How to be happy
There are plenty of reasons to be unhappy…
You hate your job but don’t see any better options.
You are sick and the treatment isn’t working.
You are having problems in your relationship; with your partner, with your kids, with friends.
Seriously, I could go on and on.
On the other hand, I bet you know someone who has one or more of the above situations going on in their life and yet they are not only surviving but thriving. They seem genuinely happy.
What is their secret?
Are they just faking it?
Did they take a magical happy pill?
In her book, Mind over Medicine, Lissa Rankin, M.D. discusses the research on happiness. Turns out there is a lot. First of all we know that 50% of happiness is dictated by a predetermined genetic set point. Some of us just naturally have more active left prefrontal cortexes which is the happiness generator in the brain. These lucky folks tend to be happy without too much effort on their part. If you are a worry wort… this is not good news.
However the good news is that 40 % of happiness is unrelated to your genetic happiness set point. With the right mental strategies we can determine our mindset and our mood. Even better news is that once we create this pattern of thinking, we can actually change the neural pathways in our brain so that our brain repeats the process with less and less effort and attention. In other words, we can ingrain a new way of thinking that results in feelings and emotions that we intentionally choose. Research actually shows that only 10% of life circumstances account for happiness (like finding the perfect partner or getting the perfect job). When these things happen, we are happy for a little while then quickly return to our set point. If you have created a happy mindset, you a creating your own set point for happiness and can experience contentment, no matter your circumstances.
In the book, The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky, the author suggests the following ways to increase your happiness set point:
- Nurture relationships-intentionally set aside time to devote to your most important relationships. You may have to schedule this on your calendar or add it to your to-do-list until it is a regular practice but don’t let the urgent demands of life overshadow this important task.
- Express gratitude-start a gratitude journal to first get in the habit of feeling gratitude in every situation. Then create a regular way to express gratitude to those around you. Make that call, send that email or card.
- Help someone-a proven way to get out of low spirits or depression is to focus on someone else. There is always someone nearby that could use our help, whether it is actual physical help or a smile or kind word. Set a goal of making every person you come in contact with have a better day. It will ensure a better day for you as well.
- Visualize the future with optimism-so often we spend our time worrying about the future. We are wired to remember and imagine the worst possible scenario. Intentionally schedule time to focus on the positive; imagine positive outcomes and visualize success.
- Savor life’s pleasures-in the same way that we worry about the future, we let the positive moments in life slip through our hands and our thoughts. Instead, intentionally take the time to savor each moment. Experience the moment through all your senses. Relish the feelings that you have. Review the memories often.
- Commit to lifelong goals-we all have a purpose on this earth and when we live our lives congruent with that purpose, we are naturally happy. Whether your purpose is to create a masterpiece or coach someone through hard times or create a successful business, focus your energies on that goal and happiness will follow.
Want to join me in creating a vision for your future? I’m hosting a second Dream Board Workshop!
Read all about it here: Beyond Vision Boards–The Next Step