If you think that life is meant to make us feel good all the time then you’ve got happiness all wrong.
Sure we have been raised to avoid emotions that make us uncomfortable and fight shy of feelings that are painful and meant not to be felt. But don’t we crumble at the first signs of stress only because we have learnt to be pain averse all the time?
Why is it so hard to be happy when it is what we all want?
Sometimes we think of happiness as something that happens to us naturally. Yet it’s often jinxed! There is always something to be disappointed about our past that would make us struggle. Unable to shrug off, we let our worst fears overtake our will to be happy. This is when we jump at blaming the situation we’re in. “If only things were different, then I’d be happy.”
Only that’s not how happiness really works! Worse! if you’re born with a grumpy side and bad temper, it’s highly likely that you will never get past living frayed tempers, some bad blood and frequent blow ups.
I wasn’t born an upbeat person either!
I never took myself to be a sprightly bouncy person; I never was and nothing helped me either to tell myself; ”Ain’t I borne happy”? As I grew up, gloom darkened. “Where does most of the happiness that everybody is talking about come from?” I’d often go nuts. “If I’d ever want to be happier, is it possible to get there?”
For me happiness meant more than a yellow smiley mocking weirdly. I wanted it to be my ‘secret sauce’ to help me to be and do my best. It meant living and enjoying the goose bump moments; it meant luxuriating and indulging life to the very best. It meant letting positive vibes do good things to me and perk up my brain and body.
Like most of us, I too was struck with the idea of being happy. I had so many different ideas about what it is and how to get it, though none seemed hands-on then. Naive and unmindful and left with little choices, I looked for ways to a more positive outlook before everything grew stale and miserable and unhappy!
Here are five of the best ones I found helpful.
Faking smile worsen everything-let go of it!
When everything was going downhill and nothing seemed doing well for me, strangely I felt little or no pity for myself for the rut I was in. Nothing would seem right to take the edge off my despair. Since I couldn’t do much, I simply endured self doubts and slogged.
It took me some time to figure out that a smile that happens all because of positive thoughts, has the ability to rekindle moods and would make me withdraw less.
I gave it a try!…
A bright cheerful one actually made me feel good. It lifted my spirits, raised my attentional flexibility and I would no longer worry much in upsetting situations.
Suddenly I was seeing the whole forest rather than just the trees.
Today, forcing a smile even when I don’t want to is enough to lift my mood and that surprisingly feels fine!
Go outside – Fresh air would brighten your day!
I guess Shawn Achor in ‘Happiness advantage‘ did share some pretty good news for those of us who worry so much about fitting new habits into already-busy schedules to make their lives easier and happier. Betting on better life experiences, his recommendation of 20 minutes is never short enough time to spend outside; something that you could fit into your commute or even lunch break!
I make time to go outside every day and spend 20 odd minutes in good weather. It elevates my mood, broadens thinking and cheers up my working memory. I am substantially happier when outdoors in all natural environments than when slugging around in urban territory.
And there’s more to it!
Did you know that ‘Happiness maximizes outdoors at 13.9 Celsius‘? That’s awesome! But then you simply have to live it to believe that. It’s fascinating what a small change in temperature and 20 minutes of fresh air can do to our well being.
For now I‘ve stopped living my fears. I flatter myself with brief pep moments when I go outside with crisp fresh air gently hugging me. I always find it happier outside. Early summer morning or a warm sunny wintry afternoon works just as fine for me.
Hang around with friends and family & fix your woes!
Togetherness and reaching out to family and friends is perhaps one of the top five regrets that most people take to their deathbeds. I never wanted to perish with a wish so gross. So I looked around for a lifeline and oddly was awestruck by the way Daniel Gilberts-a happiness expert– had spelled it out.
” We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends”.
Like love affinity means something different every time we say it. It’s what a acquaintance isn’t. You may find good mature ones but they don’t really last long or get you good deep rooted connections.
The cue worked darn well for me! I’m no whizz person but opening up to family and friends was enough to light up a smile in my life.
See… spending time in social circles becomes highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness! It makes a big difference to how we perceive happiness. Nothing else could actually buy us those pearly moments of happiness.
Plan trips but don’t take one!
This sounds crazy but as opposed to actually taking a holiday, planning for one or just a small break from work, tweaks our happiness. In fact the latter spikes during the planning stage of a vacation as the sense of anticipation simply turns exhilarating.
Not many of us may have the luxury of long holidays. Worse, scuttled weekends are grumpier. So, if you cannot take the time for a vacation or even a night out with friends, put something on calendar- even if it’s a month or a year down the road.
Then … whenever you’re feeling miserable and lost and need a boost of happiness to get over your woes, remind yourself of all the good things that are going to happen to you in a short while.
Even a small push that could light up your mood is worth a try! I’m sure you’ll feel stoked and happier afterwards.
Rewire your brain to stir up a lasting sense of happiness
When Ani Tenzin Palmo-an English woman who spent 12 years in a cave in Tibet quipped; “We do not know what a thought is, yet we’re thinking them all the time”; perhaps she had not fully understood the neural bases of states like happiness, gratitude, resilience, love, compassion and so forth. Donald Hebb- a Canadian scientist, put this in a better way; “Neurons that fire together, wire together”. What this literally means that with proper practice we can trick our neural machinery to build up a positive state of mind!
The fact that we can actually alter the way our brain works through meditation was a big surprise to me. It somewhat reassured me of what I already knew but could hold on to; “We feel and think today isn’t permanent”. Every thought of attempting to raise levels of happiness thereafter would be just as overwhelming.
Geez…today, in the minutes following meditation, what I experience is epic. Calmness and heightened awareness is what comes after this dazzling cytokine storm of positivity.
I certainly love to be happier, as I’m sure most of you too. But much as it is interesting, it is no surprise that different people have different ideas about how to get it. The truth is that happiness doesn’t occur by chance; it’s a constant choice, we have to make every second of every day.
I’m sure someday you too will just as well find peace and happiness at will and celebrate life as you ever wanted to.
Till then, keep smiling and face up…