It’s the dawn of a new year and that means new possibilities and a fresh start to make your dreams a reality. As with many of us, one such dream is to be happy. Note: I didn’t say to “find” happiness, but, to “be” happy. There’s a difference.
Finding happiness is often elusive, because what we need to actually be happy, is usually right in front of us — so why search for something you probably already have?
Everyone’s path to happiness is different. Based on the latest research, we have identified 10 Keys to Happier Living that consistently tend to make life happier and more fulfilling. Together they spell “GREAT DREAM”.
Start off the new year by committing yourself to achieving at least the 10 primary keys to a happier life.
Lead off your mission to be happier in 2018 by taking the Action For Happiness pledge: “I will try to create more happiness and less unhappiness in the world around me.”
We’ve included the GREAT DREAM action steps below. Before you read on, you may find some of these action steps to be rather simplistic and wonder how they can lead to a happier you. However, rest assured that often, the simplest solution is the best solution.
Do things for other people. This can be volunteering to help the less fortunate, or, as simple as vowing to do a few extra acts of kindness throughout the day. If you can bring a smile to someone else’s face, you’ll find a smile on your own.
Try to make a connection with more people; make new friends, visit an elderly person who may be lonely, or, take time to reach out to an old friend you haven’t spoken to in a while. Connect with other people. Science has confirmed that having meaningful relationships is a key to happiness and, may even prolong life.
Take care of your body, and your body will take care of you. Being physically active is a major factor in people feeling good physically and mentally. If you can’t join a gym, take a long walk a few times a week or, dance around your house listening to happy music — anything that gets you up and moving.
The reason happiness is often within our reach, but we fail to see that, is because we become unaware. In a sense, we lose touch with our true self. Remedy this by stopping to take notice and focusing on being more mindful — be more in the moment and appreciate the beauty in life. See that adorable Dog playing in the park? Watch him — be aware of his innocence and happiness as he plays and let that feeling of joy wash through you. It’s the little things in life that can bring us the most joy.
5. Trying out
Keep learning new things and have a sense of awe and wonderment. Learning affects our state-of-mind in many positive ways, because it keeps us curious and exposes us to new ideas. It also helps us to feel like we’re accomplishing something, which gives us more purpose. There are many ways to learn new things, so it doesn’t have to be a formal type of learning…you can join a club, learn to play the piano or paint, join a book club, etc.
Have goals that you look forward to. Happiness doesn’t just happen – it comes from thinking, planning and pursuing things that are important to us and goals are a major part of embracing our happiness. Having short and long-term goals helps focus our attention, keep us active and, give us something to look forward to. Try to set some goals for things you really want to achieve and always be mindful to not make them too lofty, especially when starting off.
Find ways to bounce back. We can’t always choose what happens in life, but we can often choose our own attitude in response to what happens. Being resilient is far from easy, but it is achievable and research shows that resilience can be learned like many other skills. One way you can build your resilience is to remain mindful and to have a support network in place — people who will encourage and support you.
(see Action for Happiness step on resilience to learn more)
Have a positive outlook and approach to life. Positive emotions, such as gratitude, contentment and inspiration, are emotions we all need to cultivate throughout life. Here again, research shows that regularly feeling good creates an ‘upward spiral’ that perpetuates itself. Yes, we do need to be realistic about life’s ups and downs, but regularly focusing on the good and positive helps us to, as the saying goes, “see the glass as half full.” Try smiling more and looking on the brighter side of things and don’t let the annoyances of life bring you down. This is where “counting your blessings” really comes into play.
Be comfortable and content with who you are, because none of us are perfect, nor should we try to be. Dwelling on our perceived flaws and “what we’re not rather than what we’ve got,” just makes life more difficult and happiness becomes even more elusive. Learning to accept ourselves as we are, helps us to get into a more comfortable groove — we stop trying to constantly reinvent ourselves and this acceptance of who we are, puts us more at ease in the world.
Be part of something bigger. When we have meaning and purpose in our lives we tend to be happier and feel more in control of life. When people have a greater meaning in their lives, they typically feel less stress and anxiety because they have a sense of the bigger picture. How do we find meaning? That depends on the person, because it’s unique to all of us, but perhaps it’s in your religious faith, being in a career you love, your family, etc. The primary goal though, is to be connected to something bigger than ourselves.
Being happy in life is so often a choice and as is usually the case, some minor tweeks to our thought process, emotions and behavior in daily life, is all that it takes.
These 10 keys are evidence-based and very easy to do. For a full list of actions and suggestions visit Action for Happiness .