I chanced upon this article by bsfmedia on the Bali Spirit Festival blog. I couldn’t find the reblog button so I copied and posted it on my blog instead.
There has to be a conscious effort to maintain happiness once you have achieved it. But that doesn’t mean loneliness and self-pity will not sneak up on you on a random Saturday afternoon. Because they will. And when they do, never choose to give in to their urges no matter how inviting they seem to be.
As Elizabeth Gilbert rightly puts it:
Happiness is the consequence of personal effort. You fight for it, strive for it, insist upon it, and sometimes even travel around the world looking for it. You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestations of your own blessings. And once you have achieved a state of happiness, you must never become lax about maintaining it. You must make a mighty effort to keep swimming upward into that happiness forever, to stay afloat on top of it.
Here goes the article.
Happiness, it is an elusive quality but one that we are all after. If you asked 10 people what they want out of life, the most common answer would be, to be happy. This is what we all strive for in one way or another, we work hard to earn money thinking it will bring us happiness. We buy bigger houses and more material things, thinking that the more stuff we have the happier we will be, only to find that we are ultimately missing the mark too often. In our efforts to find happiness we end up creating a lot of unhappiness.
Happy people have a handful of characteristics that once learned can help you begin to connect to your own happy more often. Many studies have shown that people who rate highest on the scales of happiness are individuals who express gratitude regularly, have close support systems, eat well, sleep well, laugh often and surround themselves with other happy people. Knowing that these are common traits amongst happy people can make it a bit easier to begin to connect to our own happiness. So if you find yourself sad, a smile may be just a few small changes away.
1. Define your own version of happy.
What is it that truly makes you feel happy? Is it spending time with family and friends? Is it making it to your favorite yoga class every week? Is it taking a long walk with your dog? Once you figure out the few things that bring you joy, write them down. Put them somewhere that you will see them regularly and make a commitment to yourself to do one thing a day that makes you happy. Try to make it a challenge like the great project over at 100 Happy Days, where they encourage people to take a photo of something that made them happy every day for 100 days straight.
2. Express your gratitude to others.
This may be hard at first, but something as simple as writing a note or an email to a friend or family member letting them know you are grateful to have them in your life, or that they have done something you appreciate. If that’s a bit scary why not show gratitude towards others, for instance if someone holds a door open for you say thank you, if someone thanks you for something instead of saying “no problem”, say “you’re welcome.” Showing your gratitude to others will open up a large world of happiness around you.
This can be as simple as taking a few minutes to have an early morning dance party around your house before heading out for the day or as lengthy as heading off to a fitness retreat. Not only is exercise good for the body, the mental benefits are incredible. People who exercise for at least 30 minutes a day are shown to have lower levels of stress chemicals within the brain and exercise helps to keep the brain fit.
Speaking of the brain, meditation will work wonders for the brain in maintaining happiness. Harvard Medical School released a study recently on the ability of meditation to increase gray matter within the brain. Showing that meditation can actually help to rebuild and strengthen integral parts of your brain, leading to feeling much better in a span of time as short as 8 weeks.
5. Spend time with family and friends.
This may seem like an odd one to some, as often family is seen as being stressful. However, the documentary Happy, explains that when looking for areas around the world where people ranked the highest levels of happiness, they always had a strong commonality, these places had a strong cultural importance placed on family.
6. “Fake it until you become it”
Now that you may know the term “fake it till you make it,” however, a better term as explained by Amy Cuddy in her amazing Ted Talk is “Fake it until you Become It.” While she looks at how body language can actually create change within the brain in terms of power postures, this can apply similarly to happiness as well. Smiling can actually create change within your brain, reducing pain and discomfort and can often times trigger your brain to be a bit happier. Give it a try, throw on a big smile for 30 seconds, a real one where your eyes narrow and the corners of your mouth turn up and you may find in a matter of seconds you can’t help but to laugh.
7. Have Fun.
Seek out the things that you enjoy. Find activities to do that make you feel great, do them with people you enjoy being around. Seize every opportunity for fun in your life. So much happiness can come from giving yourself permission to have fun. Give it a try.
The next time you are feeling a bit down or are in the need of a pick me up, give one of the above points a try. Maybe even a combination of a few. Remember that connecting to happiness is largely a choice and a fun one to choose, so go for it. Do you have any tips for finding more joy in your day?