So happiness is important. Some people will answer the question “what is the one thing you want most in your life” with happiness as their answer. If it has been scientifically proven that happiness improves the chance of success, shouldn’t we know how to improve our own happiness? Here are 7 ways to find happiness:
1. Find something to look forward to
This is something I think we naturally do. The anticipation of this upcoming event can actually light up the pleasure centres in your brain as much as the activity itself. I used to prefer not to plan things and just go with the flow as this seems much easier. However, I always try to have something coming up that I’m looking forward to. It may be a holiday but if that’s too far away maybe an evening out with friends or a trip to the cinema for a new movie.
Neuroscientists have found out that monks that have spent years meditating actually grow their left prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain responsible for happiness). It doesn’t have to be years or a long time to see some of these benefits though. If you’ve never meditated before try to just do 1 minute in the morning (I use the Kaizen principle and always start small) and watch your breath go in and out. If your mind drifts, bring the attention back to your breath and notice how you feel afterwards. Once you turn this into a habit or want to try it for a bit longer I’d recommend the headspace app (you only get 10 days for free but it pretty much teaches the main things you need to know)
3. Conscious acts of kindness
The important thing here is the conscious part. If you do something good in the day and then think about it in hindsight as an act of kindness it doesn’t have the same impact as actually going out of your way to do something nice for someone (or something!) Since the last post about paying for the person behind you in the queue for a coffee (click here to read more), someone in front of us in the queue has actually brought us an ice cream when we were out for one of our treats! (talk about the law of attraction- it genuinely made us feel so happy)
4. Positive surroundings
Do you ever get annoyed at work colleagues that have pictures up of their family around you? Well, it is actually probably doing wonders for their ability to function at work! If you’re at a computer a lot, it’s easy to make the most of screensavers/ desktop pictures that improve the environment. If it’s a nice day outside always try to get out in it for at least 20 minutes as a study showed this not only improves your mood but also your working memory and thinking.
Everyone should know this one yet it’s still something that is often put off. I often think that when I’m running or using the gym a lot I’d feel more tired due to DOMS (delayed onset of muscle fatigue) but there are physiological and psychological benefits to exercising! With exercise, I find I have more energy throughout the day and it doesn’t have to be really strenuous or long to see these benefits. Studies show that it’s not only a short-term benefit but a long-lasting one!
6. Spend Money (on experiences, not stuff!)
I think this links nicely with “find something to look forward to”. If you spend your money on something coming up it’s a double bonus (plus it always feels like it’s free at the time if you bought it before!) Another study revealed that when given $20 to spend on either themselves or somebody else, the group that were “forced” to spend it on somebody else were much happier at the end of the day.
7. Use a signature strength
When we use one of our skills we get a “hit” of positivity. So if you need a quick boost try using a talent that you haven’t used for a while. Find out what your signature strengths may be by filling out this quiz (I found it was actually quite accurate) www.viacharacter.org One of mine that was high up on the list is gratitude. So I know that if I just write something down that I feel grateful for I will instantly get a positivity hit. I have written at least 3 things down each morning for the last few years (I don’t think I have ever written the same thing down twice, which shows how lucky I am that I have so much to be grateful for)
These are ideas from Shawn Achor’s book “The Happiness Advantage”. However, it’s important to remember that it is only ourselves that can impact our own happiness. Nobody else can change how happy we are… I’ll let the Fresh Prince put it more eloquently than I’d be able to: