Happiness isn’t the absence of problems.
Happiness isn’t an upgraded car.
Happiness isn’t a new outfit.
Happiness isn’t a promotion.
So what is “happiness”?
Well, for one, it’s a lot closer than you think.
Happiness is neither constant nor predictable and there’s a lot you can do to increase its presence in your life. What follows are tips, tools, and strategies that take work. Yes, the good stuff in life takes work, but it’s work worthwhile. With a little practice, this “work” becomes fun!
So lean forward and listen up— these are five practices that increase our happiness:
1 . Do it differently
Our mind is the muscle that perceives and receives happiness. The more you stretch open your mind in new ways, the more room you make for happiness to shine into new crevices. Our minds have a tendency to revert back to our daily thought patterns and if we keep doing what we’ve been doing, we’ll keep feeling how we’ve been feeling. If this article had to stop here, the one practice to keep in mind, is to do things differently. Take a different route home, brush your teeth with your opposite hand, put on your left shoe before your right… Learn to be playful as you experiment completing even the smallest tasks a little differently.
2. Pay attention
To try anything differently requires us to step out of our daily unconscious thoughts and actions. Choose two or three small practices that you will try to do differently and make a note where that activity happens to remind you. I find putting reminder notes in my shoes always works because I know I’ll have to look at them before I walk out the door.
3. Mini appreciations
Even though we’ve evolved a great deal since our ancestors, we all still have a survival instinct that causes us to be more critical and negative than necessary. That’s why it’s easier to see what’s wrong with something than with what’s right. There’s so many mini-triumphs and successes that go unnoticed in our day that could make us happier. Take a moment once or twice in the morning and once or twice at night to acknowledge what’s going well for you. Fifteen seconds, might be all it takes—just noticing being in the right place at the right time to see a beautiful sky, or feeling good about getting out the door on time. None of this is to say you should sell yourself short and lower your goals. We all benefit and feed off of the buzz of tasting sweetness however momentary, it energizes us nonetheless. Pausing to acknowledge the good work you do enforces a positive outlook and primes us to see more of it in our lives.
4. Maintain constructive tension
As much as we might relate happiness to specific triumphs and successes, happiness is also spurred from the space between anticipation and fulfillment, a term I call constructive tension. It’s important to be engaged in work otherwise our minds weaken. Think about the analogy of a rubber band. Untested, the rubberband lies limp and is useless, stretched too far apart and it snaps, but pulled apart in the middle range, the band has potential to go places—this is the space we can all aim to operate it in. Instant gratification, however tempting, doesn’t serve us because it offers no lasting happiness. Happiness is derived from the act of doing— this is called the space in-between. Triumphs spread apart by even intervals give us the opportunity to do meaningful work and punctuate our success when we get there.
Because our minds adjust to any great thing, we need to continue to bolster our efforts by continuing to operate in that stretch zone.
No, not like that. Really smile. Remember a fun experience, a bad joke, an embarrassing moment. Seriously, do it.
Do you feel a little happier? If you do it’s because our minds are reflexive. We all know that when we feel happy our face shows it. But did you know our system works in both directions? Our brain is linked up with the muscles in our face and everywhere else in our body. This means that if you consciously smile, and it has to be genuine, our bodies trigger our brain to release dopamine, the feel-good-neurochemical that’s behind a lot of our happiness. If you’re ever feeling a little down, try this out.
We all may feel tired or blue throughout our day or our week.
We work hard. It often feels easier or natural to give into those feelings, and generally that’s fine—it might be your body’s signal that you need rest. But if you’re looking to feel a little more energized, happier and engaged, consider dedicating a week or two to adopting these concepts fully as your own and see how you feel. A fresh perspective is sometimes all you need to make room for a little more happiness in your life.