There has been a lot of talk over the years about what makes people happy. Is it a massive lottery win? Is it a new house, a new car, a new relationship? Is it a new addition to the family? No doubt you can see the pattern here, all these things are external.
Even the UK government have wanted to know how they can make us happier and therefore improve our wellbeing (the bottom line being to take some of the pressure off the struggling National Health Service). All of these are about someone or something else making us happy, rather than ourselves.
Lots of people believe that the perfect relationship will bring them happiness. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn’t. The impact of a new job, car, house or latest gadget or gizmo will probably bring an immediate rush of happiness and pleasure, but it will soon fade, and the pursuit will be on for the next “thing”.
Maybe the holiday of a lifetime, or your dream job is the answer? However if your dream job means that you actually have to travel further to get to it then, according to studies, you are likely to be less happy! So what is the answer, or is there really just one answer?
I’d certainly be happy with a lottery win because it would give me more freedom to do all the interesting things that regularly catch my eye. It would also mean I could give back on a bigger scale. But I don’t believe it would make me happier, that bit has to come from the inside. The foundations of happiness need to be laid down deep within and can then be built on over time using different approaches and techniques. It may be a birthright but it still needs working on. We need to learn to exercise our happiness muscle!
So here are my top 5 tips to use in your happiness gym.
1. Manage your Mind!
That space between your ears can make or break! It can allow you to soar like an eagle or sink like a brick! Do you know what you are thinking on a moment by moment basis? If you are always having crabby thoughts about someone, something or yourself, then your energy will follow your thoughts. Remember “where the mind goes, the energy flows” and the only person in charge of your mind is you, so you need to manage it well. This is the suggestion from my book “How to do Life: Powerful Pointers for Powerful Living”
The 3 C’s:
Catch it: Tune in and catch what your mind is up to
Challenge it: “Do I need to be thinking this?” Is it serving me to be thinking like this?” If the answer is NO, then
Change it: Choose to think something different and more positive. Create a positive statement that you can immediately use – something like “Every day I am happier and more contented with my life”. It might sound like a big fat lie to start with, but just like a muscle, it will get stronger over time (usually about 28 days)
2. Look for the Jewel
One of my favourite quotes is by Mother Teresa “If you judge others, you have no time to love them”. So instead of judging someone, which takes about 30 seconds, Mother Teresalook for the good or think that the good is no doubt there. Even though someone might seem a bit grumpy or offhand, under the surface there is usually a really nice person.
3. Fake it to make it!
Have you ever been invited somewhere and secretly you’ve not been looking forward to it? What did you do? Did you just go and be grumpy? I bet you didn’t! I bet you put on your best face and appeared happy, and I bet that the end result was that you had a good time. If so, you’ll totally get what I mean by “fake it to make it”.
4. Take Responsibility
A sure fire way to be unhappy is to blame others and see them as the source of your misery. “If only they would do, not do, say, not say, change, behave differently – then I’d be happy.” I’m sure you get the picture! Do you think it’s true? Maybe sometimes it would help but ultimately it wouldn’t be the total answer. We need to look within and see what we can either change about ourselves or the situation.
Often a client will tell me that their relationship or their job is making them unhappy but any questioning around why they don’t leave is frequently met with a strong objection as to why that isn’t possible. This therefore brings it back to ownership and choices. If the choice to stay in an unsatisfactory job is because “there aren’t many jobs out there at the moment” then the only thing that can be changed is our mental and emotional approach to the situation. Not easy but perfectly possible, and crucial for our wellbeing aka happiness!
5. Practice gratitude and then practice it some more!
Keep looking out for things and people to feel grateful for and keep a daily gratitude journal for the “feel good factor”. It doesn’t matter how small the entry, it could just be someone smiling at you for no good reason, or the fact that the weather was good.
My favourite recipe for happiness is a healthy mix of gratitude and doing something for others combined with the anchoring effects of meditation and chanting. Obviously it doesn’t always work and I’d be lying if I said I was happy all the time because I’m not. But I do have the tools to not only be aware of my state but also to shift it. I hope that some of these will help you do the same ….and I wish you much happiness!