Most people I come across wish they were ‘happier’, and in the past I was one of them. These days however, despite the currently challenging context of my life with my Mum so ill, I’m very happy with my happiness!
The lovely Action for Happiness website has lots of resources and information, based on sound research, on how we can become happier as people and as a society. Their 10 keys for happier living is a particularly useful resource.
Here’s my own list of 10 hints I know help to make me happier – it’s no surprise that there’s a huge amount of overlap between the lists!
1. Feel the Gratitude.
Notice and be grateful for what you have got – there’s something to be grateful for in every situation.
I’m noticing this keenly right now as I’m finding I’m very grateful for the opportunity to spend this loving time with my Mum in the hospice and to be able to say goodbye in the way I want. It’s also brought me closer to my siblings and I’ve become very grateful for the happy childhood and loving family I have.
2. Do what you’re good at.
For years I tried to be someone I wasn’t in an organisation that prized getting things done over listening and understanding. That doesn’t mean to say I think getting things done isn’t important, but I’m just not as good at it as seeing, hearing, understanding and seeing patterns.
I used to beat myself up because I never seemed to be able to ‘get things done’ in the way I ‘should’. Now I’m proud to listen, understand and help people to get out of their own way. Play to your strengths, no-one can be good at everything!
3. Spend time with people you like.
Connection is so important, and as much as possible spend the time with people who inspire, energise and accept you, and politely minimise the time with those who drain, belittle or manipulate. Our attitude and approach can be contagious, so watch what you’re both giving and receiving.
4. Give to, and help others.
It hugely helps to get out of our own ‘stuff’ and give to others instead. The research is clear that we’re happier giving than receiving.
I saw this beautifully on my birthday this year – my kids were SO excited to give me my present, and I was happy to see the joy it gave them too. I’ve also really noticed that when I’ve been feeling sorry for myself or down about my Mum, having a coaching call where I’ve just left my stuff at the door and been wholly present for my client has done wonders for my mood.
5. Be mindful.
Be fully present and notice each moment, in all its sensory glory. This present moment is the only one that exists, so be in it! So many of our fears, worries, anger and regrets are just about future imaginings, or past remembered events.
6. Stretch yourself.
Learn and grow – do different things, see different places, meet new people. It doesn’t have to be something big, but don’t allow yourself to stagnate with same old, same old.
7. Balance the negatives with the positives.
The glass is half empty AND half full. Remember, our mind is a bit like google – if your search term is ‘everything is terrible’, that’s what your search will throw up. If you search ‘everything is wonderful’, well, that’s what you’ll get. Neither is true, but a bit of optimism will take you further and help you to be happier.
8. Look after the basics.
Eat well, drink enough water, get enough sleep and move your body!
9. Lots of little things add up to a big thing.
Don’t set yourself up to fail – a little and often, will bring you more success and happiness, whether it’s changing habits, eating, tidying the house, finances.
Start small, keep building – it’s the difference between, say, saving a little money away each week against hoping you’ll win the lottery. Or getting out for a 10 minute walk each day rather than failing in your intention to go for a 10k run!
10. Practise acceptance.
Accept how things are, rather than hold onto the fantasy of how things/you/others ‘should’ be. Acceptance is not the same as complacency, or giving up. But it is what it is, and you are who you are, right now.
And the sooner you can accept that reality, the more energy, focus, perspective and resources you’ll have to make things better. It allows you to work with what you’ve got, rather than fight against what you don’t.
Of course, these aren’t the only ways, but there’s good research behind these too. So, how do you help yourself to be happier?
And remember, for everyone who signs up for my free e-course, I make a donation to Action for Happiness too.