People's ultimate goal will always be the pursuit of happiness. Most seek it from outside sources such as relationships, jobs, money and homes. Unsurprisingly, when these goals are met, some are still left feeling unsatisfied, unhappy and a little empty on the inside. True happiness, otherwise known as joy, can only come from within, not without. There are a million and one ways to be truly happy. Read on for a few.
The Secret of an Optimist
Happy, optimistic people tend to lead happy, optimistic lives, and by no coincidence. What goes by unknown however is that there is much more to ‘optimism’ than just putting on a happy face. There are actually personality traits that are specific to optimistic people. Some of these include:
- An optimistic explanatory style where negative events are always explained in a positive light.
- The belief that positive events will last, affect even their loved ones, and that they are in fact the ones responsible for creating these positive experiences in their lives.
- A healthy sense of self worth.
- A good level of confidence, which makes them more willing to take risks to go out and get what they want/ achieve their goals.
It is also worth noting that optimists tend to be much healthier than most, with immune systems affected less by stress and their stronger ability to more easily make healthier lifestyle decisions (such as quitting smoking, etc).
Mindfulness is a practice that allows you to be happy through a witnessing, connection and acceptance of thoughts, feelings and actions in the present moment. It is the process of paying attention to the ‘now’, a time neglected by most. If you always live in the past or future you are never able to relax, and are thus robbed of the possibility of feeling happy, right here, right now, in the present moment.
Two of the most useful ways to develop your level of mindfulness are meditation and walking. When meditating, sit somewhere quiet and pay attention to the breath, following the sensation as it moves in through your nose, into your lungs and out again. Thoughts will come up, but just refocus yourself back onto your breath as they do. When walking, also pay attention to your breath, but equally to environment you are walking in. Look at the trees, the sky, and notice any sounds or physical sensations (such as the wind on your face). Get lost in the moment.
Laugh Out Loud
Recent studies at the University of California demonstrated that their subjects started to feel biologically happier after watching funny videos. They experienced:
- A significant drop in stress hormones like Cortisol.
- A rise of 87% in their growth hormone level (strengthening the immune system)
- A rise of 27% with their feel-good endorphin levels.
Just anticipating a fun, happy event could raise pleasure-inducing hormones, such as endorphins and lower stress hormone levels, leaving one feeling physically well and a whole lot happier.
A study out of Duke University in the USA discovered that people felt happier, more focused and relaxed when they concentrated on doing one thing at a time rather than multi-tasking. Instead of always trying to do more than one thing at a time, focus your attention on the task at hand in the present moment. This concept is a similar one to the one discussed on mindfulness.
Get a Pet
Science has shown that animals can play a direct role in reducing stress levels that often prevent happiness from coming in. Their cry for attention keeps us in the present moment, exercise with them keeps us fit and cuddling a pet can physically lower cortisol levels and boost natural endorphins which leaves you feeling happier and healthier all-round.
Be Kind to Yourself
Our self-esteem and the way in which we talk to ourselves (whether it be in a kind or critical way) has a direct impact on the level of our happiness. Next time you start to mentally beat yourself up, stop for moment, take a few breaths and consider all of the positive qualities you carry that others admire in you. Write them down, and keep the list on you. And if there are qualities you would like to have but feel you don’t, write them down too. Like an actor, the more you say the lines, and the qualities, the more they will become part of your truth.
Find Your True Calling
If you are miserable in your job, you may like to consider exploring other alternatives. Even if that means earning and accumulating less in the short term. Find something that you really love to do, research the area as a prospect for work, and design a plan on how to get from where you are into that dream job. You may need to study at night, or start from the bottom again to get there, but the more relaxed, happy person you develop into as a consequence will be well worth it.
Studies out of the University of Michigan recently showed that those who give were less sad and depressed compared to non-givers. It is thought that the act of giving lowers the level of stress hormones in the body (that may cause unhappiness), and induces an endorphin rush that leaves the individual with a natural high.