Happiness is an inside job. It’s not something that just happens to you, which you have no control over. It’s something that comes out of your daily lifestyle and habits. Building an attitude and thinking habits that cultivate happiness is a great way to increase your happiness levels and is not as hard as you’d think. Here are 3 areas that you can easily focus on that will quickly show measurable benefits in your happiness levels:
An Attitude of Gratitude
According to scientific research the simple act of counting your blessings can increase happiness levels by 25%! Those who make a point of practicing gratitude, sleep better, exercise more, feel more optimistic, less materialistic and more joyful. They also report few physical symptoms such as pain and can even have sharper minds.
Research shows that keeping a “Gratitude Journal” where you write down something you feel grateful for at least 4 times a week, for as little as 3 weeks, is enough to create a meaningful difference in your level of happiness. Another way is to build a “Gratitude 30” into your day. Select a 30 minute period and actively notice all the things you are grateful for as you go through your daily business. Alternatively simply taking a few minutes before bed time or in the morning to run through all the things you appreciate in your life can be very effective.
Increase your Positivity Ratio
What makes the difference between someone who flourishes in life and someone who plods through or struggles? Research shows that there is a very specific balance of negative to positive emotions that makes the difference between these two things. People who flourish, have at least three genuine heart-felt positive emotions for every one negative emotion they experience (ratio 3:1). People with under this ratio tend to experience less enjoyment, success and contentment in life.
So how can you increase the number of genuine heart-felt positive emotions you experience? Adopting a “mindset of positivity” will increase the experiences and conditions that make it more likely for you to have genuine heart-felt positive emotions. You can do this by consciously practicing being more open, kind, appreciative, curious and real in your life. The more you make positive shifts in these five areas the more genuine positive emotions you are likely to experience in your daily life.
Take Responsibility For Your Own Happiness
It can be easy to fall in to the trap of blaming others or life circumstances for our unhappiness. Our partners, jobs, bosses, kids, past experiences, politicians, parents, health, recession and the economy all come in to the firing line. If only these things would change or hadn’t happened then I could be happy. Of course it is true that these things can affect us and can make life more difficult but ultimately there is only one person who can ensure that you are happy and that is YOU.
In the words of George Bernard Shaw “People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and if they can’t find them, make them.”
Take your own happiness seriously and start taking responsibility for it. Ask yourself continuously what makes me happy and what is making me unhappy? Then decide to DO something about it. Start making small steps in the direction of happiness by bringing more of what makes you happy in to your life and by deciding to face up to the things that don’t make you happy.
Erica McKinney is a Counsellor, Psychotherapist and Life Coach with a private practise in Shankill.
Ph: 087 2529325
This article was printed in Scan Magazine September 2014