5 Proven Ways to Be Happier Right Now

by Gail Jankovski on March 30

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Happiness is a choice. Kind of a cliché, I know, but I came across this list of life advice on Raptitude, and #43 made me feel a bit better about throwing it out there: Almost every cliché contains a truth so profound that people have been compelled to repeat it until it makes you roll your eyes. But the wisdom is still in there. As I have on occasion been referred to as a “walking cliché,” it is good to know there may be some wisdom to be found beneath the platitudes.

So happiness is a choice we must make, it is not just going to drop out of the sky and hit us on the head—but how do we go about making that choice? How does one choose happiness? It’s not really something we can just go pick off a shelf and take home, and the definition varies from person to person.

While most people probably have an idea of what they think happiness looks like for them, one of the biggest mistakes people make is projecting that into the future. You know the thinking: I will be happy when I lose weight, or get a job, or find a relationship.

This brings me to another of my favorite quotes (okay, clichés – I am taking #43 to heart here): A happy life is just a string of happy moments. But most people don’t allow the happy moment, because they’re so busy trying to get a happy life. -Abraham

I think it’s true that happiness can pass us by while we go searching for it. We get a picture in our heads of what a happy life looks like and delude ourselves into believing we can’t be happy until we have achieved our goals. But is unhappiness really such a great motivator? Do we really want to use it to move ourselves forward?

So now for cliché #3, another of my favorite Abraham quotes: You cannot have a happy ending to an unhappy journey. That sounds kind of defeating, especially if you are unhappy. Does that mean that if you are unhappy now all is lost?

Not at all—we can begin to choose happiness, wherever we are, in 5 easy steps! (cliché #4 – I couldn’t resist). But tacky sales pitch aside, there are some proven ways that we can cultivate more happiness in our lives, right now, and build on that moving forward. Maybe we can start where we are right now, to begin to string some of those happy moments together, and create our happy lives.

Give Thanks

Gratitude is the ultimate happiness booster. According to Harvard Health, in positive psychology research, gratitude has been strongly and associated with greater happiness. It makes sense – if you are not grateful for what you have now, why would you be happy with more?

There are various ways to cultivate gratitude in your life: by reminiscing about positive past experiences, by expressing thanks for current situations and events, and by looking forward with hope and optimism for the future. Taking just a few minutes in the morning to think about something you are grateful for plants a seed of happiness and sets a positive tone for the rest of the day.

Building a gratitude habit reaps even greater rewards. Keeping a gratitude journal allows us to triple our exposure to happiness—first as the event occurs, then when we write about it, and finally when we read it. In one study undertaken at the University of California, a group journaled daily about positive events in their lives. After 10 weeks, they expressed more optimism and felt better about their lives than those who journaled about negative or neutral events.

Be Present

Have you ever heard of someone who receives a life-threatening diagnosis and only then begins to appreciate the beauty of the world around them? That is the magic of presence. To be present is simply to be mindful of the present moment. Stress and anxiety don’t live in the present moment; rather, they are rooted in fears about the future or in disturbances in the past. Learning to draw our attention away from those stressors and be fully aware in the present moment brings feelings of peace into our lives, which in turn enhances our happiness.

Ekhart Tolle’s The Power of Now is a seminal work on presence, but there are some simple ways we can begin to practice presence right now. We can start by simply focusing on the task at hand, anything we are doing, for a few moments. If you are walking up the stairs, focus on the feeling of your feet lifting off the ground and being placed down. Really be mindful of your body and the movement. If you are washing the dishes, draw your thoughts and attention to the water, your hands, the feeling of the warmth and bubbles. Enjoy the experience of letting everything else go except the simple action you are doing right now.

For even greater benefits, studies confirm that adding a regular mindfulness practice—such as yoga or meditation—into our daily routines can help us expand and maintain happiness. Such practices serve to remind us that the present moment is really all there is—that is where life happens—and helps to mitigate stress and unhappiness, thus amplifying our happiness.

Unplug

Technology has become so pervasive in our day to day lives that we may assume it is innocuous. But according to experts, too much screen time can have negative effects on our body clocks, our brain’s reward systems, our sleep patterns, and our moods. A recent study at the University of Pittsburgh concluded that young adults who spend the most time on social media are more likely to be depressed.

Unplugging for even a short time each day can help to mitigate distractions, improve focus, and boost productivity, and thereby increase happiness. Constant connection can also lead to overwhelm—the feeling of always having to be “on call.”  Solitude is good for the soul, but it can sometimes be hard to find in our constantly connected world. Take some time away—the online world can wait.

Even better is to unplug, or power down, for an extended period each day. Make it a habit to turn off electronics for a couple of hours before bed, and to start your day with something other than screen time. Stepping away from technology can boost happiness in itself, but it can also free up more time for our other happiness boosting practices. So it’s win-win!

Smile

We usually associate smiling with already being happy—but studies confirm that the act of smiling itself can actually reduce stress, and increase happiness. The act of smiling has such powerful and pervasive associations with happiness that the physical act itself triggers positive feelings, regardless whether the smile is genuine or “forced.” So this is one instance where you really should “fake it till you make it”!

Smiling is also socially contagious, and spreading happiness around is a good way to have it reflected back to you. It puts others at ease, increases your likeability, and just generally produces positive feelings all around. Try it right now. Focus on smiling even if you don’t have a reason to, and see your happiness increase.

To make happiness a habit and experience a long-lasting happiness boost, try some mirror work. Spend a few minutes each morning smiling at yourself in the mirror, while thinking positive thoughts. Although it might feel a little silly at first, you will getting all the psychological benefits that smiling brings, as well as the reflection of your own happy face shining back at you. So it is a doubly positive start to your day.

Take a Walk

We all know that exercise produces endorphins that promote happiness—but sometimes we don’t have the time, energy, or motivation for a heart pumping workout. Well, it turns out we can simply walk our way to our happy place.

Simply taking a brisk walk has been proven to boost mood, even in people with major depressive disorders. And making regular walking part of a weekly routine has long lasting psychological benefits. Pennsylvania State researchers reported that walking for just 20 minutes, three times a week, has been shown to be more effective than even anti-depressants in boosting happiness.

Walking for even a few minutes helps to release built up muscle tension and promote deeper breathing. And while we may start off our walk in a bad mood, the sights and sounds of nature (or even the neighbourhood) serve to distract us, give us time to reflect, and make it easier to let go of negative thoughts. Walking in a natural setting has even greater benefits in promoting relaxation, tranquility, and happiness.

Happiness really is a choice—so why wait?

 

 

 

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Gail Jankovski

Gail is a certified hypnotist, life coach, and aspiring writer and poet. Her approach to personal development is pragmatic: baby steps are OK—and small changes can add up to big rewards. She also keeps busy as an admin assistant, wife, and mom to three grown children.

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