"I've chosen to be happy because it's good for my health" - Voltaire
Happiness is different for everyone. What does it mean to you? For some it's a feeling of elation, for others is a consistent sense of contentment. There is no universal definition but we all know when we feel the emotions which contribute to our own personal feeling of 'happiness'. Feeling a heightened sense of happiness is unrealistic all of the time because of the nature of our changing emotions but we can constructively alter our mindset to find a peaceful positivity about most of what life throws at us. Because our brains are essentially flexible and fluid organs, we can change our responses through some simple mindful techniques.
Imagine you are writing a newspaper article about a scenario which seems negative and is making you feel down. You are required to make something positive from it - how would you rewrite the headline? I work a lot with positive reframing with my clients to reflect differently on both their eating behaviour and their view of themselves.
We can't change everything so accepting and learning to live with our lives is key to finding contentment. We should certainly learn to accept what we cannot change otherwise we are striving for something this is unachievable. This will make us unsatisfied and unhappy.
Celebrate success and positivity
We move too fast through life, often not stopping to reflect on events. Try to find a moment to sit and remember something in detail after it has happened, smile and reinforce all the positive things about it, no matter how small. Celebrate any positive role you played in the scenario, praise yourself, smile (again!) and file it as a positive experience.
Stop trying to be happy!
Creating expectations to feel happy all of the time can make us feel guilty when we are not. It's also unrealistic so just let yourself 'be' a bit more. A neutral feeling is fine, contentment is fine, existing is fine too.
Let it go
A friend once said to me "regret is the most pointless emotion you can have." The one thing we cannot undo is the past so by accepting the choices we have made, learning from them if necessary and moving on to new choices and decision we can be free of negative thoughts which threaten our happiness.
Giving makes us happy
Stephen G Post's research* into happiness, confirms that altruistic emotions and behaviours are associated with greater well-being, health, and longevity. So think about how you can be self-less with your time to help someone else.
Make a choice Is it really up to us? Well it can be. We all have the choice to frame our thinking in either a positive or a negative way. We can choose to see the best in people, we can try to understand why they behave in a certain way, we can be more empathetic. We can be more generous in our thoughts and actions. We can make the most of what we have instead of longing for what we don't have. We can be more grateful of our lives, we can live moderately and in the moment.
We can be mindful about how we think about the world - I'm pouring you a glass of something lovely and your glass can always (well mostly always) be half full. xx
*Post SG. Altuism, happiness, and health: it's good to be good. Int J Behav Med. 2005;12(2):66-77. doi: 10.1207/s15327558ijbm1202_4. PMID: 15901215.