“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” Dalai Lama XIV
According to neuroscientist and psychologists, one of the significant aspects happiness is it can be a learned response because the characteristics of happiness exhibit plasticity.
Yes, this means we can take specific actions to make us feel happier. And when we when we practice or repeat them they build up into a habit.
You know this from your own family, friends and colleagues that some people seem naturally happier than others, but this doesn’t mean your happiness level is a pre-determined given. Because what we’re talking about here means that we can develop and build up a happiness habit over time.
Another key finding is happiness is the sum of lots of small actions and happenings rather than one big event. So it’s better for our happiness level to do lots of daily little things like kissing your loved one, enjoying a laugh, or eating something you like, rather than one big thing.
All of which is brilliant news for brilliant living because we can do something about it.
Following on from last week’s article and episode 60 of the Changeability Podcast, 10 ways to be happier here are 10 more ways to be happier.
Every night before you go to bed write down three things you appreciate in your life in an appreciation, gratitude or thankfulness notebook – Big or small things about your day, about you and others or the world.
Date it and think about them as you go to sleep – and finish your day in the most positive of mind-sets.
Get out into nature and daylight.
Immersing our senses in the natural environment stimulates the production of serotonin and dopamine, which makes us feel happier by heightening our mood and gives us a dose of vitamin D.
This also gives you a fractal hit. Fractals are naturally occurring patterns that are pleasing to us – and nature is full of them everywhere you look. You might not be aware of it but subconsciously you love them and nature is the the place to soak them up.
Be interested – whatever your age and circumstance.
Don’t you think that the most interesting people are those who are interested in others and the world?
They take a wide view – not small or narrow minded but always wanting to know about people and the world.
It’s easy to get in a rut with work, where we live, the people we know, and what we do for fun. Travel and holidays are great for experiencing new things and meeting new people, but we don’t need to travel to do this.
Staying curious is the opposite of being cynical and small-minded – it’s being interested and big-minded. Learning something new, which boosts our self-esteem, gives us a sense of accomplishment and leads to us feeing happier.
This is a real challenge – give up complaining – about anything.
Try it starting today and see how long you can last.
It probably wont be long. Because like so many things we do, think and say – complaining is a habit and breaking this habit will make you happier.
Every time you’re tempted to say something negative, notice it, stop and don’t say anything at all, or find another way to frame what you want to say in a positive light. We didn’t say it would be easy (we’re still working on this big time) but even being aware and reducing it will decrease negativity.
This is about intention and purpose – and having some!
Think about the things that give you purpose in life, these are motivation behind what you do.
It could be something significant like how you want to live or achieve this year, month, week and why.
It’s not necessarily about one overriding purpose – but finding the purpose in the multiple ways we spend our time.
We can find purpose in almost anything we do.
Find and focus on using your strengths and values. The research of positive psychologists like Martin Seligman show the happiest people recognise and use their character strengths and virtues.
Character strengths include things like persistence, hope, critical thinking, zest, gratitude and virtues like humanity or justice.
What are yours? Think about when achieved something you’re proud of – what personal qualities allowed you to accomplish it.
You can measure your strengths through questionnaires. The University of Pennsylvania’s VIA survey of character strengths will determine your top 3 signature strengths. It’s free but you need to register.
We value our relationships, job, and interests more when they’re in alignment with our personal strengths and virtues.
Research shows that one of the best ways to boost long-term happiness is to use our strengths in new ways and situations, stretching ourselves a little (but not too much) rather than focusing on our weaknesses.
This is a big one, and ties in with purpose and intention, and living to your strengths and in alignment. Because if your life is full of things you want to change then it makes it tougher to live in alignment and be happy.
This doesn’t mean we want perfect lives – we’re not going to get that. But there may be certain things that you really don’t like about your life, or you want to improve or have more of – if that’s the case, and it’s something that can be changed, then you need to change it.
If you want to change what you don’t like to what you do like, you can start today with our Changeability Starter Kit. This free mini-course of 7 videos, mind work and practical actions, helps you kick-start change and make the fist crucial steps towards the changed life you want.
One of the big benefits of getting the Changeability Starter Kit or making the decision to change is you start to take action and control.
A sense of control over the parts of our lives we can have control over is an essential ingredient for happiness.
This is self-efficacy, feeling that what you do makes a difference – that you are at the centre of your actions rather than things happening to you.
“Happiness is having a large, loving, caring, close-knit family in another city.” George Burns
This funny quote is not necessarily true because our relationships and being social might be the most important ingredient of all when it comes to happiness.
When asked about the causes of happiness in an Harvard Business Review interview, the Harvard Psychology professor Daniel Gilbert said if he “had to summarize all the scientific literature on the causes of human happiness in one word, that word would be “social…If I wanted to predict your happiness, and I could know only one thing about you, I wouldn’t want to know your gender, religion, health, or income. I’d want to know about your social network—about your friends and family and the strength of your bonds with them.”
Find ways to nurture the love, friendships and relationships in your life – we all take them for granted at times but relationships really are the most important thing in our lives.
There seems to be a link between religion or spirituality and happiness.
Psychologists think that religion and spirituality may make us happier for several reasons.
The social aspect and support of being part of a community of like-minded people.
A belief in something bigger than ourselves can give people a sense of hope and meaning to life and provide solace, support and resilience in times of trouble.
The link between spiritual practices like prayer and the benefits of meditation and mindfulness, like a reduction in stress and anxiety and increase in calmness and positive thinking.
This is one of the key findings in the book by neuroscientist Andre Newberg and therapist Mark Waldman called ‘How God Changes Your Brain’
But you don’t have to be involved with organised religion to benefit from this. It’s about finding a way to connect with your spiritual side and make time for sacred moments.
Smile and laugh a lot – every day.
Even when you don’t feel like it – it will still do you good and make you happier.
Try it now – make a great big smile.
If you’ve ever heard ‘The Laughing Policemen’ you’ll know that laughter is contagious, but it’s also good for us.
“Hearty laughter is a good way to jog internally without having to go outdoors.” Norman Cousins
According to the Mayo clinic in – Stress relief from laughter – it’s no joke – laughter is not a cure-all but does have a positive effect on us mentally and physically.
When we laugh we take in more oxygen-rich air, our heart, lungs and muscles are stimulated and endorphins released by our brain. Our stress response is activated and relieved and our heart rate and blood pressure increased all of which makes us feel more relaxed.
There may also be longer term benefits to our immune system and improvements in our mood.
Best of all, laughter is fun, free, and easy to use. So smile more and find things to make you laugh.
If you remember nothing else from this, keep in mind this final thought – If you think you’re happy – you are!
Listen to episode 61 of the Changeability Podcast to hear us talk about all of this and much more – including Julian’s impersonation of the Laughing Policeman and keep listening for the real thing!
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