What is Happiness?
I want to be happy, don’t you? What does being happy mean to you? It is hard to pin down a definition for happiness. After all, one person’s happiness is another’s abject boredom. Perhaps it’s walking around with a constant smile all the time? Maybe it’s taking part in lots of exciting activities? For me, I feel happiest when wandering through woodland with my dogs. Being with my favorite people makes me happy. Waving them goodbye and breathing in the silence also makes me happy.
Of course, there are degrees of happiness. There are the times when you feel you could burst with joy. The birth of a baby, the arrival of a new puppy, a night out with friends where you were reduced to weeping with laughter. You’ve achieved an ambition, reached a goal or got the result you wanted.
But those are peak happy experiences. They don’t last, and thank goodness for that. No-one would want to sustain that level of elation for too long – it would be exhausting. General happiness is contentment and a sense of well-being. Satisfaction with who you are but eager to improve.
A Harvard study discovered that it isn’t about money or fame, but rather your relationships with other people that are the primary indicator of your happiness level.
The Happiness Scale
“Your happiness level is not only subjective, but it is also less attached to your life experiences than you may think.” Will Bowen
Everyone has a happiness set-point with deviations up and down. Grief will send you plummeting down, while even a small lottery win will send you skyward. Let’s say there’s an imaginary happiness scale, 1 -10; despair up to joy. Where would you put yourself? Five? Seven? Four point five? Two? Wherever you see yourself on the happiness scale, I expect you will agree there is always room for improvement.
The great thing is, you can decide where you want to be on the scale and take small steps toward your happiness goal. Only you can determine your level of happiness.
“Folks are usually about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Abe Lincoln
So I Want to be Happy – What Do I Do?
You need to develop some ‘happiness habits’. Small adjustments in behavior which will move you up the happiness scale. You don’t have to make a massive effort, or even leave the comfort of your daily routine. Just a few minor changes will have a beneficial effect on your mood. In turn, feeling happier and emotionally stable will benefit your health and your relationships.
5 Keys to Happiness
The very first step toward feeling happy is to become aware of that happiness scale. Each morning, preferably after you have woken up properly, had some water and eaten breakfast (yes, a good start to the day contributes to your feelings of well-being, so get up early enough to eat a wholesome breakfast), you should tune-in to your mind and body and determine your happiness level.
Your main aim for the day is not to complete that presentation, or get the grocery shopping done; it is to move yourself a notch or two along the happy scale. So the first step is awareness.
2. Happiness is the Word
Along with being aware of your level of happiness, you should know that the words you think and speak impact that level. Also, your facial expressions have an effect on your internal emotions. You may have to use a little fakery in the beginning, but that’s okay.
So, watch your words, the timbre of your voice, your facial expressions. If someone asks how you are, quickly visualize that happiness scale and remember that millions of other people are well below you, so your answer might be, “I’m doing great, thanks for asking.”
Inject some enthusiasm into your interactions and notice the response. If you are happy, everyone around you moves up a level, which propels you upward too. A happy circle, indeed.
3. The Appreciation Game
Try a little habit stacking. At a particular time each day, having lunch or driving home, waiting in a checkout line – any routine activity will do, focus on three things that you appreciate. A helpful coworker, that beautiful tree thriving in its city environment, the delicious meal you will eat later. Just three things. Every. Single. Day.
Take a moment to think about what it is you love about those three things. Let the feeling of appreciation flow through your being. You see, it’s not about the object of your appreciation, it’s about how you flow the energy of appreciation. You’ll find that the habit of appreciation begins to suffuse your daily life. It can’t help but improve your happiness level.
4. Never Stop Learning
What new thing did you learn today? It could be anything. The main thing is to use it, not file it away. Perhaps you could learn how to say ‘Hello’ or ‘Good morning’ in other languages… then greet your friends and family in a different way each day. It’s fun, it takes only a minute of research, it starts conversations and, most importantly, it gives you a small sense of accomplishment.
Learning new skills, however minor or trivial, creates new connections in your brain. It contributes to moving you up that happiness scale. The more you learn, the more you enjoy it and the happier you feel.
5. Say, ‘Thank you.’
Never miss an opportunity to thank someone. Make it a genuine thank you. Look right at them smile and express your gratitude. A simple ‘thank you’ is fine but telling someone that they made your day will make their day too. Why not tell your partner, or your mother that you are grateful for all that they do. Watch their face light up. How could you not want to make that happen more often? Now, check in with your happiness scale – don’t you feel great?