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How Can I Be Happier – Top 4 Happiness Strategies

How Can I Be Happier – Top 4 Happiness Strategies

To figure out how to be happy we must first realise that happiness is a choice, and accept that it actually takes some effort to sustain it. Then we need to make it a priority, make a conscious choice to live a happier life. All it takes is time and effort – just like anything else in life. Read on, choose to make happiness a life goal, and reap the benefits of living a happy life.

Top Happiness Strategies

 

Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.

– Abraham Lincoln

 

Can I Live A Happier Life, Seriously Now?

Is happiness a random thing or can it be cultivated with intentional activity?  I get these two questions frequently. The latter is advocated by both spiritual traditions such as Buddhism and cutting-edge modern positive psychology. Leading psychologists say that our happiness level is determined as follows: 10% by circumstances, 50% by genes, and 40% by intentional activity. That is wonderful news as 40% is quite a lot! Now, if you’re an optimist you see that a whopping 40% lies in your own hands and that you in fact can learn to be happier!

 

Top 4 Happiness Strategies

Now we know that we can affect our happiness levels and that we need to take action to do so. But, where does happiness and life-satisfaction spring from? How to find ways to be happy? What’s the secret recipe?

There are different definitions, but this expert short list is my current favourite and it’s based on recent research by leading psychologists such as; Martin Seligman, Sonja Lyubomirsky, Tal Ben-Shahar, and Shauna Shapiro. The strategy below reveals how to live a happy life, and it might even help you to find sustainable happiness.

Ok, here we go. Here’s a yummy happiness recipe for you:

1. Live a life that allows you to experience lots of positive emotions

This first one sounds simple, right? You’re the expert on what makes you tick! So, make a list of activities that make you feel happy. Cuddling with my wife, being immersed in wind surfing, and, eating apple pie with hot chocolate comes to my mind. Your turn! Figure out activities that bring you pleasure and set time to experience them too. Invest time in experiencing happiness. Sharing pleasures works too. I imagine one of the reasons people like Facebook so much, is that it helps us to savor memories and events with friends through photos and other mementos.

2. Be content about the past, immersed in the present, and positive about the future

Like the renowned psychologist Martin Seligman says, “The way you feel about your past is purely based on your memories. Negative thoughts about the past block the emotions of contentment and satisfaction and make peace impossible”. Both gratitude and forgiveness heal the way we look at our lives and adds to life-satisfaction. “Gratitude works in developing life satisfaction because it underlines positive memories in intensity, frequency and association,” Martin Seligman, Ph. D. reminds us. Gratitude is indeed a transformative emotion. You can try a free one minute gratitude exercise here.

Have you noticed that mindfulness or conscious attention to the experience at hand unlocks great pleasures from simple things? It’s important to notice that really simple things are enough to create positive emotions when you’re fully aware and immersed in the now. Much in the same way a child wonders and interfaces with the world. Savoring the now or “smelling the roses” is what it’s about. We tend to miss out on the simple joys as we’re so often busy and future-minded, thinking ahead of what’s to come next. Attention is our most precious asset in the sense that what we attend to is what we get.

Apparently, according to research, savoring future events works as well. Optimism, hope, faith and trust are positive emotions related to the future that you want to experience. Right now I’m savoring the thought of an apple pie I’m about to bake. Oh, it’s going to be yummy 😉

3. Immerse yourself in activities that use your strengths and passions

Eating apple pie will work only so far, the fourth piece will leave you going “meh”. Finding activities that “flow” brings a whole new level of satisfaction. Psychologists say that gratification is more lasting than pleasure. The difference between pleasure and gratification is that you consume the pleasure in the now but a flow activity will create satisfaction over a longer time period. You get pleasure from the emotion arising from eating an apple pie but you enjoy wind surfing.

Psychologists see gratifications as activities we like to do as they absorb us fully. It’s the lack of consciousness, inducing a flow, that makes us love these “flow activities”, not specific emotions, say psychologists. For me flow activities would definitively be martial arts, cooking, film making and wind surfing. These activities make me loose self-consciousness and the concept of time, transporting me to a state of no-mind. Olympic athletes train to achieve no-mind states where action seem effortless. This is also exactly what a lot of meditators and martial artists strive to cultivate.

The key components to a “flow state” are:

  • A challenging task that requires skill and focus
  • You get immediate feedback
  • You have deep, effortless involvement
  • There is a sense of control
  • Your sense of self vanishes, and time stops

Here’s a clue; active people with hobbies experience more flow states. Now would it not be perfect to have a day job that gets you into a flow state repeatedly?

4. Find purpose and meaning

Great wisdom can be found on a t-shirt. Just the other day I saw a shirt with the meaning of life printed on it. Drum roll. Prepare yourself. This is it: the meaning of life is to create a meaningful life. Top psychologists agree. Again, you’re the #1 expert on what purpose and meaning is to you. Generally speaking it’s often something that is larger than yourself. Something that makes you feel part of something bigger. Contributing to others can be done in many ways, it does not mean that you have to quit to work in a charity or go all-out-Mother-Theresa on the world. Meaning is subjective and one could easily argue that raising children gives meaning, some could argue that teaching yoga, being an investment banker or practicing medicine gives them meaning. The point is that you don’t have to argue about meaning. What’s meaningful to me does not have to be meaningful to you. It’s something that springs from deep within in you.

It is said that satisfaction comes to a big part from being challenged and being able to use your strengths for a goal that is meaningful for you. A combination of finding flow and purpose if you will.

Get The Recipe Right

So, there it is – a modern, backed-by-sciene, cutting-edge happiness recipe. As in any recipe, it’s key to get all the ingredients just right. Focusing on one, like pleasure just isn’t enough. And… what’s really great about the above strategy is that all of the points can be intentionally cultivated every single day. Yes, the list is actionable.

I’ll explain more methods and concrete simple actions towards a happier life in later posts. I’m currently writing a post about how I personally implement the above happiness strategies with the help of meditation as meditation addresses all four strategies and can smooth the path towards a happier life. Sign up here to get notified or like us on Facebook if you liked this post. Or… read more about Why Your Happiness Is Essential.

Peace,

Chris

 

 

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