Happiness is one of those things everyone wants to have more of and yet we are not really sure how or what to do about it. Often when I ask clients about their goals for therapy, the first answer is, “I want to be happy.”
In an excerpt from “The How of Happiness” by happiness expert and researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, she writes:
“The majority of people in the world, across vast continents and cultures, profess that being happy is one of their most cherished goals in life—for themselves and, above all, for their children. What’s more, happiness offers myriad rewards, not just for the happy person but for his or her family, workplace, community, nation, and society.
Working on how to become happier, the research suggests, will not only make a person feel better but will also boost his or her energy, creativity, and immune system, foster better relationships, fuel higher productivity at work, and even lead to a longer life. Happiness, in my humble opinion, is the Holy Grail, “the meaning and the purpose of life,” as Aristotle famously said, “the whole aim and end of human existence.”
Lyubomirsky has concluded that 40 percent of our happiness is within our control! That means we maximize our level of happiness through intentional activity.
Wondering how you can boost YOUR happiness today? Begin with these seven tips and see the difference:
1. See Obstacles as Opportunities
This concept may seem trivial or unrealistic at first glance and it is clearly easier said than done; however, the reality is we make a choice each and every day on how we view our world and our situations. Seeing the “glass half full” perspective and seeking to identify the benefit of each situation by looking for opportunities enables us to change our relationship to obstacles in our path.
Imagine the next time you have a challenge or obstacle that seems to be in your way. Take a deep breath and imagine this obstacle as an opportunity of some kind. Is there a lesson you can learn, a way of doing something you had not thought of yet, or an opportunity to work on a new skill? What is the opportunity facing you and how can you rise up to the challenge?
2. Express Gratitude
So many researchers have shown the link between expressing gratitude and happiness levels. Martin Seligman (considered the father of Positive Psychology) conducted a study called “Three Blessings” where he had participants write down three things they were grateful for each and every day.
Here is a wonderful video where Dr. Seligman explains in just a few minutes what gratitude can do for you today. Based on Dr. Seligman’s work, you can maximize your happiness by writing down three things you are grateful for each and every day.
3. Embrace Imperfect and Stop Comparing to Others
Daily life today seems incomplete without our phones or devices attached to us at all times. While that can provide us with an amazing amount of information, it can also give us 24/7 access to peek into other people’s lives.
Whether it’s our friends on social media or celebrity pictures or articles, we are bombarded with information of what we “should” look like, “should” act like and “should” achieve. We wind up comparing our lives with the perfect snapshots and snippets we see of other people’s lives. The reality is we are comparing our lives to a carefully crafted version of others’ which does more harm than good to our well-being and happiness.
Being able to recognize and reduce this practice of social comparison and perfectionism can make a huge difference in accepting and loving ourselves.
4. Practice Kindness
Mark Twain said, “The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up.” Kindness does NOT have to be huge or expensive in order to be helpful to others, as well as boost positive feelings and happiness.
Try doing something nice for someone else today and stop noticing how you feel afterwards.
5. Practice Self-Compassion
Kindness toward others is one thing, but kindness toward ourselves can be much harder for some of us. We have this standard we hold onto that is more stringent than for others. We are less tolerant of mistakes and practice negative self-talk and judgment.
By recognizing that imperfect is the norm and that we are not alone when it comes to suffering we can change our inner dialogue to a more compassionate and caring conversation.
Author and researcher Kristen Neff talks in her book, “Self-Compassion” about talking to yourself as if you would talk to a dear friend who needed comfort and support. Give yourself the same level of kindness and support you would offer someone else in difficult times.
6. Stay Connected with Others
One the first things many of us do when we become stressed or unhappy is isolate from others. Social supports and positive relationships are an important part of overall happiness. Spending time with people we love and making efforts to stay connected (really connected, NOT social media connected) can maximize happiness.
Try setting up regular coffee dates, dinner or movies with other people with whom you feel connected to. Christine Carter talks in her book, “The Sweet Spot” about having a monthly movie night planned ahead every month with girlfriends to increase the likelhood iof getting together socially.
Practicing mindfulness in the form of meditation. You can also do this by simply stopping to breathe and be more aware in the present moment. It is another way to maximize happiness. Instead of ruminating about the past or focusing on the future, take time to be present in the current moment and slow down each day.
Perhaps start with activities like taking a shower or washing the dishes where you can pay attention on purpose and really observe all aspects of what you are doing, seeing, hearing, smelling and experiencing each moment.
Remember that happiness is less about your circumstances, such as how much money you have or what you look like, and more about how you choose to view your circumstances and intentional activities you do each and every day.