10 ways to happiness
For many, the concept of happiness can sometimes seem like the Holy Grail â€“ mystical, elusive and totally out of reach. On the contrary, the cheerful truth is that whether you are one of the countless just having a terrible day or attempting to survive a torturous year, we all deserve and are meant to be happy. In fact, the choice to live a happy, fulfilling life is entirely your own!
Dr. Timothy Sharp, also known as Dr. Happy, is a clinical and coaching psychologist who, as founder and Chief Happiness Officer of The Happiness Institute, has dedicated his life to helping others find happiness. Dr. Sharp defines happiness as â€œa positive state of wellbeing characterised by a range of positive emotionsâ€ achieved simply by practising a few simple daily disciplines. The principles of Sharpâ€™s CHOOSE happiness model, Clarity, Healthy living, Optimism, Others, Strengths, and Enjoying the moment, as outlined in his bestselling â€œThe Happiness Handbookâ€ are embodied by the following 10 practical ways to apply Dr. Sharpâ€™s philosophy and choose happiness today.
Setting goals is crucial to finding direction and maintaining a sense of purpose. Without goals, it is easy to become lost and uninspired in the dizzying haze of daily life. Knowing what you want gives life greater meaning and can also help build self-esteem. When deciding on your ambitions, however, it is important that they be as specific as possible, measurable, and achievable, yet challenging. Be sure to monitor your progress, reward your successes and be prepared to learn from and let go of failures. Dr. Sharp asserts, â€œthe more specifically and clearly you set out and plan the direction of your life, the happier you will become.â€
Eat well and exercise regularly
The importance of looking after your body in the quest for happiness cannot be stressed enough. As Dr. Sharp explains, â€œItâ€™s hard to be happy if youâ€™re literally tired and sick all the time.â€ Regular exercise is one of the most effective ways to prevent illness, promote wellbeing, and thus increase chances of experiencing happiness. In fact, exercise has recently been proven to be just as effective as anti-depressants in treating the symptoms of depression. Just as important as regular exercise is good nutrition. Nourishing our insides with the goodness of fresh wholefoods is equally essential to our health and happiness. Eat well, move well, live well!
Get enough sleep and rest
Often overlooked in the picture of good health is the importance of sleep and rest. Sleep deprivation is a huge problem in the western world, with the average person getting approximately one hour less sleep than their minds and bodies actually need, trudging through each day tired and underperforming. Sleep deprivation is also detrimental to your health, associated with high levels of stress, moodiness and lowered immunity. If work is whatâ€™s keeping you awake, consider that, according to a Michigan University sleep study led by psychology professor Norbert Schwarz, “Making $60,000 more in annual income has less of an effect on your daily happiness than getting one extra hour of sleep a night.”
Making a new commitment to yourself by taking time out to nourish the mind through meditation helps to maintain the delicate mind-body-spirit balance on which our sense of happiness, fulfillment and wellbeing so dependently rests. Meditation is known to decrease anxiety levels, improve mental alertness and increase immune responses. A recent study has also shown that frequent meditation produces a significant increase in activity in the left prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for positive emotions and personality characteristics such as optimism and resilience.
â€œOptimistic thinkers are not just happier; theyâ€™re healthier, more successful, have better relationships, are more likely to get promoted, and live longer too!â€ says Dr. Sharp. The benefits of an optimistic attitude are invaluable to your happiness and wellbeing. Research has shown that positive thinking can ward off the depressive symptoms linked to bad health and diseases such as cancer and diabetes, and negative thoughts can seriously hinder your potential for everyday growth, success and happiness. Next time you notice some dark sentiments clouding your mind, try a smile on for size!
Build positive relationships
Next to optimism, Dr. Sharp identifies the nurturing of positive and rewarding relationships as one of the key factors to achieving happiness. Good quality relationships â€œbuffer against stress and depression, and promote a positive sense of wellbeing,â€ says Dr. Sharp. This does not mean that the single person cannot be truly happy. Relationships contributing to happiness include relationships with intimate partners, family members, friends or social acquaintances, work colleagues, and other significant people in society. According to Dr. Sharp, individual happiness, visualisation, and good communication are the three components of a successful relationship. Itâ€™s also important to remember that at the end of the day, the most important relationship in life is the relationship you have with yourself.
Be kind and generous
Being kind to others and lending a helping hand is a great way to boost your own spirits. Research shows that kind people experience more happiness, have happier memories and have a greater awareness of the difference they make, building a sense of fulfillment and purpose in life. Acts of kindness and happiness have in fact been shown to be reciprocal; the more satisfied an individual feels with themselves, the more likely they will be to selflessly help others, and the more an individual makes an effort to selflessly help others, the more worthwhile and satisfied they will feel with themselves in return. Keep an eye out for opportunities for kindness and remember that helping others is helping yourself, too.
Utilise your strengths
One of the most common blocks to happiness is a fixation on personal faults and weaknesses, rather than skills and strengths. Examples of common strengths you will benefit from exercising, identified in Dr. Sharpâ€™s The Happiness Handbook, include a love of learning, open mindedness, perserverance and diligence, integrity, and generosity. Focusing on limitations will only hold you back in your search for happiness. â€œRather, if you can simply identify and find ways of using your core strengths, then youâ€™ll indubitably increase your chances of finding and experiencing happiness,â€ says Dr. Sharp.
Count your blessings
Gratitude is very closley linked to optimism and positive thinking; rather than concentrating on what is lacking in your life, be thankful for all that you have. Psychological studies show that being in a state of gratitude can increase optimism and overall happiness by up to twenty five per cent and can, like optimism, promote good health and longevity. Try writing a list of ten things you are grateful for each day to live in appreciation of lifeâ€™s simple pleasures to increase your sense of overall happiness and wellbeing.
Live in the moment and have fun!
The final step to achieving happiness is allowing yourself to experience and enjoy it! â€œThe present moment is the only moment we can truly be happy,â€ explains Dr. Sharp. Happy people do not spend their time dwelling on the past or worrying about the future – both are entirely out of their control. Happy people spend their time living in and appreciating the present moment. When you notice your thoughts drifting, ask yourself, â€œWhat am I doing now? Am I in the present moment? How do I get back to the present?â€ You will not find happiness in yesterday, or in your projections of tomorrow, you will only find happiness in today.