Is happiness a matter of luck and out of our control or
can we create our own happiness?
This is a topic I’ve been reading about a fair bit lately as I’ve started to take more control of the direction of my life and my own happiness. I’ve come to the conclusion that although not as simple as it sounds we really do create our own happiness mostly by choosing happiness. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have days when I’m angry or frustrated or sad or just plainly pissed off but I do feel more in control of my feelings and am aware of the fact that I’m really choosing the feelings I’m feeling. I’ve summarised my “Happiness Strategy” below for you to start to manage your happiness too.
This is my 10 part “Happiness Strategy”
#1: Choose Happiness
Change the way you think and you change everything. Every single day choose to be happy and positive. Some people may have been born with a sunnier disposition than others but the good news is that we are not stuck there. Happiness depends on how well we manage our own emotions and our relationships with others. So if you feel angry about something or someone try to ask yourself, why am I so angry about this? Is it really worth me wasting my time with this negative emotion?
Try to always see the positive in any situation and view the glass as half full rather than half empty. We can turn most negative experiences into a positive or an opportunity if we want to. Try to change your thoughts so that in every thing that happens, you see something good. If you find yourself thinking “I can’t do this” stop and change the thought to “yes I can as I’ve done it before” or “I will give it a go and I will ask for help along the way”.
#2: Be Grateful
Try to do a daily gratitude exercise. This involves listing a few things, 3-5, that you were grateful for today. It could be as simple as feeling grateful for a sunny day or a trip to the beach or maybe seeing a dear friend or spending time with family. You can write it down in a journal or just think about them at night before you go to sleep. I also do this with my kids where we take turn in listing 3 things that we were grateful for today. This really makes you appreciate how much you have to be grateful for in life.
#3: Forgive – even if it’s hard…..
Don’t hold grudges. It’s just waisted energy and it can affect physical as well as mental health, according to a rapidly growing body of research. Instead try to forgive and move on.
In his book, Five Steps to Forgiveness, clinical psychologist Everett Worthington Jr. offers a 5-step process he calls REACH:
Recall the hurt.
Empathise and try to understand the act from the perpetrator’s point of view.
Be altruistic by recalling a time in your life when you were forgiven.
Commit to putting your forgiveness into words. You can do this either in a letter to the person you’re forgiving or in your journal.
Hold on to the forgiveness. Don’t dwell on your anger, hurt, and desire for vengeance.
#4: Money Can’t Buy Happiness – but a new pair of shoes can provide short lived euphoria…..
Make enough money to meet basic needs — food, shelter, and clothing. Any money beyond that will not necessarily make you happier. It’s easy to think that you would be so much happier if you won the lottery or got that promotion with the salary increase but research shows that once income climbs above the poverty level, more money brings very little extra happiness. Your comfort may increase with your salary, but comfort makes people bored, not happy. That’s why it’s important to push beyond your comfort zone to fuel personal growth. Things we buy like a new pair of shoes or the latest IPhone probably provide an instant boost of happiness, and let’s face it somedays that’s all the happiness we need but really in the long term it’s not genuine happiness that lasts. So stop thinking if only I had more money I would be so much happier. Just appreciate what you do have instead.
#5: Treasure your friendships, new and old
Life is so much better when it’s shared with those few special people in your life that you have chosen as your friends. Those people that knows us almost as well as we know ourselves and that are always there for us no matter what. These type of friendships needs to be nurtured and looked after, don’t get too busy or caught up in yourself to loose these people. You may have best friends that live on the other side of the world, I do, but ensure that you retain these friendships by calling regularly or just sending a note or text letting them know that you are there and that your friendship is still as important as ever. However, if you have relationships in your life that are one sided or unhealthy and you know they are no longer what they should be don’t be afraid to end a friendship and move on. If you want to make new friends try to find something you’re passionate about and make friends with those who share similar interests as spending time with people who share your interests makes you feel happier.
#6: Have Fun
Do something that you enjoy regularly, ideally every single day. It can be as simple as going for a quick swim at lunch time, calling a good friend or going for an early morning walk. Make sure that you do something a bit special every week or so, so that you have something to look forward to like dinner with a friend out or organise a dinner party at home. It’s easy to get stuck in a rut, get home, cook dinner, put the kids to sleep and exhaustingly fall into the sofa. Somedays that’s exactly what you want to do but really is that it? Instead challenge yourself and try something new, sign up to a course, visit a museum or art gallery, go camping, take up a new sport, go to the movies, play a board game with the family, organise a picnic. There’s a lot of little things that we can do that add a lot of joy and fun to our lives that don’t necessarily cost a lot or take up a lot of time. If you have kids involve them, try to do something fun every weekend.
#7 Identify what you want in life
It’s easy to just live our lives without too much thought or direction. One thing just sort of leads to another and then suddenly you’re at a point where you wonder how you got there and realise that it isn’t actually what you wanted. Instead try to figure out what is important to you and what you want to achieve in life including career, family, relationships etc. Set clear short, medium and long-term goals for your life and plan how to achieve them. Break them down into achievable chunks and make sure you follow them up and tick them off. If you’re goals change throughout your life that’s fine, it’s only showing how you’re growing and changing. When setting your goals, don’t worry about what other people do or want to achieve in life, do what makes you happy.
#8 Look after yourself
Treat your body like it deserves to be happy. The 3 main factors in growing more happy is regular exercise, a healthy diet and regular sleep.
- Exercise makes you happy! When exercising our brain releases a chemical called endorphins that makes us happier! Aim to do some exercise at least 3 days / week to start with working up to 5-6 days a week depending on the exercise you do. See my blog post on “Exercise as part of life” if you haven’t got a regular routine yet.
- Eat right. Eating healthy foods — fruits and vegetables, lean meats and proteins, whole grains, nuts, and seeds — gives your body and brain the energy it needs to be healthy. Some scientists speculate that unhealthy diets, especially those rich in processed carbohydrates, sugars, and industrial vegetable fats, is responsible for some cell death, brain shrinkage and certain brain diseases like depression and dementia
- Get enough sleep. Study after study confirms it: the more sleep you get, the happier you tend to be. Apparently, getting just a single extra hour of sleep per night makes the average person happier than making $60,000 more in annual income! I’m sure every parent of a newborn can agree with that. Everyone is different and need various amount of sleep so experiment with yourself but try to get 7-9 hours of sleep per night.
#9 Be compassionate
Compassion is about doing something kind for someone in need, or someone less privileged than yourself. Think of ways that you can make the world a better place like volunteering, sponsoring a child, or next time you walk past a homeless person why not buy them a cup of coffee or bring them a blanket. Also increase the happiness of those around you by giving small gifts. This will increase your happiness as well – in fact, the one giving the gift usually feels as excited as those receiving it.
If all above fails just smile, when you smile, whether you’re happy or not, your mood is lifted. So next time you feel sad just smile! So, how are you going to take this information on and transfer it into your own life? What are a couple simple things that you can start to do today that will increase your happiness?