You weren’t born happy – that’s just how you are. Some people are born happy, but not you. Sure, you have your happy moments, typically when you get something you want, but they’re fleeting and pretty rare. It’s not like you’re really unhappy, either. You’re kind of between the two – you cycle between happy and unhappy – but spend more time in the unhappy zone.
Because you’re made like this, you’re powerless to act in any other way than the one you’re programmed with. You have little control over what goes on in your life – when things are going well, you’re lucky, when they’re not, you’re unlucky. You’re like flotsam and jetsam in the ocean – at the mercy of the forces around you. That’s what you believe, anyway.
And you couldn’t be more wrong.
It’s not that you’re choosing to be unhappy – who would? Especially when unhappy people:
- are routinely stressed, which limits their ability to be efficient and effective and compromises their relationships
- have a scarcity mindset – they never have enough, always want more
- are less healthy and, if they’re also skeptics, are three times more likely to develop senile cognitive dementia than optimists
- are emotionally flat, because they believe they need a reason to feel something
It’s that you’re NOT choosing to be happy.
You control how happy you are. You can decide to accept that this is true and do something about your level of happiness. Or you can decide to deny it and remain stuck in your unhappiness. Yes, happiness is a choice.
Happy people know this. They deliberately act in ways that enhance their happiness – and this is a very wise thing to do. Happy people:
- are 31% more productive
- are 300% more creative
- earn more money for themselves and others they manage
- manage stress better – i.e. they’re more resilient in the face of challenges
- are healthier – happiness is as good for longevity and health as giving up smoking
- have stronger immune systems
- have better relationships – and these, in turn, enhance your physical and mental health
- spread happiness to others – emotionally & physically ( via energy transference)
Surprisingly few people describe themselves as “very happy” – only 31% of people in the US do, according to a 2016 Harris Poll, down from 35% last year. It’s surprising, because you can create your own happiness.
Happiness is a habit, not an outcome. By practicing certain activities daily, you can create happiness-inducing habits.
Here are eight practices that are scientifically proven to re-wire your brain to be happier.
- Exercise three times at week – 20 minutes of cardio training.
- Express your gratitude daily. Write down three things EVERY evening that you’re grateful for from that day. You can do this on your own, or with loved ones – each person sharing his / her three things.
- Perform a daily random act of kindness / generosity. This can be writing emails to colleagues praising something they did, or paying something forward, or helping pick up things someone’s dropped, or giving a bigger tip after a meal.
- Relive a happy or meaningful experience from your past every day. You know how to do this – you do it with bad experiences all the time! Use a positive experience for this from now on.
- Practice forgiveness – of yourself and others – for past wrong-doings. When you hold onto grudges, your nervous system gets unconsciously triggered into stress mode EVERY TIME it recognises something familiar from a past grudge. That’s right, your stress response is triggered in the present by something that happened in your past.
- Strengthen your social connections. In all research, this is shown to be the single most important contributor to happiness. You may need to have your other happiness habits in place before you can get to this one as being stressed out isn’t conducive to building strong relationships.
- Meditate daily. This practice helps balance your brain, priming it for happiness. Research proves that regular meditation increases your alpha waves and physically changes your brain to give you more control over your response to stressful situations.
- Live a meaningful life. Have a life vision that reflects who you truly are and what you’re here to do and take action every day to live your vision. Remember, dreams without action remain dreams.
Choose happiness! It’ll be a decision you NEVER regret.
Sources: The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor; Stumbling on Happiness, Dan Gilbert; Dave Asprey Science of Happiness video.