Oh, happiness! This emotion and state of mind can sometimes feel so elusive. As we journey on through an increasingly stressful and turbulent world, it can often feel to so many of us that happiness is a little too far out of reach.
Whether you’re experiencing the devastating effects of anxiety or stress or stuck in an existential crisis, a little bit of happiness every day could lift your state of mind and offer you a different perspective on your current situation. And the good thing is you don’t have to look too far for happiness; it lies a lot closer than you think. Whenever things get on top of me, these are the some of the things I do or think about to boost my happiness quotient.
Cultivate an Attitude of Gratitude
Unfortunately, it’s all too easy these days to walk through life feeling dissatisfied and not realising the real value of our experiences. At some point or another, all of us become a little bit ungrateful; not intentionally, it’s only sometimes we forget how much we do have. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is a sure-fire way to experience a mood boost, and it’s something that anybody can do at any moment.
The next time you feel like life is getting on top of you, stop, take a deep breath and think of three things that you currently have in your life for which you feel grateful. It doesn’t have to be riches or material things, sometimes it’s only about gratitude for the running water that comes out of your taps or the smile you get from the shopkeeper down the road!
Smile So Much That Your Eyes Crease
Every day, we are bombarded with perfected faces — smiles that never quite reach the eyes and ‘Blue Steel’ stares continuously pour out of online and offline media. A real smile, though, something that has been called by happiness researchers (what an excellent job!) the Duchenne Smile, packs a mighty punch.
When we smile and laugh so much that our face crinkles up, all sorts of stress hormone-combating endorphins are released. We also get the benefit of a relaxed nervous and cardiovascular system because to laugh, we have to breath out. Try it right now. Make the biggest smile you can, and the next time something bothers you only let out a big laugh!
Realise the importance of sleep
Sleep is important for various aspects of brain function. This includes cognition, concentration, productivity and performance. All of these are negatively affected by sleep deprivation. A study on medical interns provides a good example. Interns on a traditional schedule with extended work hours of more than 24 hours made 36% more serious medical errors than interns on a schedule that allowed more sleep.
Mental health issues, such as depression, are strongly linked to poor sleep quality and sleeping disorders. It has been estimated that 90% of people with depression complain about sleep quality. Those with sleeping disorders like insomnia or obstructive sleep apnea also report significantly higher rates of depression than those without. Finding the right bed and having a good nights kip is essential for your happiness.
Find Your Flow
‘Flow’ is one of those new self-development buzzwords, but far from being a fascinating marketing ploy, it is something worthy of attention. When you’re carrying out an activity that you enjoy, especially if it’s one that challenges you and asks you to use and increase your skills, you become engaged. And to become engaged means that you enter this state of flow or become present. Some people enter the flow so much that they lose their sense of time and even themselves.
States of flow are in everything from hobbies to vocations, look at Maria Konnikova. This successful author, psychologist and journalist unexpectedly found her flow when researching the discipline of poker for her latest book: ‘The Biggest Bluff’. She fell in love with the game so much that she’s now competing as a professional and even acts as an ambassador for a prestigious global poker platform.
Random acts of Kindness
In her book, ‘The How of Happiness’, notable professor Sonja Lyubomirsky, talks about the real power of practicing acts of kindness. Random, authentic acts of kindness carried out from the heart boost the mood of the giver, the recipient and can even improve the mood of people who witness the act.
Whenever you can do something to be kind to someone, it can be as simple as holding open a door for someone or offering up your seat on the bus or train to someone for the hell of it, do it. Plus, if you throw in a Duchenne Smile, you’ll get a double boost of happy-making endorphins!
Be Content with Good Enough
This one resonates with me a great deal, and I’m sure it will do the same with you, too. Instead of always striving for perfection, overachieving and overworking the simplest of activities (yes, you, competitive gym-goers I’m looking at you!), we do have to learn to be content with things that are ‘good enough’.
If you’re a striver like me, then, of course, you’ll keep striving, but instead of beating yourself up for failing to live up to your ridiculously high standards of perfection, learn to do the best that you can do in every moment. In time, you’ll realise that your version of good enough is perfect!
The nature of life is that it will have its high and low points; there’s nothing that any of us can do about that. However, I hope these tips will help you the next time you’re feeling overwhelmed. And remember, happiness is something that we all do deserve.