Happiness is a funny old thing. We all want it yet we rarely know how to get it. Many call it their purpose in life and say "life is too short to be unhappy". I agree with both, but I know it's not easy for everyone. It certainly wasn't easy for me—until I changed.
Growing up, I remember many saying "do this" or "do that" or "do whatever makes you happy." I know every single one of those comments were given with the desire to help. But the only thing they did was leave me more confused. What was life really about? What made me happy? What actually is happiness?
Worst of all, there was no option to study "happiness" in school. No one taught me what happiness was all about. No one gave me a lesson on what I should do to become happier. I was a little lost, to say the least.
That's why I was absolutely mesmerized when I discovered the field of positive psychology which is also known as the science of happiness and human fulfillment. I got so into it that I left my corporate job to pursue a Masters of Science in it! Finally, I was going to get the answers to my questions about happiness. Finally, someone was going to tell me what happiness actually is and how you can actually reach it.
Now, having come through to the other, happier side, I want to share my biggest steps to happiness with you. These are the ones that transformed my life and turned me into the trained optimist that I am today. These are the ones I practice and preach religiously as The Happyologist®:
1. Learn what happiness actually is and what it is not.
There are too many myths about happiness out there that do nothing except hold you back from being happy. Familiarize yourself with positive psychology to get scientific backing to your happiness journey. All it takes is a book, an online course, or a conversation with an expert to get some facts straight.
2. Discover your unique happiness.
As with most things, there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to happiness. That means you need to get to know yourself to understand what it is that makes you feel happy and fulfilled. Reconnect with your values, your strengths, and your purpose to build a strong foundation for your happiness journey. Then, let them lead you to a life that aligns with them.
3. Shift your perspective to a positive one.
A big chunk of your happiness comes from what goes on in your head and how you choose to perceive the world. That's why fostering a positive perspective is super important. But before you go all Pollyanna on me, let me be clear about one thing: being positive doesn't mean ignoring or shutting out the negative. Instead, it's about acknowledging the problems that you are faced with and believing in your abilities to overcome them. It's about being honest about how you feel and knowing that you will feel better again. Basically, it's about having perspective.
4. Foster your relationships.
As a human being, you need other people not only to survive but to thrive. You are your happiest when you are surrounded by your loved ones. That's why it is critical that you make the time to build and sustain strong, meaningful relationships with the people you love.
5. Use your body.
Too often we get stuck in one place, in one position for too long and before we know it, we haven't moved for three hours (if not longer!). The human body isn't designed to sit at a desk all day so make sure you are getting up, stretching or doing some kind of movements regularly.
Your body affects your mind more than you think and if it's feeling sluggish, lethargic, or low, it's difficult for your mind to feel anything else. That's why moving throughout your day, as well as having dedicated exercise sessions daily, greatly influences your happiness. Also think about clever ways to move your body that will up your mood, like hugging or smiling.
6. Make time to be still.
If your life is a mad dash from one thing to the next, happiness will have a hard time catching up to you. Make sure you're taking the time to slow down, reflect, and to simply be. This is one way you can connect with yourself in a deeper way and perhaps even get clear, intuitive answers to questions you've been pondering for weeks.
In short, there are many things you can do to welcome happiness into your life but none of them have to be difficult. Sure, some things like changing your mindset will take some time, but if you put the right effort in it will turn into a habit that will fuel you for the rest of your life.
In the end, remember that you are a human being, not a human doing. If you slow down long enough, your contentment might just come then and there.