Are you happy? Have you ever been happy? Is anyone really happy? The answer to all three, is yes. Happiness isn’t something you find…it’s something you recognize and embrace. I say “embrace,” because the truth is, happiness is within each and every one of us.
I get a bit bummed out when I think about how many people spend a big chunk of their lives searching for happiness. Is it found in material possessions? Is it found in our career? How about our family? The answer to these questions is of course…yes. Of course, material things cannot bring you happiness, nor can a career or even your family. What? What I mean by this is that one can have everything they’ve ever dreamed of — perfect house, lots of material wealth, a great family, and still be unhappy. Or, perhaps better stated — they still feel unhappy.
The reason one can have everything and still be unhappy, is because to let yourself be happy, you have to let it bubble up through you and you have to be conscious of a state of happiness. “I’m so lucky — I have everything and it’s enough — it’s good…I’m good…I’m happy in my life!”
Here are 5 simple habits to help us accept the happiness we already have:
1). Practice Gratitude
There’s a reason this one keeps coming up — being thankful and showing gratitude absolutely does make us feel more positive about ourselves and, with our life. Psychology studies conclude that gratitude is directly associated with happiness, because it is a conscious turning of the mind toward being happy with what we already have. It’s an acceptance of contentedness and this takes away the stress of always wanting more.
Some experts suggest making a list of at least 5 things that you’re grateful for each day, however, you may not even need to do this on a daily basis.
Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, a professor of psychology at the University of California, says keeping a gratitude journal may be more effective if you update your gratitude journal once per week, where you can write as many things you can think of, or, limit it to just 3 – 5.
Read Harvard’s: The Grateful Live May be a Longer One
2). Be Good to Others
Kindness is king. Be good to other people and, be good to yourself. Choose your words carefully, being mindful not to hurt people’s feelings. Show compassion and generosity, even when it doesn’t seem to benefit you at all, because kindness will end up benefiting you in ways you may not have ever imagined.
New research suggests that once we start doing nice things for other people, we might not want to stop. Wouldn’t it be great if we could walk into a store and buy lifelong happiness? The idea’s not as fanciful as it sounds—as long as whatever we buy is meant for someone else. Two recent studies suggest that giving to others makes us happy, even happier than spending on ourselves. What’s more, our kindness might create a virtuous cycle that promotes lasting happiness and altruism. – Greater Good, Berkeley University
3). Replace Negative Words with Positive Words
Whether we’re cognizant of it or not, the words we use can quite literally change our brain.
In their book, Words Can Change Your Brain, Neuroscientist Andrew Newberg, MD, and neuroscience researcher Mark Robert Waldman, write that “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.”
An excerpt from their book tells us how using the positive words can literally change our reality:
“By holding a positive and optimistic [word] in your mind, you stimulate frontal lobe activity. This area includes specific language centers that connect directly to the motor cortex responsible for moving you into action. And as our research has shown, the longer you concentrate on positive words, the more you begin to affect other areas of the brain.
Functions in the parietal lobe start to change, which changes your perception of yourself and the people you interact with. A positive view of yourself will bias you toward seeing the good in others, whereas a negative self-image will include you toward suspicion and doubt. Over time the structure of your thalamus will also change in response to your conscious words, thoughts, and feelings, and we believe that the thalamic changes affect the way in which you perceive reality.”
So when we speak and think, we should try to use positive, healing and compassionate words in place of any negative ones we might be tempted to use.
4). Savor Things
Passion! Be passionate about something and savor it. Whether it’s the smell of flowers, the taste of our favorite food, or the sounds of upbeat music, be present in the moment and savor the experience. When we mindfully focus on something — what we see, hear, smell, touch or taste, we enhance our enjoyment of life.
Make it a habit to savor at least one thing in your day and keep expanding on that.
“Perfect happiness is a beautiful sunset, the giggle of a grandchild, the first snowfall. It’s the little things that make happy moments, not the grand events. Joy comes in sips, not gulps.” – Sharon Draper
5). Stop Over-thinking
Studies show that people who over-think tend to be more stressed and this stress can negatively impact our decision making abilities. When we live too much within our own minds and ruminate on things, it invariably leads to negativity, which then takes away from our happiness. One of the best ways to combat this is to be conscious of when you’re doing just that. Be mindful of it and ask yourself “will this matter to me in a week…month or even 5 years from now?…” Then do something else to distract yourself — this could be meditation, prayer, dancing, knitting, exercising — anything to get your mind off the thing worrying you and onto something more positive.
Other things you can do to help embrace the happiness within you:
- Perform random acts of kindness
- Surround yourself with positive people
- Pray or meditate
- Be curious and learn new things
- Take charge of your physical and mental health.
Happiness isn’t some elusive pipe dream. Happiness is just something we let ourselves be. Happiness is something we stop looking for in people, places or things and realize that its been within us the whole time.