I experienced a seminar with the Dalai Llama in 2004 that changed my outlook in life. He stated that the purpose of life is to be happy. Yet why is it so hard to attain? Perhaps in our frenzied pace we have neglected to focus on the how and why to happiness. Brainsync posted on the 12 Habits of the Happiest People on Earth which made a lot of sense to me. We are creatures of habit and our choice of habits direct our lives. Choose to be happy.
Recent research reveals that happiness is attainable, if we choose to cultivate it. While happiness might appear to be beyond our grasp, the new science of Happiness Creation says, “Yes! ” You can rewire your brain to experience higher happiness levels, and it’s not as difficult as you might think.
1. Limit Media (especially Social Media) Consumption. An experiment by The Happiness Research Institute (yes, there really is such a place!) found that after one week without Facebook, study participants reported significant increases in life satisfaction.
2. Zone Out. In this age of hyper-connectivity doing nothing may seem somehow wrong. But scientists have discovered that your brain actually needs downtime to reset itself. Emma Seppala, Ph.D. author of The Happiness Track says, “Instead of spending all your time focused intently on your field, make time for idleness, fun and irrelevant interests.” Downtime will make you more creative and leads to fresh ideas.
3. Be Your Own Best Friend. Beating yourself up is counter-productive to happiness. When your self-critic is on your back, ask, “Is this how I would speak to my best friend, my child or loved one?” Practice loving kindness and compassion on yourself. Make self-care, self-love and self appreciation a living mantra.
4. Be Selfish. It turns out that putting your own needs first may not be selfish after all. Research conducted by Harvard and University of California-San Diego professors found that people who are surrounded by happy people are more likely to become happy in the future. In fact, they found that happiness extends up to three degrees of separation! You are a unique and gifted individual. Your not pursuing your own happiness is actually detrimental to others. So go after your passion – your happiness will be infectious and others will thank you!
5. Dream About Your Future. Imagining your ideal future and writing it down (as if it’s already happened) induces positive feelings. As does creative visualization. See, feel, and embody the future you want to experience. Do this in meditation or your journal – or both. Spend 10 minutes per day envisioning and feeling how you would like your life to be. Dream it up and write it down in the present tense.
6. Pursue Happiness Instead of Success. Our culture equates busy-ness with success. But super-busy people are often stressed, overwhelmed and exhausted.And happier people get more done. We are conditioned to think that pursuing success will make us happy, but the opposite is true. Pursuing happiness will make you more energetic, motivated, creative, charismatic and fun to be with. Make a list of things that make you happy and build them into your daily routine. Start first thing in the morning. Ask yourself, “What can I do today to feel more happiness?” And then just do it.
7. Make Happiness a Habit. Routines and habits are great because they enable us to get things done without thinking. Devise some daily habits and routines that generate more happiness. Dr. Christine Carter, who I recently interviewed on Theatre of the Mind says, “Start with the easiest possible habit.” Think of something you can do that has a built in reward that would make you happy if you did it every day. An afternoon walk? Yoga? Dance? Meditation? Dreaming about your future?
8. Be Present. Some of the most happy, successful people share an extraordinary trait. They are able to be fully present. When you are with someone who is fully present, you feel their light shine on you, and for a brief moment you feel as if you are the most important person in the world. According to brain researchers, our mind wanders about 40% of the time. We tend to chase after the future or mull over the past, which often leads to unhappiness. Give yourself and others the gift of being fully present in the moment—even if it’s only for five minutes at a time. Research shows it will significantly raise your happiness set-point.
9. Practice the Power of “No.” Decide your top 5 priorities and say “no” to everything else. When you focus on what makes you happy and what is most important to you, life re-orders around your needs. You don’t need to be a brain scientist to know that when you do what you love, you are happiest.
10. Pay Attention to the Details. Why is buying a ten dollar bouquet of flowers for your home every week more happiness-inducing than purchasing a single forty dollar bouquet? Why will spacing several weekend getaways over the course of the year make you happier than a single two week long vacation? Author Ron Friedman explains that each of us has a “happiness baseline” and the best way to to remain above our baseline is to experience smaller, more frequent pleasures rather than a single, big boost.
11. Forget the Joneses. If you’re coveting your neighbor’s new car, longing to have the most expensive handbag or dying to one-up your co-worker’s tropical vacation, consider this research published in The Journal of Research in Personality. We’ve always heard that ‘things” do not make you happy, and now there’s data to prove it. Scientists found people who are highly dependent upon material possessions find it harder to be grateful, whereas those who are not reliant on possessions score much higher in life satisfaction.
12. Connect with Others. Evidence suggests that a sense of community and belonging is a fundamental motivator in human interaction. A paper published in the Psychological Bulletin of the American Psychological Association found that we have a need to form relationships, and those relationships have strong effects on our emotional well-being. Thinking of joining that club? Have a friend you haven’t spoken to in awhile? Need a date night with your spouse? Take the time to do the things that will connect you to others, it’s proven to make you happier!