Sometimes it can seem as if we need something outside of ourselves to feel happy, doesn’t it? If we met The One, if we had more money, a better job, a baby, the perfect house … the list goes on and on … we’d be really happy, wouldn’t we?
Or would we?
In fact the evidence from research in to happiness and the science of positive psychology is that what we really need to be happy is much more to do with what’s inside of us and what goes on in our brains. Up to 50% of our level of happiness is down to our genes, and only 10% is about our life circumstances but the good news is a whopping 40% or more of our happiness is within our control. And the happier we are the longer we’re likely to live, the healthier we become and the more creative we get. When we’re happy we build stronger relationships and better communities too.
So, what does happiness look like?
Happiness isn’t just about smiling all the time so don’t only look for the obvious signs; we may have to learn to be more mindful to fully recognise what happiness looks like for US. And it’s not the same for everybody so looking within yourself and learning what happiness feels like for YOU is what’s important. But in general happy people live in the here and now, they have a positive outlook, they have good friends and they have specific goals in life.
It’s about your relationship – with YOURSELF
Would you believe me if I told you that happiness is a choice? You can begin to make a happier relationship with yourself once you understand that your inner story contains ways of thinking and beliefs that are shaped by negativity. Learning to love yourself is a great way to start feeling happier! [visit our self discovery section]
You know the old songs about looking ‘on the bright side’ or telling you to ‘accentuate the positive’? Well, there’s a lot of good advice in there! Our happiness is strongly affected by our choices, our inner attitudes, our personal values and our sense of purpose.
Seven steps you can take RIGHT NOW to feel happier
Cultivating inner happiness is something we can LEARN to do. There are some simple steps we can take that will make us happier. Here are some that I know work really well for myself and the women I support:
1. Develop an attitude of gratitude ¬By writing down 3 things you’re grateful for at the end of every day; no matter how small they may seem it’s really important to be aware of all the good things you have in your life right now. Over time this is one of the simplest ways you can become happier within yourself, so it’s a great habit to get in to.
2. Be kind and build social connections. Have you ever thought about carrying out some random acts of kindness? Small things can make a big difference to others and it makes US happier and healthier; think about helping someone who’s struggling with bags or a push-chair, give away your change, buy a stranger their coffee, talk to the old man at the bus stop or tell a friend how much you appreciate them. Or encourage people in our community or goal setting network where you can give and gain support.
3. Consider Mindfulness Recent research has shown that an eight week mindfulness meditation course can make physical changes in our brains, increasing grey-matter in the hippocampus (which is important for learning and memory) and in other parts associated with self-awareness and compassion.
4. Get Moving Did you know people who walk or cycle to work are happier? Not everyone can do that but do take regular exercise and get outdoors as much as you can. It’s helpful to have specific goals for your exercise rather than just doing repetitive physical activity, so you could buy yourself a pedometer (or use one of the smart-phone apps) and work up to a certain number of steps per day. And don’t forget that being outside in nature as often as possible lifts depression and leads to greater happiness.
5. Remove Distractions Turn off the TV and unplug yourself from technology at least half an hour before you go to bed. Happier people get plenty of regular, good-quality sleep and that means building yourself a better bedtime routine that lets your brain and body relax before trying to sleep.
6. Wealth is not Health Forget the pursuit of wealth and material things because it’s not what brings us happiness. Yes, there’s a small improvement in happiness and well-being when we have a bit more money, but in industrialised countries this is actually pretty insignificant. Once we have enough to be comfortable anything extra really doesn’t make much difference at all!
7. Giving Back And lastly, which relates to the previous tip, be generous and philanthropic with your money and your time; giving to others stimulates parts of the brain associated with pleasure and trust. So give your time for free by volunteering, get involved in a local good cause or project (which also helps build those social connections I mentioned in tip number 2). Even if you don’t have money to spare you can find time to give!