How happy do you want to be? How happy will you allow yourself to be?
The beautiful and surprising thing is that we are mostly in charge of our own happiness: only 15% of our happiness depends on external events, according to studies. So the first happiness habit is to decide to be happy and then to work out what YOU need to do to get there.
14 years of successfully coaching people to get happier, more fulfilled, and fundamentally more delighted with their lives and their work has helped me come up with this list of the top 10 happiness habits that make all the difference:
1. Big picture: consider when you’ve been happiest so far and what makes you light up. If you imagine your happiest life, your most fulfilling work, what would it look like? Create your personal vision, write it down, illustrate it. Use it to create your own road-map and plan for the next year. See my book for more details on how to create your own vision day to help you do this.
2. Your perfect day: imagine (not Lou Reed!) what your dream day might look like from start to finish, from breakfast to bedtime… make it specific… then plan a day to live it sometime soon. Why not? YOLO (you only live once!), as my teenage son is fond of saying!
3. Only connect: consider which of your friends and family members most inspire you, and make sure to reach out to at least one of these people each day for a chat on the phone, or to plan a get-together.
4. Give: it makes us happy to make a difference, so make sure that each week includes some volunteer work, even for an hour, or simply try to help everyone you can at every opportunity in whatever way, even stopping to help a lost person with directions counts! Emerson tells us that the purpose of life “is not to simply be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have made some difference that you have lived and lived well.” Thing is, living that way makes us happy!
5. Appreciate: here’s a promise. If you try this happiness experiment every day for the next 2 weeks, you will be happier at the end of it! Every evening, come up with 5 things that you’re grateful for, anything from seeing a rainbow, to a bright blue sky on a sunny cold day, to a great cup of coffee. Doing this will retrain your brain to notice and enjoy all the good things, rather than focusing on the negative, which is our natural default position.
6. Exercise: if you jog, you know how amazing you feel when you get back from running? It’s a high! Apart from the physical fitness benefits you feel amazing (and virtuous). Take the time to exercise in a way you enjoy 4-5 times a week for 30 minutes and you’ll find your increased energy and feel-good factor will help you work more creatively and efficiently and just feel better generally.
7. Tune in to the “the better angels of our nature,” as Abraham Lincoln says. Look for the best in yourself and in others and expect that too. You’ll find that if you live your highest values, you also activate your highest potential. And that if you believe in others and show them this, that they will usually (not always, sadly!) live up to your expectations.
8. Think pink! Watch your thoughts… is your self-talk positive or negative? Our natural default position is to focus on the negative, which works as a kind of self-hypnosis. Each time you have a negative thought, train yourself to turn it around, asking yourself how you can see the situation more constructively: what’s the opportunity within the crisis? Each time you do that, you create a stronger habit of positive thinking which is empowering and uplifting. It takes time, but definitely worth it!
9. Clear up! Clean up your diet (try juicing & creating green smoothies for breakfast), your clutter around the house, your emotional clutter. One day at a time! You will feel your energy and happiness levels rise dramatically if you chart your progress.
10. Have fun! What inspires you? What energises you? Beauty? Adventure? Creativity? Identify your top values and reflect them in your life every day in your activities. Be open to seizing opportunities for fun whenever you see them. As I’m writing this, I just looked out my window and saw a rather spectacular colourful hot-air balloon soaring across the Bath skyline. I might have missed it if I hadn’t been open to it.
Raise your happiness set-point! Research shows that we all have a natural set point for happiness, which we will revert to after temporary dips or spikes due to external events. But you can raise your happiness set-point by deliberately cultivating your happiness with these habits!
Let me know how you get on!
And let me know if I can help you in your happiness journey.
To read more about my coaching programmes or to apply for a complimentary strategy session please visit my website.