It seems from an early age, we are often told the most important thing in life is to be happy. But the things that make me happy – like reading a good book – may epitomise boredom for some, whereas I can’t imagine dedicating hours to a computer game although I know it can deliver that sense of enjoyment and pleasure that is certainly part of the happiness equation for some. These experiences, however pleasurable, are fleeting though, and on their own don’t create lasting happiness.
Can we expect to be happy all of the time? Of course not. Life is made up of light and shade. We can only know what happiness feels like if we experience the opposite at times – and we all do.
Though difficult to define, feeling generally happy is something far more complex than a series of pleasurable experiences linked together. In my opinion, there’s a great irony in the phrase ‘the pursuit of happiness’, because I believe that the more you seek it, the more elusive it becomes. Instead, create the right environment for happiness to flourish. Get the soil right, plant the right seeds and you will reap the harvest.
Here are my top 10 tips.
1. Get the basics right
Some things are fundamental to feeling happy. Getting enough sleep, eating a nutritious balanced diet and getting enough exercise to keep you healthy – this is the soil bit. So often we take our bodies for granted, but when you actually get down to the nitty gritty, without our body working properly life can become restrictive, and that can make us feel anxious, down and stressed. Yes, illness and disease happen, but we can give our bodies a fighting chance if we treat them with respect. It’s also a proven fact that the more active you are the more likely you are to feel positive about life.
2. Prioritise the positive relationships in your life and minimise the negative ones
The more you’re around positive people, the more time you invest in those you love and who love you back, the happier you will feel. People who exude negativity, make you feel tense or uncomfortable because of what they say or how they behave and generally bring you down can be very emotionally draining.
3. Prioritise positive experiences over material possessions
Stuff – we’re surrounded by it, we’re encouraged that we need more of it to make us happy, and yes some material possessions do enhance our lives. But so many of us have too much of it that it weighs us down. Clear out the clutter and you’ll be surprised at how much more efficiently life works and how much clearer you can think. I believe experiences enjoyed with people I love to be with are worth far more.
4. Do something new and challenging
Doing something you’ve never done before, learning a new skill or challenging yourself to move out of your comfort zone can be immensely rewarding. It can help you meet new people and it keeps you alert and engaged in life.
5. Give something back
Reach out, get involved, make someone else feel good and the light you bring into their lives will shine down on you too.
6. Cut down your exposure to negative news
Often I find people are checking news websites constantly (it’s almost an addiction), so they are confronted by a stream of upsetting events that they feel powerless to influence. It can skew our view of life to the negative, so we forget that there are good people in the world who do good things. Give it a try by cutting down time on negative news.
7. If you don’t like it, change it if you can
Some things can’t be changed and learning to accept that can be liberating. But focusing on one thing we can change about our lives and doing it gives us purpose, grows confidence and empowers us to believe that we can go on to change a whole host of other things.
8. Stop comparing
It’s a natural human instinct to compare yourself to someone else, but with the explosion of social media in our lives, and ‘flawless people’ imagery everywhere, it’s easy to feel inadequate on a daily basis. It’s worth remembering those perfect lives projected at us are often a constructed reality. Forge your own path, be true to who you are and never allow others to make you feel less than you are.
9. Be busy, but not rushed
Having a full and purposeful life is an important part of feeling motivated and happy, but when it tips over into having too much to do and not enough time to do it, that’s when stress starts to assert itself. Learning how to manage your time effectively and learning how to say ‘no’ are great stress relievers.
10. Connect with your inner child again
Remember that carefree innocence of childhood? Frivolous as it may sound, doing something ‘silly’ can help you to reconnect with a time when you didn’t overanalyse everything and you just allowed yourself to live in the moment. Sing at the top of your voice in the car, dance around the living room – anything that makes you laugh and brings moments of joy into your life.