10 Steps to Greater Happiness
"Don't look for happiness, create it."
As we get caught up in our day to day responsibilities, it can be easy to put our lives on autopilot. We drudge through the week, day in and day out simply going through the motions. It becomes easy to focus exclusively on tasks, responsibilities, stressors and even to grow resentful of how busy we've become. Without even realizing it, we allow our happiness to slip away, lost in the mundane or drowned in a high paced lifestyle. Not to worry, if this is true for you there are some simple steps that can allow you to experience greater happiness in your life.
Once we understand how we can bring more joy into our lives, happiness becomes a choice and one that we should choose day in and day out. By practicing any of these simple steps we can make joy and happiness a daily reality.
Practicing gratitude is an empirically proven way that we can foster positive emotion in our lives. We all have so much to be thankful for and reminding ourselves of this can really create the space needed to invite happiness into our experience. Make a habit of counting your blessings day in and day out. You might get into a routine of sharing your gratitude with your partner, of writing these in a journal or of silently counting your blessings before you fall asleep every night. Notice how not taking life's blessings for granted can lift your mood and create space for even more things to be grateful for.
Making comparisons to a more difficult time in your life, or to a difficult circumstance that you've overcome or avoided, is another way to foster positive emotion. Money may be tight, but remember how things are better than when you couldn't pay your bills. And don't forget that you're doing so much better than when you were going through that difficult time. Using these comparisons to find the silver lining in any situation allows for more optimistic thinking and therefore more optimistic feeling.
Self-care is a popular topic in the world of mental health and overall wellness. For very good reasons, this concept has been emphasized in self-help books, articles and blogs. When we take the time to engage in self-care activities, whatever this might mean for us, we can drop stress and pick up more helpful thoughts and feelings. Finding what works for you and making self-care a priority, while mindfully engaging in these activities, is a great way to choose happiness in your daily life.
They say that relationships can be our greater source of happiness, unfortunately they can also be our greatest source of frustration when lacking or in distress . With this, loneliness is often thought to be similar to a hunger pain, letting us know that we are short on our basic human need for connection. Making it a priority to get this basic need met can make a huge difference in our emotional experience. Take the time to make a social phone call, shoot a non-business related email, grab a quick lunch with a friend or a co-worker. Find ways to connect, be supportive and allow for them to be supportive of you. Relationships and socializing isn't always easy, but if this is a struggle for you, take baby steps towards building social connection in your life. Check-out meetup.com for social gatherings with like-minded groups in your area.
Remember that time you made cupcakes for everyone at work? Or maybe you spontaneously decided to write grandma a letter. I'd bet that you felt pretty good about doing something nice for someone. Getting in touch with our compassionate, benevolent selves and doing something for someone else is a great way to foster positive emotion. Doing something for someone else might be as simple as smiling, offering a compliment or making dinner for your partner. Keep it simple, but actively working to do something nice for someone else is yet another way to invite more happiness and joy into your daily life experience.
It can be easy to remember the tough times, but making an effort to call on positive memories can be immensely supportive. Remember that silly joke that almost brought you to tears, or your last hiking trip with incredible mountain views? Revisiting these memories can bring back the positive feelings that were brought on by the initial experience. These memories can be referred to as a resource for particularly distressing times. Actively remembering and truly savoring these positive memories is a good step towards greater happiness.
You may be aware of the many benefits of exercise and it might be difficult to get motivated to get to the gym, but more than likely it won't be something you'll regret. Feeling healthier, having more energy, looking better and experiencing that rush of feel good chemicals (endorphins) are all perks to getting active. You don't need to run a marathon, but just like anything else, starting with baby steps can set you off in a positive direction. You might check-out a yoga routine on youtube, go for a walk or take a leisurely bike ride.
It has been said that laughter is the best medicine. Laughter is a powerful tool for shaking stress, releasing tension, boosting immunity, lowering blood pressure and generally fostering very positive emotions. In fact, I've yet to meet anyone who doesn't enjoy a good belly laugh. Listen to comedy radio, watch a funny skit show, or attend a local stand-up night. We can work to intentionally invite humor into our daily life experience and in turn, experience the increased levels of happiness that can come with laughter.
Meaning & Spirituality
Research has shown a strong connection between spirituality and happiness. There may be a wide variety of reasons for this correlation, including greater social support, opportunities for community service, or a more supported perspective and sense of meaning. Regardless of the reasons for these findings and regardless of our individual understanding or experience with spirituality, engaging in a spiritual practice is a great tool for fostering positive emotion. Check-out a new spiritual gathering, read a book, or get out into nature, finding ways to boost your connection to something greater than yourself is a sure fire way to boost happiness.
Well, now that you have some tools that you can use to elevate levels of happiness in your life, you can choose to implement these proven strategies. In this way, happiness truly is a choice and everyday we can choose happiness. This won't mean that we won't have struggles or hit bumps along the way, but by choosing happiness we are better prepared to bounce back from life's difficulties. Finally, if you happen to be struggling to bring positive emotion into your life, reaching out to a qualified psychotherapist can help you to find your way.