“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery—air, mountains, trees, people. I thought, “This is what it is to be happy.” ― Sylvia Plath, The Bell Jar
Over the last year I have written a lot less about happiness and well-being. My obsession with happiness stemmed from a belief that I could learn some snappy techniques and methods and miraculously never feel negative again. It ends up that the hedonic-treadmill is more difficult to get off than you would think! I had to accept that happiness in not always an option, and frankly, by striving to always be happy, we will go bat-shit crazy! So this last year has been about embracing and exploring the dynamics of change, challenge, and hardships. How to take the good with the bad and grow with adversity. But let’s face it, overcoming failure and frustration gets a little old, and we have a right to live a thriving existence. This emotional pendulum is part of the human experience. That’s why a key philosophy of this blog is about coping with the “bad” and thriving from the “good.” If you haven’t read my book Trigger Positive I discuss how we all have a baseline level of happiness, but we can all learn how to boost this baseline. I refer to research about what psychologist Barbara Fredrickson calls the “happiness ratio,” (despite some recent controversy you can read about here). In her book Positivity she discusses how the number of positive thoughts, feelings, and actions we have compared to negative ones, influences our emotional well-being. What is the magic happiness ratio? Drum roll please….. 3:1. So, if we can learn to engage in life with 3 positive thoughts, feeling, and actions to every negative one, we are going to flourish and thrive. Of course, if you’re struggling with a negative mood currently I would recommend coping with that first. Read this post to help you get back to your baseline where you can more effectively cultivate positivity. Otherwise her are 5 happiness habits to help you flourish and thrive!
1. Gratitude and Thanksgiving
Making it a habit to appreciate what you have has been shown to be very effect for increasing well-being. One infamous exercise is to write a letter of gratitude to someone, and then deliver and read it to them personally. Being aware of and thankful for the good things that happen to us, and the helpful people we meet, is a wonderful way to bring a more positive perspective into our life. There’s a little holiday called Thanksgiving coming up that would be a good opportunity to practice this. You may want to try this: After your Thanksgiving extravaganza make a list of five to ten experiences, people, or situations you are thankful for. Continue creating a gratitude list with new ideas for the next two weeks. Happiness central baby!
2. You learned this at 6 years old – Be kind to others
You learned this in 1st grade. You’re supposed to be nice to others and treat them how you want to be treated, right. Well, what Mrs. Valencia left out was the real motivating part, which is that kindness is equally as positive for the one committing the act.
“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” – Rabindranath Tagore
A random acts of kindness toward others boosts our happiness. There are countless ways to show you care, such as letting someone go ahead of you in line, doing chores that you normally don’t do, or leaving a big tip. (If you’re cheap about leaving tips, leave a really really big tip!… and don’t complain, it will ruin the whole thing) Consider all the ways you can offer kindness to others and begin making a list that you can apply when the time arises. You can also check out 31 Days of Kindness a Manifesto for Making Kindness a Daily Habit. It’s a previous initiative from my friend Alex at The Bridgemaker. There are over 132 ideas for showing kindness to others.
3. Look for the silver-lining
Within all challenges there lays opportunity, we just have to be willing to look for it. Happiness essentially boils down to perspective and the lens we use to view life. It comes down to having an optimistic outlook. People who are more optimistic about the future tend to report being happier and more satisfied. They believe that good things will happen and that adversity can be turned around. So, fill up a glass of water, drink half of the glass, and be grateful for the damn water instead of focusing on the glass as half empty. Capish?
4. Stop hiding your head in the sand – Get curious
“A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.” ― Frank Zappa
When was the last time you were surrounded by an environment that inspired you and made you feel like a kid again? It may have been a long while since your curiosity and intrigue filled you with energy. A curious approach to life opens up so many opportunities to learn and grow, and can help us find more moments of inspiration and wonder. There is always something exciting we can learn and discover if we’re willing to explore and be open to new ideas. If you’re not naturally curious, how can you begin to take greater interest in the general experiences you have?
5. Live with purpose and meaning
Without purpose we drift along with nowhere in particular to go. But when we have a sense of purpose and meaning we feel alive. We have an inspiring direction and something to strive for we feel passionate about. Purpose and meaning can come from using your natural strengths and talents, developing intimate relationships, and growing spiritually. Consider if your goals and intentions offer a sense of something greater than yourself. Where can you seek a sense meaning or a higher calling?
“Only those who have learned the power of sincere and selfless contribution experience life’s deepest joy: true fulfillment.” – Tony Robbins
Make a simple plan to get intentional about thinking, feeling, and acting happier. When you tip the scale to 3:1 positive to negative, it will truly pay-off. Again, if you haven’t read my book Trigger Positive you may want to do so for more exercises and activities to boost happiness. Increasing this ratio is what the book is all about.