Attaining happiness is a common goal. And while each person’s measure of happiness is a very unique and personal experience, we all can attain it. Our individual happiness depends on different factors, some we have no control of and others we are actually responsible for. So how do we steer ourselves towards a happier state of mind?
University of California-Riverside psychology professor Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky says in her book, The Science of Happiness, that “50 percent of individual differences in happiness is governed by genes, 10 percent by life circumstances, and the remaining 40 percent by what we do and how we think… The secret of course lies in that 40 percent.”
If Lyubomirsky is correct, then we can actually do something about that 40 percent. We can tweak our attitudes and actions to spend more time in the happy zone department and less time in the sad doldrums.
PRACTICAL STEPS TO STAY IN THE HAPPY ZONE
While there are many ways to increase our number of happy moments—or increase our level of satisfaction in life—the process is very personal. We all have different backgrounds, likes, dislikes and experiences which map out our own path towards experiencing fulfilling, happy moments. But as Aristotle suggested in his Nicomachean Ethics, we can add up the total sum of our small, daily pleasures, and call this happiness.
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- Stay in the moment. A wandering mind might take us to places we don’t want to go to, such as worry or anxiety. Stay focused on the task at hand and you will be at ease and relaxed, enjoying whatever you are doing now.
- Don’t postpone your dreams. Carpe diem! Whatever dreams you have, don’t put them off. Be it taking on a new sport, a dance class or anything else you’ve always wanted to do, try doing it today. The “right time” might never come. Novelty fuels a more positive outlook and staves off boredom. Don’t postpone living.
- Set realistic goals and work towards accomplishing them. We need to meet goals in order to feel fulfilled. Even small achievements enhance our outlook and improve our self-esteem.
- Nurture relationships. Spending time with positive people, friends and family, and with happy souls will encourage us. We are social beings and we fare better in the company of true friends and kindred minds. We forget our own worries when we share meaningful moments with loved ones. Engaging in conversation, connecting and relating with others enhances our sense of belonging. We are not islands.
- Spend time on activities you are passionate about. Experiences make us happier than possessions. So make the time to do the things you like to do—you’re not likely to look back and say, “I wish I hadn’t taken that walk on the beach!”
- Be generous, by investing time or money on a cause or helping out someone in need. Volunteering is a great way to feel like you’re doing something good for others—and for yourself.
- Exercise or spend time surrounded by nature. Nature is calming, plus the beauty and vastness of nature can help you put problems in perspective.
- Let go of anger. Anger is debilitating for the soul. It lowers your self-esteem, takes away positive energy and only fuels the negative.
- Let go of expectations. Take life and people as they come. Don’t expect that but which is offered. Having too many expectations sets us up for disappointment.
- Let go of worry. Worry is like cancer, it keeps spreading if you don’t nip it in the bud. Worry will take you nowhere unless you are proactive and try to find a solution to what is worrying you. If the solution is out of your control, let it go!
- Don’t take life so seriously. Laugh as much as you can. Look for the humor in life, and learn to laugh at yourself.
- Make a list of things that made you happy in the past. Think about all those moments and try to find more of those moments. Use them as a road map to happiness.
- Find alone time. Read a book, relax and be there, with yourself. Enjoy your own company without rehashing the past or worrying about the future. Get lost in yourself!
Happiness is yours for the taking. If you are unhappy, work on that 40 percent of your happiness potential that you can control. So make your road map, start living while collecting your happy moments, and write a beautiful story with your memories.