We spend lots of time searching outside ourselves for things that make us happy. People in our society are encouraged to think that happiness lies in success, money and good looks, but studies show that the key to wellbeing lies closer to home. Here’s how to boost your happiness levels:
1. Spend time with the people closest to you
Humans are intensely social beings, but it’s the quality of friendships that counts not the quantity. Building strong relationships with close friends and family have a greater impact on your happiness levels that any amount of friends on Facebook or party invitations.
2. Explore your interests.
Devote time to things you really love and you will feel a real sense of satisfaction and wellbeing. Finding or rediscovering hobbies that fulfil you is one of the keys to real contentment.
3. Be more creative.
When we are engaged in creative pursuits and give them our full attention – be that writing, painting, gardening, baking or being in nature – we experience a sense of deep contentment. The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes this state as “flow”’. Children often enter into this state during play, but as adults we have to actively pursue it. It has to be something you are actively involved with. Passive entertainment, like watching TV, surfing the net or a computer game won’t cut it. In fact, they have the opposite effect and can actually make you unhappy. So ditch the screen and get creative!
4. Live by your personal values.
The values you live by act as a guide to help you negotiate the ups and downs of life without being thrown off balance. They help you to make the right decisions and help you stay true to yourself. Take time to write down your five key values and refer to them whenever you are tempted to stray.
5. Laugh more.
As children we laugh around 200 times a day, but this drops to just 15 times once we are adults. Laughter not only decreases the stress hormones and improves your resistance to disease, it also triggers the release of endorphins thus promoting an overall sense of wellbeing.
6. Talk about how you feel.
Sharing your thoughts and fears with a trusted friend or family member will help you feel supported and unburdened. Just saying your feelings out loud – and acknowledging that you feel them – will help enormously.
7. Live in the present.
Dwelling on the past and ruminating on what did or didn’t happen does not make for happiness. Similarly, worrying about the future is bad for your mental health. Focus on the ‘now’ and you will start to take responsibility for your life and feel more positive.
8. Give to others.
Giving your time or sharing your skills with others can be extremely fulfilling and will help you to see things from a different perspective. Volunteering for a charity, or helping out in your local community, can be a great way to bring more joy in to your life. Even doing a small thing for someone else has a big effect on lifting your mood.
9. Take time to reflect.
Stepping back from your life and taking stock of your relationships and behaviour can result in a more fulfilled life. Examining negative thoughts or bad habits and thinking about other ways of reacting, or looking at why we feel the way we do, may not always been comfortable or pleasant, but it can lead to real change and a more optimistic outlook. Try mindfulness – either from a book or in a group setting – to practise being in the present.
10. Practise gratitude.
Write down three things you are grateful for every morning. You’ll find it is more difficult to hold on to anger when you register the good in your life. Look for unexpected surprises and notice the small things that bring joy in to your life. You will find your overall outlook on life shifts.
[promo image=”https://www.livability.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/fullness-of-life-day2-750×350.jpg” alt=”Happiness Course training”]The Happiness Course is an accessible and participatory series of four workshops that explores the nature of happiness and examines practical ways to live a more fulfilling and meaningful life. Find out more about the Course here.