March 20th was International Day of Happiness!
I have a question for you: How often do you feel like a ‘room without a roof’? According to Pharrell Williams, this “space without limit” feeling is universally achievable. But, for many of us, limitless happiness takes a little work. So, what are some of the best habits to practice for feeling happy everyday?
MANAGE THE DOWN DAYS
You know the days. Those days when you’re telling yourself the ‘I’m not good enough’ story (which we all have, by the way). The days where things seem to go from bad to worse.
It’s very easy to get trapped at this point because many of us start feeling bad for feeling bad. There are enough external pressures to always to be ‘up’ and cheerful, without applying internal pressure too. Acknowledge you’re feeling sub-optimal, and do a quick stocktake.
If you can change things, take action. If not, do something that helps to calm you, comfort you or cheer you up (even a little bit).
Be gentle with yourself and don’t splatter your down day over your bystanders. Remember, no-one can ‘make’ you feel anything. You have all the controls. Which reminds me…
DON’T BELIEVE EVERYTHING YOU THINK
Much unhappiness is caused by paying too much attention to our thoughts. Our minds are constantly telling us stories to explain the world around us. Many times these stories are accurate, but unfortunately, whenever we don’t have enough data, our mind just fills in the gaps.
Let’s face it, we really don’t know why they didn’t say hello to us this morning. We really don’t.
As soon as we heard our minds saying thinks like, “They ALWAYS let me down” or “She NEVER keeps her promises” we need to reach for the metaphorical handbrake.
Get in the habit of asking yourself if that’s strictly true. Remember it’s just a story you’re telling yourself. You can even give the story a name: “Oh, it’s the ‘I do everything around here’ story”. It is very unlikely that things NEVER or ALWAYS happen. There are always exceptions. Remembering to look for (and recognize) the exceptions means much happier states of mind.
KEEP WHAT ‘SPARKS JOY’
In her book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, Marie Kondo recommends a (once-off) festival of tidying where you gather categories of belongings into ginormous piles, pick items up one-by-one and ask a simple question: “Does it spark joy?”
If it does, you keep it. If it doesn’t, you can let it go.
Just imagine how it would be if every item around you had a happy association. Out would go that hideous fondue set from Aunt Bertha or those pajamas from your ex. Because, according to Marie Kondo, a gift has done its job once it’s received. The freedom!
Oh, and on a side note, this totally applies to the humans in your life too.
EVERYONE’S DOING BETTER THAN ME
The International Day of Happiness website has a great downloadable resource containing 10 keys to happier living. Each key strategy has been inspired by the latest scientific happiness research and there are some excellent quotes.
The one thing that I recognized most from working with many different clients is “Don’t compare you insides with other people’s outsides”. This is easy to do.
I remember consulting at a very high-end corporate where everyone was incredibly polished and successful looking. One by one, they would come in and say, “Everyone else is doing okay, but I’m falling apart”.
The thing is, you can’t know what is going on inside someone else, especially if you only have their outside as your guide. Chances are, if you’re finding something difficult or challenging, other people are too. I’m talking work, parenting, studying, teaching, being single, being in a relationship…
So don’t compare Jimmy Fallon’s highlights, with your every day. He probably has down days too.
WHAT WENT WELL?
One of the pioneers of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, outlines some quick and easy strategies that raise your well-being and lower your depression in his book, Flourish.
A simple exercise to do in the 10 minutes before you go to sleep every night is the ‘what-went-well’ exercise. Every night, you write down three things that went well and why they went well (e.g I finished most of my important tasks today because I took time to plan in the morning or I didn’t yell at my partner this morning because I got up a little earlier and made sure I ate breakfast). This will greatly improve your mood over time.
According to Sonja Lyubomirsky in The How of Happiness, up to 40% of our happiness is within our power to change.
Being grateful, taking responsibility, blaming less, learning to forgive and yes, even practicing random acts of kindness, all predictably increase our happiness.
Have a happy day and go well everyone!