How to Find Happiness
The Happiness Coach Has
Twelve Tips for Your Happiness
Happiness can be learned, like tennis or handwriting.
Would you like to be happier? Let's talk first about what happiness is. Then we will look at your personal and individual happiness.
Science tells us that happiness is a chemical reaction in the brain. It is caused by endorphins and dopamine filling the pleasure centers of the brain, which brings joy and cessation of pain. Underlying the chemistry of happiness, there may be a set of genes that exist to prompt the happiness response, a set of genes that exist to keep the Homo Sapiens surviving and reproducing. The pleasure of eating, the satisfaction of love, the comfort of teamwork, and the joy of raising children: in all these instances the pleasure response encourages activities that perpetuate our species. The things that make us feel good generally are the things that will help the species survive. Happiness, then, is one of our tools for survival.
So, in our biology, there may be aspects of happiness that come hard-wired from birth. But that is only a small part of the story. There are many factors that influence happiness, and many ways to enhance your feelings of contentment, joy and pleasure. You can, in fact, practice happiness, like you practice tennis or handwriting. A happy outlook, an awareness of happiness, an aptitude for happiness can be developed. What you need is a happiness coach.
Here is the happiness training routine suggested by your happiness coach.
- Happiness is a State of Mind. Remember that happiness is mostly dependent on our state of mind, not on our status in society or the size of our bank account. As long as we are not in poverty, as long as we have the means for adequate food and shelter, our level of well-being is determined by what we choose to focus on (the full or the empty part of the glass) and by our interpretation of external events. There's a little joke about the glass that is half full. The optimist sees the glass and says, "The glass is half full." The pessimist looks at the glass and says, "The glass is half empty." The industrial engineer looks at the glass and says, "You have twice as much glass as you need for the job!"
For most of us, early childhood was a time of rapturous happiness. Everywhere we looked were fresh new sights and experiences. Life made powerful impressions on us. We lived in the moment with each new experience, neither judging it against the past, because we didn't have much past to judge against, nor trying to build a future on it. We had little sense of time passing, and we lived in each moment that presented itself, happily and fully. We were less self-aware, and our thoughts were turned outward. It is that experiential sense of life that we want to recover that brings happiness with it.
- Treat Yourself Like Your Favorite Child. The caring, the attention, the concern that you would give a small child, give that same attention to yourself. Put good food on your plate at regular times. Listen to your inner voice. Set up regular times for exercise, reading and sleep, and discipline yourself to keep that schedule. Make sure you meet friends, take care of your health, and practice moderation. Think about the person who is you. Do you have what you need for a good life? You would not treat someone you love the way you have been treating yourself. Love yourself.
- Create Moments of Happiness. What gives you happiness depends on who you are. Do you enjoy a half hour of exercise? A few minutes of absolute quiet? A evening with a crowd of friends? A hike in the woods? Plan your own happiness for today. If you use a day planner, schedule time for your Moment of Happiness. Give it the top priority. Let nothing distract you from it. Pay attention to how you feel during this experience and let happiness come. Live in that moment of happiness. Relive the moment again later. Journal it. Remember it.
- Clear Out Unhappiness. What obstacles to happiness are there in your life? These can weigh you down, so that it's hard to be happy. Pay attention to what makes you feel unhappy. Are you especially fearful, sad or anxious? Find someone you can talk to about your feelings. Avoid things that make you unhappy. See less of unpleasant people whenever possible. Talk less and dwell less on your difficulties. Do not gossip or complain or envy others. If a problem is dragging you down, solve it or deal with it; put it behind you as soon as you can. If your thoughts make you unhappy, practice changing your thoughts to more positive ones. If your habits are bad for you, make up your mind to change them and find help to change them. If you have an addictive behavior, recognize it, admit to it and lay a plan for recovery. You have the power to recreate your life and reclaim happiness.
- Embrace Happiness. Happiness is contagious. You can catch happiness just by talking to happy people. Read books with a happy outlook. Listen to pleasant music with an easy tempo. Sing along or hum if you don't know the words. Develop a friendship with a cheerful person. Spend time dancing to music. Stretch often. Exercise often. Tell yourself jokes. Practice positive thinking. Look for the good in the moment. Expect happy things and you will find them.
- Keep a Gratitude Journal. Positive emotions create feelings of happiness. Optimism, hopefulness, curiosity and gratitude are part of the basket of emotions that makes up happiness. One emotion that is most valuable is gratitude. The exercise of keeping a daily Gratitude Journal is a tool that builds happiness. Every day you can write down in your Gratitude Journal the things that you are grateful for. Journaling encourages you to notice the good things that happen and calls to your attention the positives of your day. Don't take your life for granted. Your journal entries may be simple, like finding a good parking place, or another day when the car didn't break down, or an exchanged hello. You might mention an accomplishment at work, a good meal, a phone call that mattered. When you start looking for moments worthy of your gratitude in your day, you will find many of them.
- Know Your Emotions. When you feel sadness, accept it as a natural part of life. When you accept emotions such as fear, sadness or anxiety, you are more likely to recover quickly. Rejecting our emotions, positive or negative, leads to frustration and unhappiness. Setbacks are also part of life. Don't be hard on yourself. Give yourself permission to be human.
Do you think that more money will make you happier? Everyone, rich and not so rich, believes that with a little more money they would be happier. There are several research studies on the happiness of lottery winners. The studies seek to determine if a mega-million jackpot makes the winner happier. Initially, the winner enjoys a period of euphoria, as he considers the world of possibilities that have opened up. But after a few months of conspicuous consumption, the lottery winner returns to his previous level of happiness. A blithe spirit will return to a peaceable frame of mind. A worried spirit will worry about losing the money. An impulsive spirit will be able to afford more impulsive behaviors. The lottery money may even lead to a feeling of discontent, as more money fuels more unsatisfied desires. Strange but true, we are as happy as we are, for reasons that have nothing to do with money or status.
- Pretend That You Are Happy. How does an actor portray a happy person? Cast yourself in that role, and behave as if you are that happy character. Being happy makes you happy. This sounds like an illogical recursion, but it's not. Acting as if you're happy will make you happier. When someone smiles at you or you see the picture of a smile, you feel calmer and relaxed. Tickling raises the laughing response, too. Laughing, like a gentle aerobic exercise, reduces levels of stress hormones, allows the lungs to take in more oxygen, and increases the metabolism.
Did you know there are Laughter Clubs just to enjoy the benefits of laughter? These clubs are gatherings of people who spend a half hour together laughing heartily. They benefit from the laughing reflex, even when they don't feel like laughing. Going through the motions of a good rollicking laugh for no reason at all chases stress and worry away. The clubs celebrate World Laughter Day on the first Sunday in May, but you don't have to wait until then to practice your laughing.
- Simplify! We are generally too busy, trying to squeeze in more and more activities into less and less time. Quantity influences quality, and we compromise on our happiness by trying to do too much. Last week at the supermarket, I was almost run down by a shopper pushing a grocery cart. He was talking on his cell phone and barged into the intersection of two aisles without a look-see. Instinctively, I grabbed his cart to hold it back. After the mini-incident, he still couldn't interrupt his phone conversation long enough to offer me a "Sorry." His electronic conversation took precedence over the in-person one. I don't think he really noticed me at all, even after the incident.
The skill of multi-tasking is highly overrated. Folks who study the brain and how it works say that we really don't multi-task at all. If we try to do two things at once, we slight one of the jobs in favor of the other. We really can't concentrate on two things at once. Either we neglect the one and focus on the other, or we are entirely distracted by a third event. The brain is not like a computer with two central processors running. The brain is more like a single computer processor, which we train to do time-slicing. A brief interval on this task, then an interrupt signal, then a brief slice of time on the second task. Time-slicing works for the computer, because the tasks are programmed for it. For us humans, time-slicing uses up more time than it saves. Multi-tasking makes us anxious.
The inventions of modern life, although they benefit us, can also make us feel stressed and unsettled. Avoid watching television, particularly the news. Take a holiday from the televised horror and disaster. Shut off your cell phone and your electronic devices. Even checking your email leads to anxiety. Have you heard of the Luddites? They were a nineteenth century group who opposed factories and mechanization. They believed it would dehumanize us. What would Luddites think of our electronically driven lifestyle, I wonder? Reclaim some free time for yourself.
- Give of Yourself. Give your time and your caring. Don't expect acknowledgment or gratitude in return. Just give. Volunteer for a cause that you care about. Give a small gift to share with someone. Baby-sit a child. Adopt a pet or take care of someone else's pet. When people want to talk, give them your attention and make the effort to listen to them. Share yourself and your life with other people.
- Be Spontaneous. Take the opportunity to enjoy life as it happens. Be curious about life. Be inquisitive. Be amazed. Be amused. Make it your New Year's resolution to try new things. Better yet, don't wait until the New Year to make your resolution. We're not talking about extreme activities like bungee jumping or moving to Sri Lanka. But do resolve to visit new places, try new foods, meet new people, plan new activities. Resolve to get out of your rut whenever you can. Events that take you out of your comfort zone make you more aware of life, and, yes, happier.
- Find Work That You Love. When you were ten years old, what did you enjoy doing most? What do you do when you don't have to go to work? What do you enjoy so much that you don't have to be paid to do it? Look in that direction for your career or your hobby. Find meaningful activities that give you a sense of accomplishment and enjoyment. Perhaps you've heard this wise saying: The person who has a job she loves will never have to work a day in her life.
What are your aptitudes? Examine your abilities and skills. Try out different activities that interest you. Learn and practice your skills. Your interest will grow naturally, the way a flower turns toward the sun. Think about the job you want, talk it up, meet people in the field, and then go all out for it. When your activities have meaning and value, you will find happiness. Concentrating deep in thought as you seek to understand something is itself a pleasure. It creates a sense of satisfaction and, yes, happiness.
- Practice Being Happy. Happiness lies at the intersection of pleasure and meaning. Whether at work or at home, your goal is to engage in activities that are both personally significant and enjoyable. These activities will add the buzz of happiness to boost your mood throughout the week. Hang a funny cartoon on the door. Get a funny book to read. Toss a Frisbee outside. Memorize a joke and tell it to a friend. Sit still and try to clear your mind of thoughts. Plan a get-together. Clean something. Learn to ride a bike again. Watch a tree in the wind. Make cookies for someone. Plant something. Paint something. Study something. Speak kindly to someone. Visit a new part of town. Smell the roses. You will restore your sense of playfulness and your sense of relaxation. You will increase your sense of well-being and harmony.
There are untold benefits to being a happy person. If you are happy, your immune system is stronger, you have fewer medical problems and you live longer. Best of all, you find pleasure and meaning in this world. Your life is full of activities that are significant and enjoyable. It is my heartfelt wish that you have a very happy day.
-----The Happiness Coach
I hope life brings you much success.
I wish you a very happy day.
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