Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
Being happy is a positive, optimistic and wonderful feeling but sometime between childhood and adulthood many of us lose sight of what happiness feels like and can struggle to maintain it for long periods of time.
When we’re children playing tends to be an easy way to attain happiness, having friends, doing simple fun things that make us laugh or want to run and jump also help. It seemed easy to be happy then and we didn’t complicate life by over-thinking it or putting it on an elusive pedestal attainable to only a few. As adults we can lead complicated lives with a myriad of demands that fill our heads; take time to resolve, and wear us out both physically and emotionally. Happiness then might come in fleeting moments or be more difficult to maintain because through no fault of our own, we are often struggling just to get things done rather than concerning ourselves with how to do it in a happy way!
So, what can we do to achieve happiness and how do ‘happy’ people maintain this lovely state even when there isn’t necessarily anything to feel happy about?
1. Fun and laughter: Doing things just for fun isn’t just the domain of children, it can be within our grasp too. We can laugh at simple, humorous things as these are both ways to enjoy long moments of ‘sunny’ mood in any one day. Keeping funny logos/ expressions or jokes to hand either on your desk cut out from the newspaper or on your PC, can trigger a shift in your feelings very quickly. They have the same effect as a memorable photograph and lift you or make you smile. Even if you’ve had a rough day putting on a funny DVD even for a few minutes can massively ease tension and make you laugh
2. Touch base with the simple things: whether you see beauty in flowers, sunsets, early mornings, walks, watching the sea or lots of things, make a list of the things you love to do and enjoy. These are not so much actions that require lots of travel or effort, but simple joys such as hugs from your children, a good book, photographs etc. This is at the basis of ‘mindfulness’ too; the simple principle of staying in the moment and enjoying that rather than constantly thinking about the next thing you must be doing. Make a conscious choice to place these items within easy reach or sight, and spend a few moments every day just enjoying something – savour your first coffee in the morning or that glass of wine you have when you come home, laugh with a friend or try something new
3. Which brings me to hobbies: creative hobbies have the ability to stimulate Serotonin in our brains. This is the soothing ‘feel good’ chemical that makes us feel great so think about what you could do, or would like to do, that is creative. Maybe even think about what you liked to do as a child that you’ve stopped doing – I used to love dancing for example and now I’ve taken up Salsa. I also used to love drawing (so much that my mum had to paint over my wonderful offerings on my wall twice before we moved house), so now I use photographs to achieve the same thing. I cut them in to different shapes and fit them together like pieces of a jigsaw so that they make compilations and remind me instantly of the people I love.
4. Who you spend time with can make a big difference to happiness. Friends and family are obviously important but to some they can be positively toxic! So make a very private list and choose friends to contact at a given time; there may be one who is great at making you laugh, another to speak to when you’re down and another who is brilliant to walk and talk to. Not many of us have the luxury of one friend able to do everything for us in life and it can be equally difficult to expect this from our partners, so take the pressure off them and yourself by not expecting too much.
5. Doing something purposeful: finding your purpose in life can be another state we push ourselves to pursue and yet it can be as equally elusive so we berate ourselves if we don’t feel we’ve found it. Yet instead of aiming for something ‘as deep and profound as this’ do something purposeful instead. Volunteer at a Hospice, run a Charity race, sell cakes at the office and donate the proceeds, organise a raffle with prizes from your friends or colleagues at work – anything that makes you feel you’ve done something meaningful for you. It will bring a deep sense of satisfaction to you and that feeling tends to last.
6. Have something to look forward to: aim to have this more than once a year so not just the annual summer holiday. Life needs planning because we’re all so busy. Being impulsive is great but it’s no shame to plan your life either. Look in your diary and make a date once a month to do something you want to do – a spa treat is typical but a visit to the seaside, fish and chips on a park bench or a picnic and flying a kite are all fun and easy. It doesn’t have to cost money but it has to be fun!
To recap: take happiness down off its pedestal and ‘see’ it in your life now. Do simple things and take the time to look for them – a hug, an expression of affection or something beautiful you see, all have the ability to make you feel good. Creativity works to achieve longer, sustainable feelings of pleasure, as does giving something back to the community for people in need – but whatever it is you choose, the rules are, there are no rules!