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If you took the time to ask every single person you know what happiness means to them, chances are you would get a different answer from each one. In some cases, those differences might be incredibly vast. And yet, happiness, or at the very least, the pursuit of it, seems to be a common goal across every form of society. No matter who you are, where you come from, or what your story is, there is a piece of you that desires happiness. When it is present in your body an internal glow radiates throughout every fiber of your being. However, the lack of it is a blackhole, vanquishing everything in its path.
Despite this incredible strength in both directions, every emotion, including happiness, is fleeting. One minute they are an immovable object and the next it is as if they never existed in the first place. This ongoing occurrence is what you possibly know as mood changes. You may have also felt a lack of control within a mood change. For example, even though you’re faced with a day of sunlight and clear skies, you remain grumpy in lieu of your efforts to change this. Not only do instances like this feel defeating, but they can also feel defining. To combat this thought process from going any further, consider the words of author Shannon L. Alder, “Feelings are something you have; not something you are.”
If you took a moment to mull over these words, the mindfulness you just demonstrated is a key step to increasing your happiness. Seeing as it’s a fleeting emotion, approaching this pursuit in more ways than one is wise. Thankfully, we have spoken to a few people each who have offered up habits that are scientifically proven to increase happiness.
Forget the Goal
One of the biggest problems you may have faced when trying to increase your happiness is a two-fold problem that we’ve already partially discussed. First, there is no absolute definition of happiness. Second, people are always striving for it. This brings up a question worth pondering, how are we supposed to achieve happiness if it lacks a complete definition? “Spending time chasing a feeling you can’t put words to will only frustrate you,” says Umer Usman, Head of Growth of AvantStay. “This outcome is the exact opposite of what you’re searching for so it’s probably time to adjust to your strategy here.”
After seeing it phrased that way, there seems to be more logic here than you may want to admit. It makes little sense to chase the undefinable state that happiness tends to be. And yet, each one of us persists in going after it without a second thought. Time and time again, our efforts to secure happiness have been thwarted. Leaving us exasperated.
But there is nothing wrong with changing your mindset and choosing to do things in a brand-new way. In fact, making sweeping changes to any area of your life should be applauded by everyone in your trusted circle of people. But what do these changes look like on a practical level? Erin Banta, Co-Founder and CEO of Pepper Home provided an answer to this question, “As a culture, we spend so much of our time inside our own minds, worried about the future or trying to find happiness. It may sound like too simple a solution but give this a shot – intentionally pay closer attention to what’s happening in front of your eyes, rather than behind them.”
While there may be some division amongst the general population regarding topics of health, physical activity is an aspect everyone agrees on. Young or old, any time you can get your body it is good for you. Especially when you make a routine of it. Of course, the physical benefits are what is often mentioned in correlation with this activity. But physical activity has proven to be a significant aid if you’re seeking happiness. Lina Miranda, VP of Marketing of AdQuick said as much, “We could run through the endless list of things exercise can do for you. But let’s cut to the chase. What it does to improve your overall mood will shock you so long as it’s a regular part of your life.”
As a hypothetical, this is all well and good. But nothing comes to those who wait, happiness included. This means that you must push yourself not to collapse on the couch after a long day at work. The good news is that anything you can think of to get your body moving will do just fine. It could be something as basic as going for a walk. Or you could pick up a new hobby such as rock climbing. The choice is yours. Just remember to follow through. “I’m sure you have a friend who claims to be religious about their exercise, but the results say otherwise,” says Alex Chavarry, Managing Member of Cool Links. “To avoid falling into this trend, find an exercise activity you truly enjoy. Otherwise, you’ll just drift away from it entirely.”
Whenever a health-focused act has demonstrable results, it finds its way to the surface of society and spreads like wildfire. Things like P90X, or more recently, powerlifting, are such movements you may be aware of. Meditation has experienced a similar explosion of popularity despite being colossally different in nature from the two activities mentioned. The former activities involve physical actions that are nothing like those of the stillness required by meditation. While the benefits of meditation go on and on, you are here for habits to increase happiness. Jason Panzer, President of HexClad is here to keep this train on track, “Five minutes of meditation every day will work wonders for any ongoing struggles you have. Those five minutes might sound like a piece of cake but plan accordingly and be resilient.”
When our parents were younger, meditation may have had a reputation for being a bunch of mumbo jumbo that did not amount to anything of substance. However, just as the hair of the 80s went extinct so to have most of these opinions. Nowadays, meditation is used by mental health professionals to confront issues with depression or anxiety. “Anyone who has been to a therapy appointment or two, knows firsthand how helpful closing your eyes and breathing can be,” says Tony Staehelin, CEO of Benable. “Why wait for therapy to do this? Make meditation habitual so it can be a daily thing.”
Prioritize your Sleep
“Sleep can be your number one friend in life or your enemy. It really depends on how you look at it,” said Dan Potter, Head of Digital of CRAFTD London. “If you think sleep is getting in the way, you might take a step back and see all the ways it can affect you, your happiness levels included.”
However you choose to look at it, the luxuries, attractions, and the chemical aids of life continue to eat away at the average number of sleeping hours a person manages every night. Even one bad night’s sleep can throw life’s happenings out of whack per se. If waking up on the wrong side of the bed is responsible for you having one bad day, then imagine what happens if bad sleep becomes your routine. Needless to say, it would not be pretty, and it would lead to sadness instead of what you’re looking for here.
What is to be done to benefit sleep and in turn, happiness? Karim Hachem, VP of eCommerce of Sunshine 79 has a solid idea, “Maintaining quality sleep is a lifelong endeavor and distractions are the root of the problem here. If you’re working towards daily contentment, start by identifying what distracts you in your sleeping environment and get rid of that. Yes, even your phone. You’ll thank me later even if the initial adjustment is difficult.”
Work on Personal Agency
The state of the world over the last few years has likely left you more isolated than you were previously. Whether you had to relocate geographically or now work from home, chances are the global changes impacted you. In many cases, these changes have not been voluntary. In fact, quite the opposite. The nature of circumstances like these can lead you to feel what some refer to as personal agency. This concept and happiness go hand in hand according to Maria Shriver, Co-Founder and CEO of MOSH, “The term personal agency is one that doesn’t get discussed enough even though it’s a core part of humans. A person who feels that they have influence or can cause an action has personal agency. When someone lacks this, it’s as if their spirit has dissipated.”
Of everything you’ve read up to this point, this may be the one leaving you scratching your head when it comes to practical application. Rightfully so. It is the most complex of any of the topics if only because of how abstract it can be. Though that is not to say it a method for working on it does not exist. “Whenever someone takes away an option of any kind from you, it causes harm to your thinking. Now, the idea that you have no say in who you are or will become has been presented to your brain,” says Cody Candee, Founder and CEO of Bounce. “To me, there may not be anything more depressing. It is an ongoing battle but constantly giving yourself the ability to influence your future or day in any way is a surefire way to get started.”
Even though the juicy topics may just be getting started, you have been inundated with more happiness related avenues to explore than you may have time for. With all this, remember the words of radio host and writer, Dennis Prager, “Happiness is dependent on self-discipline. We are the biggest obstacles to our own happiness. It is much easier to do battle with society and with others than to fight our own nature.