It goes without question that every human wants to experience happiness and joy as their one true desire in life. What can happen though, is that as we strive for success, power, possessions and money, we believe that this is what will make us happy and don’t realise that happiness can actually be obtained more readily and immediately without material possessions. Right now in fact.
Have you ever noticed that when you go on holiday it takes at least a few days to truly relax and let go of the stresses of life? That is the remnants of the anxiety that is so much a part of daily life that we often don’t even realise it is even there.
We live in ambient anxiety, always wishing and wanting our lives to be “more” and while a promotion, a new car, a cute outfit, new tools or success might give us a high, the illusion of those things symbolising true happiness is how we get trapped into chasing the next new shiny object as a source of our happiness.
The stress that we feel day to day does more than just keep us slightly anxious and enjoying life a little less, there is research that shows that the stress we experience has an impact on how well we think, process and retain information, how well our immune system functions as well as how productive we can be.
Now all of the luxuries, successes and adoration can absolutely contribute to a great lifestyle and we most definitely should be enjoying our lives. It’s a fact though, that we spend so much of our lives living in ambient anxiety, in chasing goals, dreaming of better lives and feeling bad that we haven’t got there yet is when chasing goals for happiness becomes a fallacy.
The reality is that the external things we seek can just as easily bring us distress. We’re suddenly no longer getting recognised at work, someone else drives a better car than us, the latest trends are released and we are left two versions of the iPhone behind.
Our latest and most recent thrills live on shaky foundations and are short lived. We can just as easily be stripped of the happiness we just experienced.
We have to learn to go deeper and further inward for happiness. When we find happiness from within, we find a reserve of happiness and can experience life with new eyes. This is a much more unshakable happiness because we are in complete control of being able to feel it. Why chase elusive happiness when you can actually cultivate and experience real happiness now?
We all have a happiness set-point and the trivial and external things like new belongings and spending time in the sun don’t actually improve our overall happiness in life, meaning you could buy a new bag you have been lusting after but still feel miserable inside once you get it because of your set point.
Just like you can learn to play the guitar or master a new language, you can actually train yourself to feel more happiness.
Eventually, the neural pathways for feeling good, happy and grateful are strengthened and we can create a more permanent good nature within us. It may seem like a small thing but in fact turning up happiness and cultivating it has many physiological benefits that ripple into health and well-being, engagement, productivity and overall health. Here are some very easy to implement practices for cultivating more happiness.
1. Start Your Day With Joy
There is a real science and psychology behind how you start your day will define how you will feel for the rest of your day. It is very easy to go into overwhelm, overwork or disengagement mode before the day begins and that affects how you will experience the rest of the day. To really tip it on its head, start your day with some joy. As an example, while putting on a cup of tea in the morning, put on your favourite album for 5 minutes and either sing at the top of your lungs or dance!
Do this before switching over to podcasts, audiobooks, books, news, emails or social media scrolling. You’ll realise that turning up the joy and happiness has a flow on effect and will bring more happiness into your day.
HINT: do something that really gets the energy and emotions agoing – gardening or reading a book isn’t going to cut it.
2. Make Happiness Part Of Your Routine
If you ask most people to add something to their routine to cultivate more happiness, to exercise or to meditate, the majority of people will not be able to find the time to do it.
You actually have multiple routines that you might not even be aware of because they are so automatic. In your wake up routine you snooze or get straight out of bed, walk straight to the kettle, use the bathroom, wash your face, brush you hair, make your coffee and then sit down with the paper or your phone. That’s at least 10 steps of a routine you didn’t notice you had. You have many routines throughout your day that you might not be consciously aware of. To add more happiness into your day without having to find more time in your day, you can slot the practice into your current routines.
As you wake up in the morning, spend one minute to feel grateful before getting out of bed. As you are making your coffee you can practice feeling appreciation. While the water is falling on your face in the shower practice the feeling of joy and exhilaration. The idea is to make use of a current routine and adjust one of the steps to bring in more feelings of happiness. You will not only be increasing the amount of time spent feeling good each day but you are also increasing the spectrum and variety of good feelings that will help you to call upon them more easily and more often.
The gratitude practice is by far the most popular wellness exercise taught to improve overall life experience. When someone expresses their thanks to us we feel recognised, acknowledged and get a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. When we express gratitude and receive it, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions and they make us feel ‘good’. Feeling gratitude even changes the neural structures of the brain and over time makes us feel happier and more content.
There are a lot of things we take for granted in life which takes away from the overall happiness and wellbeing that we could be experiencing in life. Making a daily habit of showing gratitude will turn feelings of lack into feelings of abundance. Try spending your daily commute, the wait for your coffee or the start of your day to write down a few things you are grateful for.
Instead of seeing all the things that have yet to be done and achieved, the end of the day should be a celebration of what you got right. The endorphin hit we get from celebrating creates the confidence to keep moving towards your goals. However, celebrating can also have a ripple effect because people around us love to celebrate with us but they also learn to celebrate their own achievements. So in essence, in celebrating ourselves, we get to pass on the great effects of it.
If you can’t think of anything to celebrate, even being in appreciation for the smaller things in life can help to tip the scale and you’ll get better at finding things to celebrate. As an example this could be getting closer to your savings goals, paying off some debt or completing some tasks at work that have been on your list for some time.
Learning to be more happy in life is a less obvious skill that we need to improve to get more out of life. Unlike maths or english we aren’t taught how to be more happy. Society has conditioned us to strive for something very different, however, we can have exactly what we have been looking for our whole lives by training our minds to be more happy today.
You will see the world with brand new eyes and be able to unlock so much in your life including your potential, improved health, better sleep, increased productivity and much more. So give happiness a go today!
Our wellness expert, Katherine Pham is an intuitive life coach who uses transformative psychology to help overcome limitations.