Many people have such different philosophies on what happiness is and we all strive to achieve it.
We all strive to be happy. We sometimes struggle even to define what the word happiness means to us.
The first thing I suggest to people wanting to be happy is to define your own definition of what this word means. The easiest way to do this I have found is to throw the word ‘happiness’ up to Venus so it no longer exists on planet earth, then I ask clients to tell me what it is they want. I then get definitions like
- Love from those nearest and dearest
- Acceptance from those around you and others
- Peace in their tumultuous life
- Notice by those you seek it from
- A feeling of being calm and content in life
- Ability to manage through each day smiling
- Patience with those around me
The definitions are endless. Once we can define what happiness means to us, we can start moving towards obtaining this. How then do we achieve it? This can be complex. Research tell us there are a few things we can all do to create that feeling of happiness inside of us without needing to change anything outside of our-self.
Studies tell us the best ways most people can find this internal happiness and these include:
When we reflect, we become more a-tuned within. We can quieten our mind and our thoughts, gain clarity and reflect. This is where many changes and reassessments can be made. When our mind and body is quiet and relaxed, we can access deeper thoughts, approaching things in our life with renewed vigour and more clarity.
Reflection is a time to pause from our busy existence and simply stop and take the moment so many people never achieve.
2. Living close to work
Travel to and from work is tiring and keep us away longer from our home and family. Investigating the effect this has on people tells us the closer we live to our workplace the happier we are. The stress of public transport, waiting for trains and buses, battling traffic all takes a toll. Avoiding this can add considerable happiness to the start and end of each day. Arriving at work for our day less tired and stressed form our journey has a positive affect on us all day and help us to be happier instead of commencing our day tense or agitated.
3. Exercise 7 minutes daily
We do not need to spend hours at the gym to feel happy. Sure the endorphins from exercise make us feel great, but we only need a few minutes a day to reach this ‘feel good’ platform. So many people trudge to the gym believing they need to go for their full hour however this is not needed, not for happiness anyway. Working out is a great stress release but having to allocate a whole hour in an extremely busy life can simply cause additional stress upon us. To assist yourself in feeling happy, just exercise or get movement into your body 7 minutes a day.
4. Spending time with family / friends
When we spend time with family and friends, it enables us to feel good, connected and supported. Talking, laughing and sharing with family and friends can relive us temporarily from any stress or anxiousness we may be experiencing in our life.
Our family and friends are a support and door way to happiness. We should never be too busy to spend time with those we care about and who care for us. It allows us all to feel happier.
Smiling automatically helps us feel happy. Even if we are not feeling our best, a smile helps lift our emotion and has a positive affect on our mood. You actually appear more attractive when you smile.
When you smile, people treat you differently. A smiling person is viewed as more attractive, reliable, relaxed and sincere. A study published in the journal Neuropsychologia reported that seeing a smiling face activates your orbitofrontal cortex, the region of your brain that processes sensory rewards. To feel happier in yourself, smile a lot more.
6. Practice gratitude
A 2014 study published in the Journal of Applied Sports Psychology indicted gratitude helps relieve aches and pains and contributes to us living longer. Gratitude also improves our self-esteem and plays a major role in overcoming trauma. Giving gratitude, therefore, helps us to be happier.
We all have the ability to develop gratitude. If each of us takes a few moments to focus on all that we have rather than complain about all the things we believe we should have or deserve to have, we are inevitably happier. Developing the “attitude of gratitude” is one of the simplest ways to improve the happiness in your life.
7. Helping others
Giving back and helping others has a positive affect on us. The brain releases feel-good chemicals and spurs you on to perform more kind acts; this is referred to as the “helper’s high.” Experts claim that volunteering has a positive affect on our self-esteem and our overall well-being. It enables us to feel empowered and gives us a sense of purpose.
Even when we see another helping someone it has a ‘catchable’ effect due to us feeling happy and good when we witness helping others, we then want to obtain the same feeling.
One part of helping others, to obtain these happy feelings, is doing so without reward. When we expect something in return this negates the intrinsic reward we feel, so to increase your happiness and feel-good emotions, help others whenever you can without the expectation of anymore than simply a thank you.
8. Get enough restful sleep
Good restful sleep is an imperative part of living. A good night sleep each night is part of a healthy lifestyle and benefits your heart, mind, even your weight. We even perform better physically, academically and psychologically after a good sleep. It is indicated that our brain works better, faster and more accurately if it is well rested, not only that Sleep allows our brain to stop, rest and recharge for the new day to follow.
Did you know that sleep is also connected to our life span? Earlier age death occurs in those who receive an average of only 5 – 6 hours sleep a night. This means sleep better and live longer.
A 2010 Florida Hospital study found that C-reactive protein, which is associated with heart attack risk, was higher in people who got less than six hours of sleep a night. High blood pressure and inflammation of the body is also associated with poor or reduced sleep.
A good night sleep, therefore, improves brain function, body function and emotional health, resulting in us feeling happier.
9. Spend time outdoors
Studies have found that spending time outdoors in fresh air and sunlight, makes us feel happier. We all need a little break from the chaos of life and certainly if we reside in the city. The stress we experience living in a fast pace suburban environment can be annulled if we spend quality time outdoors.
Spending time outdoors doing some fun activities also help to improve our brain function. We all seem to be spending more time indoors than ever before; maybe this is part of the reason we have such a high number of people suffering depression, anxiety and unhappiness.
Try spending some time outdoors walking, swimming, even sitting to watch the clouds go by and see how you feel; I imagine much more relaxed, healthier and happier.
10. Being kind to others
The simple act of being Kind to others is said to lower our stress levels. It is a circle really, we see an act of kindness, we want to emulate that act as witnessing it made us feel happy. We then perform an act of kindness, and we feel even happier so therefore want to create more of these good happy feelings so repeat it again. Those receiving the kindness or witnessing the kind act then emulate it. The contagion of kindness is astonishing and far-reaching.
Let us all start being kind to anyone and everyone. As an ambassador of World Kindness Australian, I urge everyone to always ‘Take the kinder option’. It makes you happy.
Read more from Dr Karen