Ten tips for increased happiness
What do you read? HAPPINESS IS NOWHERE or HAPPINESS IS NOW HERE? This exercise devised by Robert Holden illustrates that how you choose to look at life affects what you see in it.
2 Give us a smile
Try it. Smiling, whether or not you feel like it at the time, increases feelings of wellbeing. It seems faking it works on two levels. Acting happy helps us feel happier, more positive, and more resilient in ourselves but also elicits more positive responses from others.
3 Giving and taking
When did you last help someone else? How often do you go out of your way to say thank you? What is the kindest thing you have done this week? Helping others, expressing gratitude and practising kindness regularly, but in a felt and meaningful way, all increase our own (as well as others’) happiness.
4 Nurturing love, loving nurture
“There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved” (George Sand). Love is the key not only to happiness right now in our relationships but also in building our children’s capacity for love and happiness as they develop. Love needs time to flourish.
5 Working towards happiness
“Things won are done; joy’s soul lies in the doing” (Shakespeare Troilus and Cressida I.ii.287). Much of our sense of identity and self-worth comes from what we do: from cooking lunch to being prime minister. It is easy to get caught up in trying to ‘get things done’. Remember there is pleasure in the journey as well as reaching the final destination.
6 Maximising flow
“With climbing you have to get up at two or three in the morning and walk for a few hours in the cold until you get to the rock face. But once you get involved, it’s a different world. You can keep it up for hours – with no sense of time passing.” (MihÃ¡ly CsÃkszentmihÃ¡lyi, one of the pioneers of the Positive Psychology movement)
“I was already on pole, [ €¦] and I just kept going. Suddenly I was nearly two seconds faster than anybody else, including my team mate with the same car. And suddenly I realised that I was no longer driving the car consciously. I was driving it by a kind of instinct, only I was in a different dimension. It was like I was in a tunnel.” (Ayrton Senna, Grand Prix Driver)
Do these quotes ring any bells? Can you identify with the state that they describe? If so you have experienced ‘flow’ otherwise known as being ‘in the zone’, ‘on top of your game’, ‘on the ball’, ‘riding the wave’ among many other phrases. These are moments when we are completely immersed in an activity to the extent that we are taken out of ourselves. The more, the better!
7 Hopeful thinking
We often focus on the negative without even noticing: replaying what has gone wrong, predicting what will go wrong and paying attention to what is going wrong. Below is an exercise in thinking about what could possibly go right and it has been shown to promote happiness (Lyubomirsky).
Take 20 to 30 minutes to think about your best possible self. This means that you imagine yourself in the future after everything has gone as well as it possibly could. You have worked hard and succeeded at accomplishing all of your life goals. Think of this as the realisation of your life dreams and your own best potentials. Now describe in writing what you imagine. Repeat this at least four times.
8 Practising peace
“Suppose you read about a pill that you could take once a day to reduce anxiety and increase your contentment. Would you take it? Suppose further that the pill has a great variety of side effects, all of them good: increased self-esteem, empathy, and trust; it even improves memory. Suppose, finally, that the pill is all natural and costs nothing. Now would you take it? The pill exists. It is meditation.” (Haidt)
Support for embarking upon the journey of meditation is now readily accessible through courses on mindfulness, yoga classes, meditation retreats, manuals and inspirational literature to name but a few places to look.
9 Making sense
Do you tell stories? About your past, present and future? How do you think about what has happened to you and how it all fits together? Do you have a faith or religion or spiritual perspective that helps you make sense of life? Our happiness is affected not simply by external events but how we weave what happens into our life stories and understanding of ourselves. There is power and protection in a coherent and meaningful life story that includes suffering and trauma as well as positive experiences.
10 Growing gardens
You can’t make gardens grow but you can optimise the conditions in which plants can flourish. Although not all conditions are in your control (the weather for example!) you can pick the plants that are best suited to the conditions available. So by a judicious mix of planning, tending and patient waiting, you can cultivate a natural wonder but, most importantly, you can enjoy the process.
Find out more about happiness
- The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonanthan Haidt
- The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubormirsky
- Happiness now! by Robert Holden
- The Art of Happiness by HH Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler
- Happiness – A guide to developing life’s most important skill by Matthieu Ricard
- Wherever you go, there you are: mindfulness meditation for everyday life by Jon Kabat-Zinn
- Why love matters by Sue Gerhardt
Feel free to contact us to ask about psychological therapies available at our centres that may help with mood-related issues.