The pursuit of happiness.
Is happiness easy to find or the Holy Grail? And even when you find happiness, can happiness be measured? How do you know if you are happy or how happy you are? How do you measure your happiness?
In a world where we have organisations such as Action for Happiness committed to building a happier society. More self help books than you can shake a stick at, all view the objective of teaching us how to be happier.
And even Prime Ministers wanting to measure happiness (that initiative seems to have been replaced with Brexit – something that’s made many of us unhappy!) with the Happiness Agenda, it can be helpful to wonder – where did all the happiness go?
Has the rise in technology and our daily interaction with smart phones, tablets, Facebook and so on taken away our ability to get out and about, connect with people and be happy?
Have our stressful lives compromised our ability to find happiness in the simple pleasures in life and instead we are searching for the eternal Holy Grail that is happiness following the latest craze to ‘make us happier’?
As a therapist many of my clients over the years have spoken about their goal to be happier. Yet when I delve deeper to understand how they measure happiness by asking them ‘what does being happy look like to you?‘, many don’t know the answer.
People are great at describing what they don’t want to feel or experience. However, try to get them to paint a picture of what being happy is like and they struggle. If you don’t know what happiness is and how you expect it to show up every day in your life, can happiness be measured? Or is it simply a case that people have become so locked into negative thought patterns that they have forgotten what makes them feel happy?
Can happiness be measured?
Happiness, in it’s most simple form, is a feeling. You can feel happy for any number of reasons and don’t need to wait for something extraordinary to happen before you can feel happy. Forget about measuring happiness based on ‘big events’ such as meeting the right person, getting to a certain point in your career, salary level, goal weight and so on.
That’s where people trip themselves up because they are waiting for something major to happen before they give themselves permission to feel happy.
If you have forgotten how to feel happy then try these top 5 ways to feeling happier every day.
1. Stop placing feeling happy on external conditions
All too often people tell me that they will feel happy when the are in the right job, or in a relationship or 10 pounds lighter. Happiness is an emotion. You can therefore choose to feel happy now! If you are always placing your emotions on ‘when I…..’ then it’s unlikely you will ever experience true happiness.
Start by taking control of what you feel and choose to feel happy now. Think of something or someone you love, place your hand over your heart when you think of them and smile. Do this for a few minutes and see how happy you feel afterwards.
2. Get into gratitude thinking
People who spend time on a regular basis thinking of what they are grateful for report higher levels of positive emotions, life satisfaction, optimism and vitality and lower levels of stress and depression according to Dr. Emmons, considered the worlds leading expert on gratitude.
Every day as you wake up contemplate 3 things that you feel grateful for. It can be simple things like a nice warm bed, a supportive partner and even the clean air that you breathe.
Keep this up and you will start to feel more in harmony with what you have going on in your life already that feels good, instead of focusing on the absence of something.
3. Think thoughts that make you feel good
I have news for you. You have 100% control over the thoughts that you think…..it’s hard to believe that however isn’t it!
Unfortunately most people are a slave to their mind and allow the 70,000 thoughts or so a day that they think slip by un-challenged.
Start to become aware of your thoughts and what you think. The thoughts you think have a huge impact on the way you feel. If you are thinking about something that doesn’t make you feel good – stop it! Reach instead for thoughts that do make you feel good and practice holding onto them.
4. Tell a different story
How many of you tell the story of what is going wrong in your day or even life versus what is going well?
How many of you focus on the one bad thing that happened in the office instead of the 5 other good things that happened?
Your words carry weight. Telling the story of things that aren’t going well or have had a negative effect on how you feel will only serve to drain your energy levels and make you feel worse than you do.
Clients are always surprised when I don’t allow them to tell the story of their life and all the things that have ‘gone wrong’. Instead I encourage them to focus on a new story of what life will be like when they feel better.
If the stories you tell about your day, week or life don’t feel good when you tell them, start to tell a different story.
5. Connect with nature
Have you ever heard of the saying ‘you have to dis-connect to re-connect’?. Whoever this originated from was speaking very wise words.
Give your mind a digital detox and get outside and connect with nature. In autumn and winter it’s even more important to get outside and give yourself a daily dose of natural light.
Leave your phone behind. Instead get out in the air, look around you, take in the colours, sounds and smell of nature, breathe and let yourself simply be at one with yourself and the environment around you and notice how happy that makes you feel.
Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.