Conversations in the therapy room and on social media this week have revolved around happiness and how to pursue it. Now there's a deep and meaningful conversation.
The definition of happiness is "the state of being happy".
Most of us probably don't believe we need a formal definition of happiness; we know it when we feel it. We often use the term to describe a range of positive emotions, including joy, pride, contentment, and gratitude. For me, it encompasses love and freedom too.
In her 2007 book The How of Happiness, positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky elaborates, describing happiness as "the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one's life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile."
So can we find happiness by creating little moments of calm that bring about these positive feelings and a sense of purpose to our days?
Being kind to yourself isn't always easy, and loving yourself enough to give yourself five minutes a day can sometimes be the hardest thing in the world.
But it's worth rethinking and changing your mindset. Research from Harvard University shows happier people benefit from longer lives. In fact, joyful people live, on average, past the age of 85. And connection has the biggest impact on people's happiness, more than money or fame.
So now I've made a case for adding more joy to your day; here are five simple ways to make you happier.
#1. Take a moment of stillness
When you wake up, what are your first thoughts? It's not a trick question! Most people tend to think about everything they need to get done or immediately think about something they dread. The modern tendency is to check your phone, which can lead to checking emails and feeling overwhelmed. If this way, we are in a negative headspace before we even get ourselves out of bed.
In the world of positive psychology, a few themes emerge every time happiness is studied. Among those recurring themes, we find gratitude.
So what if you had a moment of stillness before getting out of bed? Instead of seeing the day as a list of chores, recognise it as a gift. A day full of possibility and yours to make the most of. Then you can find something positive to look forward to. This might be meeting a friend for lunch or knowing your favourite TV show is on after work.
Everything we experience can be a stressor if we choose to see it that way. But when you search for the benefits or silver linings in your life, you may be surprised to discover a lot of good. Choose to be thankful today to cultivate happiness.
#2. Create balance and overcome burnout.
How are you supposed to have the energy to be happier if you're stressed, exhausted, and miserable from work? It will be really hard. Adding new skills to help you be happier will take time and energy. So it's helpful first to create a better work-life balance.
Learn to relax! Regularly schedule time for activities that you enjoy, such as practising yoga, gardening or reading. Hobbies can help you relax, take your mind off of work and recharge your batteries. Maybe you can discover activities you can do with your partner, family or friends — such as hiking, dancing or taking cooking classes.
#3. Create an effective to-do list
A common reason to be unhappy is that our stress levels are too high. If you are too busy and feeling overwhelmed, re-writing an effective to-do list can do wonders for your mental health as well as your productivity.
Write a master list - this is a list of all the things, even the little ones. Then break down the bigger tasks into smaller steps. For example, instead of 'plan holiday', try 'research accommodation' or 'book flights'. Go back through your list and rank them by order of their urgency. So you could choose numbers 1-5, or colour code them as:
1. Important and urgent
2. Important but can wait.
4. Can be delegated.
5. Can be deleted.
Finally, take it one day at a time, and work through your high-priority tasks, as well as a few tasks that you know you can complete quickly to give you a sense of achievement.
#4. Sun exposure
When sunlight streams in through the windows in the morning, it increases the production of serotonin (a feel-good chemical). It starts the feeling of wakefulness. Without natural sunlight, we feel sluggish; hence, many of us feel exhausted in winter and have a spring in or step in summer.
If you can't get outside during the day, try sleeping with your curtains open if you need to wake early, or move your desk close to a window and notice how the afternoon sun can give you a pick-me-up.
#5. Move your body
Feel-good hormones are released when we exercise and get our heart rate up, and stress-related hormones are broken down. You can do an exercise class, or if time is limited, do a few star jumps or put on your favourite song and dance around your house like no one is watching!
If I haven't convinced you to get moving yet, recent research has labelled sitting down the 'new smoking habit' as it can lead to back pain and serious health conditions. So if you can, get up, get moving, and get your heart pounding!
Reflexology and happiness
And if time is not an issue, why not book yourself in for a relaxing treatment?
When you are happy and at peace, your body feels better, and you're able to respond to challenging situations in more effective ways.
With the constant stress we experience every day, we need that extra something that helps us relax, feel happy and energised. The secret to a happy and energised life is to have our hormones in balance, namely; endorphins, serotonin/melatonin, dopamine, and oxytocin.
The great news is that reflexology is a great way to help our bodies release these 'happy hormones'. The production of "happy hormones" through reflexology is possible just by activating three reflexes – the hypothalamus, pineal, and pituitary.
So, sit back, relax and get HAPPY.
"Happiness is your nature. It is not wrong to desire it.
What is wrong is seeking it outside when it is inside"
- Ramana Maharshi.