I meet people every day who want to be happier. Happiness fluctuates daily but we all have a baseline level we return to, despite the ups and downs life brings.
Happiness is determined partly by genetics, your external circumstances and your thoughts. The quality of your thoughts has a major influence on the quality of your life and this is the part you can influence with your behavior.
Even before I became a therapist I was interested in the concept of happiness. I read Gretchen Rubin’s “The happiness project” way back in university. I have since read countless other books and studies on mental health and happiness. I have surmised a short list of what I have learned, and consistently work on putting into practice, in my life.
It is important to realize that happiness is NOT a destination, it requires consistent effort for the rest of your life.
Here is where to focus these efforts:
People who practice gratitude are happier; a daily practice of intentionally looking for things to be grateful for has shown to have a very positive effect on your brain after just a short time. You can write it down or tell your partner or friend. I like to do it with my kids at suppertime.
People who help others report higher levels of happiness. This can be as small as paying for someone’s coffee at Tim Hortons. It is anything that focuses on other people instead of focusing on yourself.
Having healthy and meaningful social connections, especially ones that you can be your authentic self with, are so important to health and happiness. Healthy relationships lead to happier people.
Recognizing the connection between physical and mental health. When we do not take care of our physical body such as not sleeping enough or eating poorly, we always see an impact mentally. Moving your body has been shown to be as effective as an antidepressant medication in many studies. Our mood improves after exercising, this is undeniable.
I recently heard about a certain “accident of neuroscience” that explains something interesting. It states that we strongly crave things we do not even enjoy as much as we thought we would (ie. a certain food) and we don’t crave things that are actually good for us that we are actually very happy to have when we have it (ie. Exercise).
This is a good indication that we need to be mindful and purposeful with how we go through life. Ensure you are paying attention to what emotions you want to create within yourself and choose the behaviours that will lead to those emotions.
If you want to find more meaning in your life and learn to seek happiness from within, booking an appointment with a therapist can help.