OK, if you read this post, I can’t promise you will immediately have a happier life. That’s not the way it works, as we all know only too well.
Happiness is of course a state of mind, but attaining the goal of happiness is nowhere near as simple as we would like it to be.
We might have a nice home, a family we love, a job we don’t mind, yet we still couldn’t call ourselves happy. That’s a sad state of affairs. On the other side of the coin, there are plenty of people on earth with very little who can say that they are happy.
So what are we missing?
What follows is 7 ways of thinking and being that seem to be unanimous across individuals who claim to be happy with their lot. Let’s hope we can take some actions on these points and achieve the illusive goal of happiness.
1) Express Your Heart
This is all to do with relationships. It’s not to do with how many relationships you have or who they are with – it’s about making sure you have at least one very tight bond with someone.
It might be a family member or a friend, and it’s how you interact with that person that counts.
Being open and understanding with someone, and knowing that they will reciprocate – that’s the important thing. Saying something that someone understands and, conversely, understanding where someone else is coming from makes us feel legitimate, intimate and worthwhile.
2) Care About Others
Individuals who make it their goal to care for other people are much more likely to report happiness than people who do not. Whether that care is part of their job – care workers, nurses, teachers – or whether it is simply caring for a friend or family member that needs help, this is important.
Of course, by caring and looking after someone, you are making their life better, but it also feeds back into your happiness. There’s a buzz from being kind.
We evolved as social animals that looked after the weakest members of the herd. We are hardwired to care for people. If we don’t, it feels like something is missing. Modern life cultivates selfishness, and that needs to be broken down before we can experience true joy.
3) The Physical Stuff
Time and time again, physical activity is linked not only to physical health but mental health, too.
Not everyone feels like jogging at 5am, and that doesn’t have to be the way you go with this. Find something physical you like. Badminton, yoga, rambling; whatever it is, you should do it, and do it often.
Even clinical depression has been shown to improve with regular exercise. It releases endorphins that lift mood, but it also makes you feel less guilty. We all know we should do more to be fitter, and if you actually take action, it’s like a weight has been lifted from your chest.
4) Finding Your Flow
Getting into a state of flow is not something most people do all that often. What do I mean by “flow”? Well, you know when you are playing an instrument, sketching, teaching or using fine skill – that feeling when it all comes together and you are lost in the moment?
This is difficult to achieve for some people, especially if you don’t have a chosen artistic outlet – so find an artistic hobby you like, and practice it, loads.
In its most basic sense, you are doing something because you love it, and time flies. It’s an entirely positive state to be in.
Now, this might be a difficult one. If you don’t feel like a particularly spiritual person, you shouldn’t start believing in fairies just for the sake of it.
Studies have shown, however, that people who are heavily involved in religions tend to report that they are happier.
In basic terms, there are a load of reasons why this might be the case, so even if you don’t feel like you want to become a Catholic, you can still reap the benefits.
People involved in a religion have found a point to life, and they also have kinship and a tight social group. So, rather than pick up a whole new belief system, you can just try to attain those two things.
Personally, science gives me the answers I need and a deeper understanding of what the world is all about; and a tight social network of friends and family gives me the kinship I need. Set up a club, or make a regular, weekly date to meet friends. That will solve most of your urgent religion-like needs.
Regularly meeting up builds bonds a lot tighter than infrequent meetings with friends. Go to a pub quiz every Thursday, or a Sunday roast every Sunday. Make it regular, turn it into a community.
6) Play To Your Strengths
Find your strengths and use them. Most people are good at something, but, sadly, most people don’t utilise those skills.
If you are good at drawing, or painting, or juggling, or running, or telling jokes, make darned sure you do it regularly.
It makes sense – doing something well feels good. For so much of our lives we feel like we are swimming through failures. Everything is a struggle and nothing comes naturally – that’s life! So take the opportunity to do things well whenever they come up.
7) Positivity Is King
Easier said than done, but stay positive as much as you can. If something is getting you down, really think about it hard – will it kill me? Will it have passed within a day or a week? Have I handled this sort of problem before? Have I coped with similar situations previously?
Practice mindfulness. Be aware of your emotions and don’t let them overpower you. Be positive. Be strong. Nothing can get you down if you are prepared for the fall; and, remind yourself of your true goal in life – happiness.