I always thought a good job will give me happiness. Then followed by traveling abroad, having a family, and so on and so forth. It did have a fulfilling feeling but the fact was that it lasted only for a short while and there was again a thirst for more. The ups and downs of life were either too exciting or draining and I began my quest to find the answers to contentment that was long-lasting.
I researched, read, and reflected as much as I could on joy and bliss and the realization that came was “Happiness is a habit, it’s the choices we make on a daily basis so that we are pleased to be who we are.”
So happy people don’t HAVE the best of everything, they MAKE the best of everything. Being happy can have a major impact on the way we live our lives. It’s not just a good feeling but has several positive byproducts e.g. better work performance, greater productivity, a stronger immune system, positive relationships, better self-control, and innate ability to cope with the ups and downs of life.
Happiness can mean different things to different people but the habits that I am sharing have worked with CXOs, Entrepreneurs as well as Students.
Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, Professor at University of California, Riverside, and author of the bestseller, "The how of Happiness” reveals that circumstances of our life (such as education, wealth, marital status ) affect 10% of our happiness level. Our genetic footprint is 50% and the remaining 40% is determined by our conscious activity such as habits, values, and actions.
Happiness is not something readymade, it comes from your own actions - HH Dalai Lama
Over the last 7 years of my work in the field of happiness and working closely with thousands of people across countries, cultures, gender orientation and generations in workshops and coaching sessions, I distilled 10 habits you can plug into your daily life and increase your happiness quotient:
- Develop a growth Mindset: Happiness doesn’t come from achieving a goal; it comes from the act of progressing towards that goal. Growth mindset, a term coined by Carol Dweck, author of Mindset - The Psychology of success says that such people have the ability to realistically assess where they stand, accept their shortcomings and change their behavior for the better. If you think you have a fixed mindset; ask yourself: How can I change it? Another way of working on your mindset is to reflect on areas where things didn’t go well. What did you learn from that experience? The point is to reflect on the learning and take suitable actions.
- Self-love: A state of appreciation and unconditional acceptance for oneself that grows from our actions, high regard for our own needs and not sacrificing our well-being to please others is self-love. We live in an imperfect world with disruptions all around us. Social media adds to the collective sense of self-doubt continuously questioning our self-worth. We may have been told that we are not good enough. With self-compassion we manage to balance the shortcomings with love and optimism so to live a happy life, empower yourself by transforming limiting beliefs to powerful affirmations. “I love myself and I deserve a happy life.”
- Exercise: Movement contributes to greater happiness. There has been a lot of research and data that proves that as little as 7 minutes of exercise can uplift our mood. When we exercise it increases our happy hormones - endorphins, dopamine, and adrenaline. It helps build confidence and that leads to a happier and more empowered life. For people whose minds are not their best friends and deal with worrying, something as simple as an outdoor walk or bike ride can have an immediate meditation-like effect, says health psychologist Dr. Kelly McGonigal.
- Good Mood Food: If your plate is full of colorful fruits and veggies, you already are in a better mood zone. Antioxidants are health - and disease-protective bioactive chemical compounds produced by plants. A large Swiss survey reported significant associations between higher fruit and vegetable consumption and reduced distress levels. People who ate less than the five-servings-a-day recommendation had a higher likelihood of reporting stress and anxiety than those who didn’t. So watch out for your happiness could be on your plate. Always consult your nutritionist if you have specific concerns.
5. Invest in memories: This fast pace, the consumer-oriented world says “Buy your way to happiness!!” From insurance to cars, food to homes everywhere we look we are flooded with this message. A study at San Francisco State University found that people who spent money on experiences rather than material things were happier and felt the money was better spent. The thrill of buying can fade soon but the joy of experience can last for a lifetime!
6. Smart Goals: Big or small goals can be the stepping stone for a happier life. Specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, and time-bound ( SMART) goals help you get what you want in life. Tony Robbins says Progress = Happiness. So grab your pen and paper, reach out for support, hire a coach and design your life just the way you want!
7. Be Generous: It isn’t rocket science that doing nice things for people feels good. Giving activates an area in the brain linked to contentment. When we do something for someone else, we typically give away some of our personal resources, such as time, energy, or money. Some studies have found that people are happier when spending money on others than on themselves, and this happiness motivates them to be generous in the future. And even small acts of kindness, like picking up something someone else has dropped, make people feel happy. Generosity is also associated with benefits in the workplace, such as reducing the likelihood of job burnout, and in relationships, where it is associated with more contentment and longer-lasting romantic relationships.
8. Circle of influence: People need people and research shows that happy people increase your chances of being happy by 15%. A Harvard Medical School study of 5,000 people over 20 years found that one person’s happiness spreads through their social group even up to three degrees of separation and that the effect lasts as long as a year. So keep scheduling those happy hours with friends and create strong social support for yourself.
9. Practice Forgiveness: Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself. It’s a conscious choice we make to release feelings of hate and resentment. It does not mean reconciling with the event or person, it just means that you do not want to dwell on those negative feelings even in your own time and mind-space. Forgiveness benefits you more than it benefits the person you forgive. Would you like to start with forgiving yourself?
10. Expressing Gratitude: Thankfulness is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness, better relationships, and positive emotions. We can express gratitude in many ways. Applying it to the past (upbringing, experiences, education), present (home, family, career), and future (manifestations). It helps people refocus on what they have instead of what they lack. So pick a time, count your blessings and feel the bliss.
Happiness has a positive footprint in every aspect of our life from income to longevity. Leaving it to external events and other people will only cause frustration. You are in charge of your life and happiness. Grab a pen and become the author of your life. Ready?