Being happy is something universal. We all want to achieve some form or state of happiness. And that’s where this article is different from what you have learned about happiness so far; being happy is not something you can try to become and then stay like that… someday.
Although one can experience happiness for a longer period of time, it is not a state of being. It is something
you can feel. You can create a sense of happiness. It may or may not exist, depending on what you choose to believe. So this article is not about how to ‘achieve’ happiness, but how to ‘experience it’ – where and whenever you want. It can be as easy as sitting on a bench and looking out over the ocean, in silence.
So if it’s true we can create happiness, or the sense of happiness. How do we to this? I can literally write and speak about this all the time, yet I am about to share the top 7 key ways of increasing your sense of happiness. And although we can go into detail on the psychology of happiness and many health and life style aspects, such as staying in balance by providing the body with wonderful food, I will keep it very practical and leave the personal research up to you. Everyone has their own life to live and experiences to learn from, or as I prefer to say ‘see it as an experiment’ by constantly changing habits and patterns. Ok so enough said, let’s get started.
1. Think about what makes you happy
Take a moment to think what you need to be happy. What needs to change? What in your life is not what it should be? Think about it… And now stop. This is not the way to start feeling happy is it? How can you even control all the things and people that need to change in order for you to be happy? So the first way of increasing your sense of happiness is to never again look for happiness outside of yourself. Nothing can make you happy; you can feel happy by events happening, but only if you are open to see and even experience those events. For example, you may think a diamond ring will make you happy, but if it’s coming from a soon to be exposed as dishonest man, in the end the small things and personal growths are what make you feel you are a good human being worth loving. Happiness isn’t measured by how satisfied you are with life, like a movie you’re reviewing, it is about your ability to accept life as it comes and taking full responsibility for it. So be brutally honest and let’s start this again, on to step 2.
2. Understand how you can trigger feeling happy, experiment!
It can take time, but start your experiment of this thing called life by investigating what actually triggers happy sensations in mind and body. It can be as simple as:
- eating a strawberry
- having an orgasm
- watching a funny movie
- having an in depth conversation with your best friend
- dressing to how you (want to) feel, like casual, about to do sport
- listening to up beat music
- walking outside
- breathing exercises
- being silent
- singing or dancing
Notice how all of these simple things are actual activities that have nothing to do with ‘thinking about happiness’ or the lack of it. Also, most of the things in this list of examples have a profound effect on the bodies system having an immediate effect on the ‘happy chemicals’ in the brain. For example singing, especially singing together with others has proven to trigger happy feelings, mainly because it involves taking long breaths and the expression by using your voice. Can’t sing? The message here is, don’t do nothing or depress yourself with sad music, dwelling on the past or watching TV every night, but find out what is on your list.
3. Learn about your perception of happiness
What you interpret as feeling happy can be so very different from what another person perceives. It is somewhat of a challenge to live in a world where happiness is pictured as the same thing that we all want. It’s not! If we all have a mortgage, a house and 2.3 kids it would be a very boring life. Sounds simple enough, but if I take a good long look at what is pictured around me as the ‘normal’ way of living, and bring into that all the things that are expected of me or more importantly that I expected myself to be, it wasn’t what is making me happy these days. Among the millions of people you really are unique, and you can decide how to perceive happiness. I have started to see that life is providing what I wanted to see by focusing on solutions, and talking about the good things in my life. It’s as simple as seeing the glass half full. Great men and woman have lived very difficult lives and yet kept strong by having a positive attitude.
4. Create your happy future
The only way for a better future for you and people around you is to picture a way of living in your mind, and then see that picture as a preferred scenario for your life. Life will do what it wants and will give you exactly the things you need to learn, so no planning to far ahead paving the road to your goals. Accepting the path ahead, and learning how to be calm not knowing what the future may hold will actually give you enormous amounts of strength to take on anything that may come. That doesn’t mean you can’t get what you want out of life. It just makes you more flexible and easier to adopt, and that will lead to the life you want, or think you want, because that also may change all the time.
5. Prioritize; happiness is ‘numero uno’
If happiness is really at the top of your list, there is no more denying. Anything that you know is working against your happiness or above all your health is standing in your way. This means the experiment has already started and you are doing all in your power to learn about your emotions, your body and its health, your relationships with other people, improving work situations, and more. Yes more! My passion for happiness started to really build itself when I was in my early 30 after having many ‘bad’ life experiences. Why wasn’t I happy? I started to read books, tried to find out what which types of exercise I liked (turned out be yoga and race cycling), I took some bold decisions involving moving out of town and completely changing my life style. I gradually stopped smoking and 2 years ago I even found myself leading an alcohol free life. I did everything I could, and this process took about 7 years or more, and I learned so much. At the same time, and even now I remind myself to be kind to myself and I am still developing patience for the course of life to take me where ever it will take me.
6. Speak and think positively
What kind of words do you use when you speak or think about your life? Or about anything actually. Do you say “I have to go to the grocery store”, “I hate my neighbors making all that noise”, “I am so tired all the time” or any other phrases that sound negative about you, someone else or a situation. These phrases have negative words in them (like don’t, not, hate, impossible, no way, terrible, awful), are all around us and so easy to pick up, they may even give a feeling of belonging when we are complaining about something all together at the dinner table or in the bus. Yet the only way to feel better about anything is to use positive phrases. So yes you may be tired, but you can say “I am learning when to take rest”, “My neighbors may be in need of some help” and “I am finding healthy foods at the store”. So positive words are key and each phrase can be worded in the present tense to intensify the experience. For many years I have been practicing this, inspired by Louise Hay and her books and audio talks. Changing your thinking can take some time, so it’s a good idea to practice patience and let yourself be free of judgement.
7. Change your daily routine by adding happiness habits
So if you have done all this, what’s next? My experience tells me that it’s easy to forget about your new life style habits. But there are many small practical things you can do to remind yourself constantly of the positive phrases described above or the activities you want to undertake. Or mindfulness moments. I often write down a couple of lines when I face one of life’s next lessons. I take a ‘problem’ that I have and turn it into a situation that I prefer. I then remind myself by literally putting them in my own face. I have filled my house with pictures I took of wonderful places I went, sometimes with phrases added to them, I write on the many mirrors in my house. I track exercise in an app that reminds me after 3 days of no exercise and another app sends me happy quotes. A lot of my time is spent with family, cooking and laughing together. For you it may be lighting a candle, keeping a gratitude journal, playing with your kids, racing in your car. Only you can find out. And yes, sometimes I still forget and get caught up in the routine and am a little stuck on autopilot. But that’s never longer than an hour. If you are stuck on autopilot for month or years, it’s time for a change in you routine too. A hands-on book that really helped me to improve myself is ‘Happy for no reason‘ by Marcy Schimoff.
The 7 ways of increasing your sense of happiness are ultimately aimed at becoming more conscious of how you deal with life and how to improve yourself. With that comes constant change and ultimate freedom as your rewards. I love life, and I trust this article will make you love life even more than you already do.