By Hagit Malikin, Intern at Evolution Psychology Center
Happiness. Simple word, right? I don’t think so. I bet if I asked 20 people “What is happiness?”, I would get 20 different answers. If happiness was such a simple word, we would be getting one simple answer, don’t you think?
So, what is happiness?
The pursuit of happiness is an important notion in many cultures. We are constantly seeking opportunities to feel happy or trying to accomplish yet another goal to achieve happiness. Have you ever heard someone say, “I’ll be happy when …”? These 4 words have been said by many people, and ironically, most of them are never happy. Why? They always seem to find the next “I’ll be happy when…”. Letting happiness be dictated by a to-do checklist creates a cycle of unhappiness as your checklist constantly restocks by the next urgent item. Being mindful and present in the moment allows you to focus and appreciate what you have rather than what you will have. Life can always present itself with a little [or big] obstacle, therefore appreciating and being grateful for the everyday things can make a world of difference.
Easier said than done, I know. This takes practice. Once habits are formed, such as using the “I’ll be happy when…”, it can be difficult to break or change. Practicing being in the moment is just like practicing reading in a new language; Might be hard and slow at first but with time and repetition, it can become the new habit.
Happiness is composed of many little things. For instance, studies have shown that practicing gratitude can increase one’s level of happiness and overall mood.
How can I practice gratitude in my daily life?
- Gratitude jar: Leave a jar in your kitchen with blank paper close by. Once a day, write down a little message about something you were grateful for. At the end of the month, enjoy some “you time” or “family time” by reading about all the things you were grateful for.
- Gratitude list: At the end of each day, list the top 3 things that you were grateful for on that day. It can be ANYTHING! Post the list somewhere visible. Being grateful is just as personal and unique as what makes people happy.
Happiness is a feeling of self-fulfillment and satisfaction. Being happy is a state of mind. In our day and age, the stressors we feel and the competition we sense tend to overpower our feeling of happiness. It is very normal to feel sad, angry or anxious sometimes. However, these feelings do not and should not replace your overall happiness.
Being mindful and present in the moment has also been shown to increase feelings of happiness and self-satisfaction.
How can I practice mindfulness in my daily life?
- Taking a walk outside: after a long day sitting in your office or simply being indoors, a fresh short walk outside can do a world of good. For instance, walking may improve cardiac health, prevent weight gain, and improve posture as well as blood circulation. In addition to the health benefits accompanied by outdoor strolls, walking helps improve negative mood states such as fatigue and unhappiness. One of the greatest things about taking a walk outside is the ability to practice mindfulness. As you walk outside, try to notice the things around you. By engaging your 5 senses (sight, smell, touch, hearing, and taste), you begin to be more connected to the present moment. Focus on the fresh smell of the winter/spring weather or the smell of the smoke escaping the neighborhood chimneys, listen to the wind or your partner’s voice as you make your way around the block.
- Deep breathing: Breathing is something we take for granted and why shouldn’t we? We don’t need to think each time we take a breath or put any effort when we breathe. However, aside from keeping us alive, breathing is a powerful weapon for calming our nervous system. Focusing on your breath as you take a deep inhale and a slow exhale allows your body and mind to slow down and relax. By focusing on your breath, your mind is fully engaged in the present moment. Even if it’s only for a few seconds, this allows your nervous system to wind down.
Take a moment to yourself and think; what truly makes you happy? Think beyond. Happiness is not a one size fits all; that’s why it’s so hard to find a perfect unanimous definition. Is being happy about getting high grades in school? Obtaining a promotion? Getting married? Of course, these things contribute to the feeling of happiness. But is it the only thing? Maybe happiness for you is sitting at the dinner table with your family, spending time with your significant other, or simply coming home each day after work and seeing your family, or pet, or enjoying some me-time.
Happiness is not rare like diamonds. Unlike diamonds, happiness can be created by everyone, anytime.
“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.” – Jim Rohn
On behalf of Evolution Psychology Center, we want to wish you success in finding your inner happiness