10 ways to live happy

What a great question! How do we live happy? Take a moment to think what that means to you…

A multi-faceted gemstone

For us at Vitality Works, we think of this in terms of a multi-faceted gemstone. It’s not just one thing that makes us feel happy, it’s a combination of many things – all parts of the whole together that make us feel happy and live happy. But really, at the heart of it all, is love.

10 ways to live happy

At Vitality Works we believe our 4 Wellbeing Principles are the foundation of living happy. In fact, we value and acknowledge the importance of love to health and wellbeing so much, that it’s one of our 4 core principles: EAT, MOVE, BREATHE, LOVE. Essentially, the other 3 principles are held in the basket of LOVE, as to live a happy and healthy life we need to bring conscious awareness and presence to ourselves and our lives, which is LOVE.

So, what are the ways we can live happy?

Flowing with the ups and downs

Do you notice there are some days when you wake up feeling that everything’s ok and the day flows and you may just feel happy for no reason? It would be lovely if there were lots of days like this, but for many of us we have ups and downs in life when we may not feel very happy. In fact, we may feel depressed, negative, anxious, angry, upset or sad.

Why is it that some people seem to just be born happy, can flow with the bumps of life and bounce back, seem very resilient and seem genuinely positive most of the time?

Boosting our happiness

Positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky found that it does come initially down to our genes. In her research she found that 50% of our happiness, which is our set point, comes from our genetic heritage and 10% is through circumstances, so it’s in the 40% area that we can increase our happiness by intentional activity.

People who tend to have more of a negative bias, and therefore more negative thoughts, may need to work a little harder on change than those for whom happiness comes more naturally. But we can all benefit from intentional ways, practices and activities that boost our happiness.

It’s been shown that there are 2 main ways to boost our happiness, which can be divided into ‘Eudaimonic’ and ‘Hedonic’.

Eudaimonic

This approach focuses on living life in a way that’s fulfilling and is sustained by regular happy and uplifting positive emotions, such as gratitude and appreciation. Living a life of meaning and purpose.

Eudaimonic = Happiness comes from within.

Hedonic

This approach focuses on happiness as a positive affect and the absence of negativity. A person seeks out high levels of happiness experiences, e.g. going on holiday, buying a car, achieving a promotion at work.

Hedonic = Happiness comes from the external.

“Happiness is not something readymade. It comes from your own actions.” – Dalai Lama

Considering the hedonic and eudaimonic approaches to happiness, it makes sense that the more we can live in a eudaimonic way – where our days contain repeated moments that help us cultivate regenerative happy feelings, boosting our levels of serotonin, our happy hormone – we’ll generally feel happier in our daily lives. (Source: Springer Link)

How to live a happier life

Here are a few ways to start to live a happier life:

  1. Gratitude: Starting your day with the practice of gratitude, either on your own, writing in a journal or sharing with another can help you to start the day with a more positive and therefore happy mindset. (1)
  2. Playlist: What are the things you love doing? Write a playlist of at least 5 to 10 things you enjoy doing and then choose to do at least one of these every day to boost your happiness. For example, reading, singing, drawing, walking in nature, listening to music, speaking with a friend. (Source: Positive Psychology)
  3. Spending time in nature: When you’re outside do you ever stop, look and listen and take time for all your senses to be alive, to listen to the birds and feel the air on your skin? Nature is around us all the time, even if you live in a city. Look for the trees, up at the sky, the small tenacious plants prizing their way through the concrete. We can look for nature everywhere; just look up at the stars and the moon!
  4. Spend time with those you love: Simple pleasure are sharing moments with people you love. Even if you can’t see them, give a call to a friend or family member, reaching out to see how they are. A good chat with someone you connect with can really boost your happiness levels and wellbeing.
  5. Movement: When we stay in one place for a long time our bodies get stiff and uncomfortable. Take time to move your body in a way that helps to release tension. Maybe try a few shoulder rolls, a 5-minute dance, run up the stairs or practise a yoga posture.
  6. Deep breaths/mindful breathing: Practising mindful breathing helps us relax the nervous system, making us feel calm and peaceful. We’re more likely to feel happy when we’re relaxed. (Source: Right as Rain)
  7. Remembering: Spend a few moments remembering a time when you were really enjoying yourself, when the situation or experience made you feel happy or joyful. Really bring the situation alive in your heart and mind: what was happening, who was there, what you were doing, why it was so special. This is lovely to share with another.
  8. Savouring: We can be so rushed and busy that eating becomes a fuel stop rather than a savouring moment. Take time to prepare a lovely meal or choose a something to eat that you enjoy and really take your time. Chew slowly, take time between each bite or mouthful and really appreciate the taste sensations.
  9. Make good choices: Choose to read books, watch TV programmes and films that boost your happiness, make you laugh and feel good. Watching the news before you go to bed is not a healthy way to relax the mind before sleep. With the many negative things that are happening in the world, it’s important to be informed, but maybe choose a different time of day to read the newspaper or listen to the news, so that your mind is not agitated before going to bed. Sleep is so important in setting us up to feel good.
  10. Reframing: Be aware of the negativity bias and reframe to positive life-enhancing thoughts, perhaps making a goal if it’s helpful. As we become more aware of our thoughts, we start to notice when we’re having negative thoughts rather than positive ones. Negative thoughts have a tendency to stick around and can set the tone of the day, unless we notice them and consider other thoughts. Positive thoughts need to be rebooted throughout the day. When you notice you’re having negative thoughts, see if you can think of a way to ‘reframe’ them. For example: I’m so useless at cooking. Reframe: I’m not the best cook, but I do my best in my busy life. Goal: I could try using a recipe and then shop for the specific ingredients and plan just one meal a week that I take more time to cook.

So, if you’re struggling to feel happy and content, know that it’s within your ability to change your mindset for the better, as it is for everyone. Yes, it does take effort, and some days more effort is required than others. But slowly, each positive regenerative thought we choose to have and nurture becomes new fertile ground for our happy seeds to grow in. And each regenerative thought is also like the water we give to these seeds to help them grow.

10 ways to live happy


References

  1. Wood, A.M., Maltby, J., Gillet, R., Linley, P.A., & Joseph, S. (2008). The role of gratitude in the development of social support, stress, and depression: Two longitudinal studies. Journal of Research in Personality, 42, 854-871.

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