Happiness – we all want to be happy. A common thread that unites people worldwide, happiness is a lifelong journey. How do we define happiness and what does it look like? It is certainly big business. We see this in the many self-help books that are available as well as the bombardment of television and radio advertisements that sell their idea of happiness. Yet happiness is often elusive, especially when based on the acquisition of some “thing”. We feel it in the moment and then a sense of dissatisfaction slowly creeps back in. In the culture of instant gratification, we find that happiness is short-lived without some external stimuli to replace the one we’ve grown bored with. So how do we develop skills to nurture a more enduring sense of happiness?
“Happiness is not a goal: it is a by-product”. ~ Eleanor Roosevelt
It is often said that happiness is subjective. The subjectivity refers to satisfaction with life, or how we assess our own life. The emotion of happiness is related to that assessment and what we do to maintain and increase our level of satisfaction. So, simply said, happiness is in the doing. We create our happiness by our actions which influence the way we think and feel. This is the classic cognitive behavioral connection between thoughts, feelings, and behaviors and how they influence each other. If we engage in behaviors that add meaning and purpose to our lives, then the way we think and feel will be positively affected.
Happiness Within Reach
So here are some practical activities we can put into practice that can generate a more lasting sense of happiness and create a more fulfilled life:
- Gratitude – Developing a sense of appreciation refocuses our attention on what we have as opposed to what we lack. It helps us to be thankful for the goodness we have in our lives in the present moment. Many studies link a greater sense of happiness and wellbeing to gratitude ( http://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier). Also, watch this interesting TED Talk on this.
- Forgiveness – This is an act of kindness we offer ourselves. It allows us to let go of resentments and free ourselves of the burden we are carrying with us. Forgiveness doesn’t mean to forget or allow others to mistreat us, but it does provide space to move forward in a more flexible and open way and allow room for joy.
- Service – Doing something for others, even simple actions, adds meaning and fulfillment to our lives and fosters personal growth. Find ways to give of your time such as volunteering, helping a friend, or supporting a cause.
- Fun – Take some time to consider what you like to do and take action. Increasing fun activities such as creative hobbies, socializing, sports, reading, or whatever it may be makes us feel more positive and gives a sense of accomplishment.
- Stay connected – Nurturing friendships and other relationships, including family, can provide an enduring sense of wellbeing and pleasure. It allows us to feel supported.
- Manage stress – We cannot control all the factors in life and challenges will certainly arise. So, it is important that we find meaningful and helpful ways to manage the stress effectively. Find what works. Consider activities such as exercise, talking to a friend, creating personal time, meditation, or any other self-care tool that maximizes wellbeing.
- Strengths – Acknowledge strengths that help you to be your best. Spend time developing them and putting them into practice in new ways daily. This will help you to increase self-esteem which makes you feel better. Using your strengths in new ways also lends energy to better manage our weaker areas.
- Spiritual practice – Being spiritual does not only apply to religious practices. It can also be a way for us to care for our soul/spirit the way we would care for our body. These can be as simple as a relaxing day at the beach, a walk in nature, reading an uplifting book, journaling, yoga, meditation, or any other practice that opens the heart and uplifts the soul.
- Acceptance – We are human beings and we are not perfect. When we let go of the self-judgment and guilt and begin to practice forgiveness, understanding, kindness, generosity, and compassion with ourselves, we bring about more peace of mind and validate our own innate worthiness. Recognize that life is journey of becoming.
And don’t forget to smile, a lot!!
The Boca Raton Therapists at Morgan Center for Counseling and Wellbeing are available to help you manage any challenges and increase your happiness and wellbeing. For more information call (561) 366-2476.