes intention, conviction, and consistent determination on your part.
Expressing gratitude - The practice of gratitude is incompatible with negative emotions such as sadness, resentment, anger, and frustration. Keeping a daily gratitude journal where you record 3 things you are grateful for can be life-changing. Try expressing gratitude directly to someone who has been kind or helpful to you, either in the present or perhaps from years ago.
Cultivating optimism - Someone who has an optimistic outlook will believe that their destiny is within their control, and as a result, will be more engaged in moving forward in a positive way. Someone who lacks optimism may feel victimized by life and others, which is not compatible with happiness.
Avoid Social Comparison - People who focus on what others have in comparison to themselves, are more threatened and insecure. Sonja Lyubomirsky states "You can't be envious and happy at the same time."
Practice Acts of Kindness - You benefit as much as the person who is the recipient of your kindness. Acts of kindness distract you from your personal troubles. Why not try this by performing 3 acts of kindness in the next day or two and see for yourself how it affects your level of happiness?
Learn to Forgive - Forgiving others for hurting you is something you do for yourself, not for someone else. Remember that forgiveness includes releasing yourself from your own past regrets as well. People who are able to forgive and let go are more likely to be healthier, more agreeable, more serene, and, well....happier.
Being kind to yourself - You can't expect to be happy if you are constantly thinking negative or critical thoughts about yourself. One of the ways you can be kind to yourself is by taking care of your body. Take care of yourself with the same tenderness and gentleness as you would of a beloved pet or a small child.
These are just 6 of many ways you can become a happier person. The irony of happiness is that the more you chase it, the more elusive it becomes. You don't chase happiness; you create it, and you choose it.
"Nothing will make you happy until you choose to be happy. No person will make you happy unless you decide to be happy. Your happiness will not come TO you. It can only come FROM you."- Ralph Marston