What is Happiness To You?
For many of us, life is filled with the purpose of finding happiness. However, a lot of people find that quest almost impossible. This is mainly down to the fact they are looking for happiness in all the wrong places.
Happiness is an internal element rather than a series of external factors. People can spend years chasing the things they think are finally going to make them happy, only to feel no different, or even worse, when they do attain them.
Sure, we can gain temporary happiness from external factors. Meaningful relationships with people lead to even greater spells of happiness.
However, if you are not happy with yourself or feel you haven’t found your purpose, then even the greatest of relationships isn’t going to be enough for your long term happiness.
So how do we find happiness internally?
The biggest factor to our state of happiness comes down to the way we think. Gifts can pass by us daily, but if we’re not in a positive frame of mind, we’ll never notice. We’re not responsible for other people’s actions and behaviours, however, we can control our reactions and the way we think.
This is a large part of positive psychology, and the emphasis of this (rather large) article.
Here we’ll explore the factors of happiness, how positive psychology plays a major part in achieving it, and how you can incorporate happiness into your life, full-term.
As this is quite a large article, if you’re looking to answer specific questions you can use the quick links below to get to the information you need.
What is Positive Psychology?
In essence, Positive Psychology is the branch of psychology that focusses on finding happiness. Traditionally, psychology would almost solely have focussed on allowing people suffering with mental health issues to find happiness. Positive psychology however, has no such limitations and is designed to allow everyone to live their most fulfilled lives.
Through positive psychology, people can really delve into what makes life worth living for them. It allows you to identify your own happiness triggers and to work on the elements of your life that cause unhappiness.
A relatively new branch of psychology, positive psyche (as it’s also referred to) has become increasingly popular over the last number of years with many professionals incorporating it into their practice.
Now, you might think this seems all well and good but maybe a little ‘too much fluff’ for your liking. Keep in mind, however, that just because a psychologist practices positive psychology they do not ignore deeper and more complex issues that a patient deals with. The opposite is true in fact. With positive psychology, a person can fine tune their happiness while dealing with more complex issues, leading to greater levels of happiness.
This also means that people who don’t suffer from mental health issues, or past trauma’s, can also benefit greatly from positive psychology.
For more information on What Positive Psychology is, check out this excellent article from Christopher Peterson PH.D.
And here’s a fantastic Ted Talk from Martin Seligman on the evolution of Positive Psychology.
What is happiness?
The answer to this question is completely unique to the person who’s asking it. We all have individual elements within us that contribute to our happiness levels. If someone is more driven, they might be truly happy when achieving the goals they set out for themselves. If someone is more empathetic by nature, their happiness might apex by helping those in need.
To understand what happiness is to you, you need to be willing to delve deep within yourself and identify the factors that are most important to you.
In saying this, there are universal behaviours that contribute, or take away from, your levels of happiness. Positive psychology, as well as identifying your own individual happiness settings, also ensures that you are living in a healthy manner and not partaking in behaviours that contribute to sadness.
The study of happiness has been at the top of agenda when it has come to psychological research over the past several years. Everyone wants to know how to be happy and psychologists, it would seem, are no different. However, their search is conducted for a different reason.
A psychologist wants to make sure that their patient is living their most happiest life. Filled with love, joy and purpose. To do this, research in what causes us to be most happy has to happen on an on-going basis. This is even more important when you think we live in a time where we have access to most things within a matter of minutes, but overall happiness levels are plummeting.
Through this research, psychologists have identified something that is known as the Paradox of Well-Being. This is distinguishing between:
Life satisfaction – Your feelings and attitudes about your life at a particular point in time
Subjective well-being – The ACTUAL feelings of happiness you have at the moment.
Or in other words, how you think you feel compared to how you actually feel.
In this research they have found older people express much higher levels of subjective well-being, compared to that of younger subjects.
This report: “Growing Old in America: Expectations vs. Reality,” compared the results of two groups. One – 64 years and younger. The other – 65 and older
Instead of being sad about real problems such as raging, memory loss, serious illness, lower sex-drives, and other age-related issues, the older group felt much better about their lives. This was down to the fact that they felt they had more time to devote to their families, hobbies and interests.
So what’s happened to the younger generation?
Have our expectations climbed too high to feel happiness? Or are our thoughts preventing us from seeing that happiness is in fact ever-present in our lives?
How to Be Happy
Positive Psychology Exercises
Choose to be Grateful
Listing all the things you are grateful for on a regular basis has been proven to increase your happiness. In 2003, researchers gave a group of study participants an assignment to keep a short, weekly list of all the things they were grateful group. They left one group neutral and assigned the last group the task of keeping a list of all things that cause them hassle. After ten weeks, results showed that the first group significant experience greater life satisfaction than the other groups.
Do you keep on track of what you’re grateful for?
You should. Time and time again it has been shown that writing down, speaking or acknowledging the things that we are happy to have in our lives, also increases our happiness. There are many methods of doing this and it will really come down to what you find suits you best. For example, some people keep a ‘Gratitude Stone’, which represents gratefulness. This is a stone or crystal that they keep on their person, and at specific times, or when they feel like it, they will hold this stone and speak of at least one thing that they are grateful for.
Others write letters to the people in their lives that they are most grateful for. They might not ever send those letters, however, by writing down the attributes of the person and why they are thankful, they are acknowledging it and their own happiness increases.
Some people look into a mirror and tell themselves all of the things they are grateful for about their own person. This can be physical, emotional, spiritual or personality attributes etc. Not only is this a fantastic method of increasing happiness, it is also a brilliant way of learning to love your self and increasing self worth and confidence.
Positivity is contagious
Being positive is a catchy emotion. In a famous experiment in 1993, researchers ask subjects to smile for 20 seconds, so much so that they activated the facial muscles aligned to smiling, and not just a half-smile. This activity stimulated the brain activity heavily associated with positive emotions and left them in a positive state. Not only does smiling make you feel better, it’s also disarming for people in a bad mood.
In a 2011 study, people were tasked with meeting people in positions of high-power and bad attitude, with gratitude. This response showed a demonstrable reduction in the bad behaviour and really highlights the best way to deal with a negative person, is to give them a blast of positivity.
So what are you grateful for? Take the time today to list all the things in your life you are thankful for. Do this on a regular basis and watch your happiness reach new levels!
Be Honest With Yourself
Sometimes we take life for granted and our brains stop looking for newer answers, when it has comfortably filed away the old ones. That’s why it’s really important to question the things we think we know. Things that we think are a given, can’t be changed or just are they way they are.
Take 10 minutes out today to go through these questions and answer them as honestly as possible. Your answers will give you food for thought and will more than likely leave even more unanswered questions.
But life is all about working your way through these and stopping every once in a while to make sure that you’re on the right path.–
1. If money was never an issue, what would you spend your days doing?
2. What is your biggest regret so far in life?
3. If you were going to die at midnight, how would you spend the rest of your day?
4. If your world came crashing down today, who would you run to?
5. What is the one statement you would like to make when you’ve grown old and are coming to the end of your time here?
6. If the 10 year old version of yourself asked you what they’d grow up to be, would you be happy telling them?
7. What are 5 Things You Love about yourself?
8. What are 5 things about yourself you’d like to improve?
9. If you died today, what would your best friend say about you at your funeral?
10. If you could get up and just leave today, where would you go?
11. Is there one small thing you know you could do today that would make someones life better?
12. What’s the one skill you wish you had taken the time ti learn?
13. When was the last time you told the 3 people closest to you, what they mean to you?
14. How would you live in a world where judgement didn’t exist?
15. Of you could ask 1 person 1 question that they had to answer, who would they be and what would you ask?–
16. What is the biggest thing from the past that you are still holding onto
17. Is what you’re holding onto benefitting your life now in anyway?
18. How do you celebrate all the good things you have in your life?–
19. What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received?
20. Did you take it?
21. In your eyes, what are the differences between living and existing?
22. What is your motivation?
23. What is your inspiration?
24. What is the last thing you did that would be worthy of a ‘Good News Write Up’
25. You have been granted 3 wishes, what would they be?
26. What did you want to be as a child?
27. What has been the biggest adventure of your life?
28. Honestly, how happy are you right now on a scale of 1 (Saddest) – 10 (Happiest)?
How to Stay Happy
As we get older we start reflecting on ways we wished we could have done things differently. However, this perspective comes with the experience of life and without making some of the mistakes we did in our early years, we would never have learned this.
Here are some life truths that I have learnt and stick closely to, which make life a lot easier and happier.
1. Sometimes things have to come crashing down for better things to take their place
There are times in everyones life where everything seems to be falling down around you, nothing is working, and you feel completely out of luck. In hindsight, we can often see why this happens. That the old sometimes has to make way for the new and though the old is comfortable, the new is often better and the path that we are meant to take.
Having faith that everything will work out the way it should do, will save a huge amount of stress and worry.
2. You cannot make someone love you
Though we have control over a lot in our lives, it is important to remember that we cannot control someone else actions an emotions.
You cannot change the way someone feels and you cannot make someone love you. When you feel as though you love someone with all that you are but it’s not reciprocated, then it is time to move on, accept that persons feelings and to understand you are worth more than unreciprocated love. You deserve someone that loves you with their entire being as well.
3. Gossiping about someone shows more about your character than theirs
Pointing out someones perceived flaws and talking about them in a negative way, only highlights your own securities. If there is something you do not like in that person, it often mirrors qualities in yourself that you are refusing to deal with. Try to live a life that does not involve judging others. You will be a lot happier and honestly, most people are uncomfortable having someone gossiping to them. Don’t be that person and try not to surround yourself with those types of people either.
4. Don’t water dead flowers
Learn to recognise when something has come to an end and move on. There is no good in putting your heart and soul into something that has clearly come to an end. If a relationship finishes or a job is lost etc, stop living in that moment and move forward. You could be stopping yourself from discovering the next big thing for you.
5. Possessions do not make you happy
Sure their can be temporary highs when we make purchases or collect things, but that’s all they are – temporary. True happiness comes from within and from the love and support of the people around you. A person needs very little to be happy, it is a state that is found inside and can not be attained externally.
Striving to fill your life with fancy and expensive possessions often leaves a person feeling worse and struggling with a pile of debt.
6. There’s no reverse gear in life
You can’t go back, as much as you may want to. You may have deep regrets about something, or miss the way things once were but you can never go back to live in that moment or change things that happened. Realising this lets the past stop holding you back from your future and turning regrets into lessons.
Remember life is all about learning, no one gets through it without making mistakes. The important thing to take from it is the experience and to let it teach you not to repeat those same mistakes again.
Live a Happy Lifestyle
Living a happy and healthy life is something we all strive for, and there are certain simple qualities that are common in all people who achieve it. They’re not hard to incorporate into our own lives and by doing so, you’ll notice a difference almost straight away!
Here are 5 Things All Healthy and Happy People Do:
1. They spend their time on their passions
Happy people know that life is for spending on the things that you love to do. Whether that’s painting, working out, travelling, reading or singing etc. they set a decent amount of time to do them. We’re all guilty of thinking that there’s not enough time in the day, but it’s still essential to portion what you do have out.
Rushing from task to task makes the days blur into one and that’s where we get the feeling of not having enough time. Make a schedule and divide your day into sections including work, sleep, hobby time etc. Then stick to it!
Spend this time on the things you really love and not wasting it on things you don’t enjoy or aren’t good for you.
2. They look after themselves
Happy & healthy people understand the importance of looking after themselves. Eating the right food, getting the right exercise and avoiding putting the wrong things into your body.
Try to do some form of exercise every day, whether it be yoga, walking, running etc – the important thing is that you turn exercise into a regular routine. Also, look at your diet and what you’re eating. Swap out meals and snacks that aren’t healthy for nutritious foods that aren’t processed. You’ll feel healthier and happier in no time.
3. They love who they are
Happy people know exactly who they are and they love themselves. Accepting yourself for who you are is empowering and allows you to live a full life without self-sabotage.
Look again at your own perceived ‘flaws.’ Are they really as bad as they think you are. If you’re really not happy about certain qualities, then actively try to work on them. For example, if you don’t like that you find it difficult to strike up a conversation with new people, then make it a goal to say something to at least one stranger every day – even if it’s just a smile and hello.
You’ll be surprised at how quickly you master these things and that will do wonders for your confidence.
4. They avoid negativity where possible
Negative people are detrimental to our happiness and health so be honest with yourself and ask, “Am I really getting anything out of this relationship?”
This negativity weighs heavily on us and tarnishes our spirit. Surround yourself with positive people who make you feel better about yourself. This not only goes for people but for environments as well. If you’re stuck in a job that you dread going to then it may be time to think of moving on. Hating such a big part of your life is definitely not healthy.
5. They make time for the people they love
Happy and healthy people make sure that they spend time with the people that are important to them. They make plans and they stick to them, never cancelling at the last minute. Spending time with the people who love and support you is good for the soul and allows you to flex the social muscles we need as humans.
When was the last time you told the people that mattered what they meant to you? It’s not only gratifying for them to hear, but for you too!
Spend 5 minutes a day thinking of something that made you really happy and smile. Relive those emotions, it’s a great way to pick yourself up!
Be completely by yourself for at least 30 minutes a day. Use this time to reflect on the moment and your surroundings. Spending ten of these minutes in absolute silence is also a fantastic way to relax and rebalance your inner self.
Read more books this year than you did the year before.
Cook meals from raw ingredients grown on local farms. Knowing what’s in your food is far better than taking a gamble on processed foods.
Meditate for 20 minutes every morning.
Practice Yoga, take time to stretch the kinks out after you wake in the morning and before you settle down to meditate.
Make breakfast your most important meal. Eat fresh and eat big, you’ve the rest of the day to burn it off and it will keep you fuelled and focussed.
Embrace mistakes – you can’t learn without them. Making mistakes means you’re trying something new and as long as you learn the lesson then you’re on the right path.
Live according to the age you feel you are.
Drink lots of water throughout the day. Hydration is really important and one you’re used to it, you’ll feel full of energy.
Compliment at least one person a day.
Catch up or check in with another person, even if it’s a simple text to let them know you’re thinking of them.
Avoid gossip like it’s the plague, it says more about the gossips character than it does about the person they’re talking about.
Spend at least an hour a week on something creative, painting, writing, photography – whatever you feel like. Just let your imagination take control.
Speak out loud at least 3 things you are grateful for, every morning.
Realise you are your own biggest critic and no one else see’s your ‘flaws’ the way you do.
Don’t compare yourself to others. You have no idea what’s going on in their life and there is always something about yours that other people would love.
Remember that struggle builds strength and doesn’t last forever. Once you’re through and out the other side you will be a better person than you were beforehand.
Acknowledge when you’re in the wrong and never be afraid to take responsibility or to offer an apology.
Live your passion.
If this topic interests you and you’d like to delve a little deeper, here are some fantastic books written on the subject:
The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work by Shawn Archer
In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor, who spent over a decade living, researching, and lecturing at Harvard University, draws on his own research—including one of the largest studies of happiness and potential at Harvard and others at companies like UBS and KPMG—to fix a broken formula.
Using stories and case studies from his work with thousands of Fortune 500 executives in 42 countries, Achor explains how we can reprogram our brains to become more positive in order to gain a competitive edge at work.
Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment by
According to esteemed psychologist and bestselling author Martin Seligman, happiness is not the result of good genes or luck. Real, lasting happiness comes from focusing on one’s personal strengths rather than weaknesses—and working with them to improve all aspects of one’s life.
Using practical exercises, brief tests, and a dynamic website program, Seligman shows readers how to identify their highest virtues and use them in ways they haven’t yet considered.
What Is Positive Psychology, and What Is It Not? – Christopher Peterson Ph.D.