Have you ever desperately wanted something, like a promotion, new phone, bigger house, or an engagement ring and thought “when I get that thing, I’ll be happy, I’ll finally, finally be happy”? And when you finally got it, you were high on life for all of five minutes before you were left thinking … “so now what?”
After that initial spike of happiness we revert back to our original levels and we’re chasing the next “thing” we think contains our happiness.
Why is that? Will you ever be happy? And if finally landing the life of your dreams won’t make you happy, what the hell will?
I detailed the dangers of “I’ll-Be-Happy-When-Itis” in a recent blog post, Want to Get Your Life Together? Read This First. I talked about the Happiness Trap, chasing external “things” hoping that it will make us happy.
Happiness is an inside job! I’m going to show you how to be happy as someone who considers herself to be a naturally happy, positive person. When I was little my mum nicknamed me “Pollyanna” because I was always looking on the bright side. It’s my natural inclination and even if I deviate, I always find my way back.
I’ve had my ups and downs like anybody, and even battled mental illness. I believe, however, that my ability to self generate happiness and a positive outlook has made me more resilient, resourceful, kind, and happy.
Happiness is a habit, it’s something we cultivate from within and I’m going to give you my best tips for how to do that.
Without further ado, here’s how to be happy.
Why are we so miserable?
Have you wondered why our society experiences unprecedented levels of unhappiness in a time when we have access to more resources, knowledge, technology, healthcare and amenities than ever?
It’s probably no coincidence that this generation is also so bombarded by advertising that we now have to be exposed to brand advertising 20 times before we consider making a purchase (as opposed to the 7 times it used to be just 10 years ago).
Advertising culture feeds us a narrative that we need to achieve something, be something, or do something BEFORE we can be happy.
We’re spoon fed cultural expectation and media content that tells us that happiness is found externally: in a milestone, in a career, in a body shape, in a relationship status and so on.
Instead of being the natural flow on effect from prioritizing feeling good and establishing a solid sense of self, most of us now seek happiness in places we’ll never find it: other people’s opinions, material possessions, and social status.
We’re constantly being provided with fodder to compare ourselves with others, a trend made wildfire with media pitting women against each other in articles like “who wore it better” and “Kate vs Meghan”.
This is literally the opposite approach to one of collaborating with and helping others, which has been scientifically proven to increase our inner happiness levels.
We’re so plugged into The Matrix: into being spoon fed everything from what we should think to how we should dress, that we’ve forgotten to tune into what naturally feels good and right for us. In this short post, I’m going to give you 7 habits for being happy every day no matter what is going on.
Happiness Habit #1: Stop Comparing Yourself To Other People
Theodore Roosevelt said:
Comparison is the thief of joy.
- Theodore Roosevelt
He was right! Little did he know how much more poignant his remark would become in the social media age.
Especially in these times, we’re constantly exposed to news feeds portraying “highlight reels” of others’ lives. We only see the exotic vacations, engagement rings, new cars, big new homes, or the picture perfect newborn photo shoot. It’s easy to start turning green with envy.
We’ve all done it – myself included. It’s a habit we fall into and to be happy, you need to snuff it out, STAT.
No matter how high you climb, there will always be a bigger fish. If you’re constantly comparing yourself to people further ahead on the journey, you will always feel inadequate.
There’s nothing wrong with asking excellence of yourself, but you simply MUST stay in your lane. My nanna always used to tell me “Run your own race, Rhiannon.” As I’ve grown older I’ve come to understand what she meant.
She meant that to move forward in life you have to stay in your lane and keep your eyes on the finish line, not on what the person in the left or right hand lane is doing.
As Oprah says, if you turn back to look at your competitors, or to your side, you’ll trip and fall. The only person you need compare yourself to is the person you were yesterday.
YOUR MISSION: For the next two weeks, comparison detox your life. Take out your phone and unfollow ANYBODY on social media you find yourself comparing yourself to in a negative light. The same goes for content you consume on TV, magazines and so on. Do the same in your social life.
Let your inner compass guide you. If following someone feels good and inspires you, keep on doing so. If you feel gross, or inadequate, unfollow them.
Happiness Habit #2: Stay Mindful
Think back to the happiest moment of your life. For me, it was going to Disneyland for the first time in 2015. I’ll never forget the moment I saw Sleeping Beauty’s castle.
I remember exactly what colour the sky was, what I could smell, and what I could hear. Everything about that moment was technicolor vivid – and still is to this day.
Why? Because I wasn’t thinking about the past, or the future. I was right there, completely zoned into the moment and overwhelmed with joy.
I wanted for nothing else. There was no where else I would rather be. The moment that I was in was all that existed.
Sometimes I wonder whether I was happy because I was at Disneyland or whether I was happy because I was completely in the present moment, taking it all in. I like to think it was the first reason, but I think it’s more likely to be the second.
When we’re focused on the present moment we’re not ruminating over past events or worrying about the future. We’re simply honed in to the present moment.
Am I suggesting a trip to Disneyland? Well actually, a psychiatrist has prescribed trips to Disney for the mental health of his patients.
But really what I'm saying is that finding ways to bring mindfulness into your everyday life is one of the most potent happiness habits you can cultivate.
This can look like meditation, taking a few moments to focus on your breath, or even finding zen in ordinary activities like washing the dishes or sweeping the floor. I share more about being mindful in a blog post I wrote last year.
❤ Related Post: Everyday Mindfulness ❤
Happiness Habit #3: Make Time for Childlike Play
We’re all born with an innate sense of play. It’s what fed our creativity, passion, curiosity, enthusiasm for life and imagination as children.
It’s no less true for adults, yet as our responsibilities mount, we forget this essential aspect of life.
I myself am guilty of this. I get busy with work and familial commitments and forget to just let loose, play, and explore the environment around me.
Yet it’s play which makes us not only happier, but more productive, innovative and creative.
Make unstructured play as important for your self care routine as a bubble bath. Go outside, splash in puddles, make mud pies, or go and be a big kid at a theme park for the day (here I am prescribing Disney again). It keeps you curious, creative, innovative – and it leads to a happier life.
Happiness Habit #4: Exercise Daily
Human beings are not designed to sit all day. Our bodies were designed to be consistently on the move. Yet in our modern world we do a lot of the former and little of the latter.
I exercise because exercise leads to a rush of endorphins – the fountain of youth and reverse aging – and a tonne of other mental health benefits. I notice huge positive shifts in my mood and overall life satisfaction levels when I am consistent with exercise.
“But, Rhiannon,” you say, “working out is boring”. Well, yeah, if you’re just walking on a treadmill at 45 minutes staring at the wall of a gym, it probably is. But there is more to exercise than walking on a treadmill.
Find a way of moving your body daily that feels good to you – maybe it’s yoga, swimming, cheesy 80s aerobics workouts, dancing, or playing a new team sport, or even a combination of all of the above.
Anything that gets your heart rate up and that you love enough to be consistent with will go a country mile in improving your sleep, increasing productivity at work, boosting your mood in the short term AND improving overall happiness and life satisfaction.
Happiness Habit #5: Nurture Your Real World Friendships
Note: Shortly after drafting this blog post in late February 2020, social distancing and self-isolation has become important in many parts of the world to slow the spread of COVID-19. In extraordinary times such as these, social media and Skype are invaluable for staying connected to the outside world, maintaining real world connections and preventing isolation and loneliness. Continue to stay safe, follow CDC guidelines, stay home wherever possible, and prevent loneliness through connecting digitally. The below tip is intended for general context, and not extraordinary times such as these.
We’re more connected but more isolated than ever. Why? Because it’s convenient to have access to all 154 of the people you know at once than just a couple at a time.
However, just because something is more convenient doesn’t mean it’s more effective: especially when it comes to forging real connections AND increasing happiness levels.
As someone who has made some fantastic connections through the internet, I believe social media is a miracle. But there’s nothing that beats an actual cup of coffee or a deep soul conversation face to face with a dear friend, looking them in the eye and connecting with their heart.
Take time to cultivate real world interactions with your friends and during that time, put your phone on airplane mode and be with them fully. Research has proven that real world interactions with people lead to greater levels of enjoyment and happiness than interacting in the digital space.
Of course social media is a great way to interact with your friends between catch ups, especially as life gets busy. Just make sure you’re using online platforms to schedule in real world contact.
Happiness Habit #6: Spread Happiness & Kindness Wherever You Go
I always say that the fastest way to get happiness is to spread it to others and the fastest way out of your own suffering is to ease the suffering of another.
Giving releases oxytocin, and serotonin, aka, the love and happiness chemicals, into our bodies, and inhibits cortisol, the stress hormone.
You never know what someone else might be going through, the challenges they face, or the internal battles they fight. A little kindness or brightness from you may be the game changer: or at least it will make a bad day brighter.
Here’s what’s amazing about that: the more happiness you give, the more you get. The more you give to others, the more you feed off the happiness they reflect back to you.
Happiness is contagious: think about the happiest, most positive people you know. Don’t you just automatically feel more cheerful and playful around them? It rubs off on you and they’re delightful to be around.
Giving doesn’t have to be expensive, time consuming, or require a lot of effort. It could be as simple as smiling at a stranger, paying a genuine random compliment, or grabbing a coffee for the guy in the line behind you.
Yet that small investment will give a greater return than just about anything else on the planet. Try it for one week. I promise it’s a game changer.
Happiness Habit #7: Appreciate The Dreams That Came True AND Keep Dreaming
How many times have you heard someone say “you should just be grateful for what you have”? Frustrating, right?
For anyone going through a personal growth journey or a spiritual awakening it can be confusing to foster a naturally appreciative and grateful attitude and at the same time feel motivated to grow. It almost feels like we should be guilty for wanting more.
But here’s the thing. Growth is human, and the desire for growth is human. You’ll hear me say over and over that you’re either green and growing or ripe and rotting.
Having something to aspire to is wonderful and motivating and hey, contentment leads to complacency.
My stance on appreciation and desire is somewhat controversial. I believe the two are not mutually exclusive.
I have huge goals and a little bit of hunger and discontent is what keeps me passionate and excited.
At the same time, I wake up each day feeling truly blessed and appreciative for the life I live, knowing that everything in my current reality was also once just a desire in my heart.
And so they both feed each other: when I look around and see what I’ve already manifested and all these beautiful blessings that I’m so grateful for, it makes me so excited for the future and inspired to show up to build on this beautiful life so I can continue to nurture and grow it.
This comes back to being mindful and staying present and focused on the here and now. It means enjoying this current moment that you’re in to the fullest and making the best of it: whether you’re on a long commute to work or standing at Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Disneyland.
When you ask How can I appreciate this moment to the fullest? you will surprise yourself at how beautiful life becomes and how one beautiful moment leads naturally to the next until your desires simply unfold before you. And those, my beautiful friends, are my top tips for living a happy life. I trust that they served you and provided you with easy habits for happiness you can implement right now.
Let’s keep the conversation going in the comments below! Which happiness tip are you going to start practicing? THE EDIT//shop the story
The Illustrated Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living - Russ Harris The Art of Happiness - The Dalai Lama YOU Are A Badass - Jen Sincero Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill - Matthieu Ricard
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