Most of us believe happiness must be found. Many of us say we will be happier when a circumstance in our life changes or a specific event occurs. Do you find yourself saying to yourself, I will be happier if or when……? For example,
“If only I could find my true love I will be happy” or
“If only my husband loved me more I will be happy” or
“When I find a more meaningful career I will be happy” or
“When I move to a new neighborhood I will be happy”
Unfortunately many people look for happiness in the wrong places. We believe certain events will have a huge affect on our happiness when in reality they will impact our long term happiness very little. Most of us pursue short term pleasure and ignore the more effective paths of long term happiness.
The truth is if you are not happy today, you will not be happy in the future unless you take the right steps to lead a happier life.
Consider the definition of happiness I found in the book The How Of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky. “ True happiness is a feeling of contentment, a sense of positive well-being; a belief that one’s life is meaningful and worthwhile.” It is a truism that how you think – about yourself, your world, and other people – is more important to your happiness than the objective and material circumstances of your life. Therefore, becoming lastingly happier will demand effort and commitment every day of your life. Pursuing happiness takes work and a sustained effort.
Sonya Lyubomirsky suggests the following action oriented activities to lead a happier life:
1) Search for intrinsically rewarding activities where you derive contentment from the process. When you are striving to accomplish something that is challenging, makes you feel worthwhile and beneficial, you will experience feelings of contentment. People that are constantly busy with fulfilling activities are happy people. Ask yourself the following questions to test the level of the “happiness indicator” of your activities.
- Do you find yourself wanting to repeat the activity?
- Does the activity make you feel creative?
- Do you lose track of time when you are doing the activity?
- Does it challenge your mind?
- Does the activity help you to grow as a person?
- Do you obtain a sense of a euphoric high?
- Do you look forward to doing the activity?
- Does the activity make you feel good about yourself?
When you commit yourself to intrinsic goals that create the above feelings, you will obtain more satisfaction and happiness than pursuing tangible goals. It is the process of working toward the goal that is inspiring and rewarding relative to actually attaining the goal. When you commit yourself to the process, you will learn new skills, develop a sense of worth, grow your self-confidence, and feel happier.
2) Commit acts of kindness. When you commit acts of kindness for others on a regular basis it will maximize happiness. You will feel a connectedness to others and view yourself as a compassionate person.
3) Expressing gratitude daily is a meaningful way to increase happiness. Gratitude is simply appreciation; it is how you think about yourself, your world, and other people. The practice of expressing gratitude involves focusing on the present and appreciating your life for what it is today. Your daily thankfulness for your blessings will always be more important to your happiness than the objective circumstances of your life. The most effective way to fill your life with happiness is to write in a gratitude journal daily.
4) Cultivate optimistic thinking by anticipating a bright and positive future. Happy people find the positive side to every situation and feel good about the future. One of the most effective exercises to foster a positive future is to write a description of your best possible future self. This exercise does not rely on others or outside circumstances to make your best future self come true – but rather you seeing the bigger picture of your future and understanding the thoughts and actions required to get you there. To start this exercise, write down where you want to take your life in the next ten years. The process of writing your best possible future will promote positive thinking. When you are positive about your future, you will achieve confidence in your future, develop long term goals, build high morale, positive moods, and happiness.
5) The ability to savor and live in the present moment is a positive experience and one of the most important ingredients to happiness. Savoring requires you to step outside of yourself and immerse yourself in the experience. It will take a conscious effort to stop and focus your mind on the pure wonders of your surroundings and current experiences. It has been proven that those who savor the past as well as the present experience intense happiness.
6) A genuine sense of meaning and purpose in your life is important if you are going to flourish in happiness. A true sense of purpose in your life must be embraced in your own thoughts, feelings, and experiences rather than someone else’s meaning in life for you. For example, when you have a coherent picture of who you want to become, spend time reflecting on what has meaning in your life, and are actively pursuing goals to reach your fullest potential, it will add meaning to your life.
The ultimate path to a meaningful life is in developing your faith. Faith provides the answers to the big questions such as: Who am I? What is the purpose of life? Where do I fit in? The practice of prayer, collective worship, and spiritual pursuits cultivate hope, gratitude, love, compassion, and internal joy.
7) Regular exercise and getting enough sleep are instant happiness boosters.
To lead a happier life, you must make changes in your thoughts and actions that will require a daily commitment and focus. Positive life experiences and changes in your circumstances will not provide you with long term, internal happiness. Review these seven strategies to improve your intrinsic happiness. Develop a written list of actions today to incorporate into your life to increase the level of your happiness tomorrow and into the future.
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