Happiness is something that many of us spend our entire lifetimes chasing. It’s critical to leading a fulfilled and joyful life, and helps improve our immune systems, as well as our day to day interactions with the people in our lives. It’s hard to describe what it feels like without using the actual word itself, but we all know what the other is talking about when we refer to this feeling. Though there are many aspects that are often out of our control that can have negative impacts on our lives, what we can control is how we react to these external sources. Read on to find out about the things that you can control.
Cultivate Compassion and Gratefulness – Buddhist monk Mattieu Ricard gave a great Ted Talk that outlined how we can train our minds to generate a more authentic sense of fulfillment and serenity. Meditating on compassion takes a little bit of time and investment on your part, but the payoffs are worth it. Monks who practice compassion meditation are said to many times more happy than monks who don’t, and the data is manifested in their brain scan results. “We are ready to spend 15 years achieving education. We love to do jogging, fitness. We do all kinds of things to remain beautiful. Yet, we spend surprisingly little time taking care of what matters most — the way our mind functions — which, again, is the ultimate thing that determines the quality of our experience.” This quote rings true for many of us, so take a couple of minutes to unplug and sit quietly with you and your thoughts.
Get your Sweat On – The research that’s out is plentiful and all signs point towards the numerous beneficial aspects of exercise. There are plenty of benefits from it, both physical and psychologically. Signing up for a race or having a certain milestone in mind can really help give a sense of direction and lend a different layer of meaning to your daily workouts. Whether you’re signing up for your first 5K, or want to compete in a Zumba Dance-a-thon, sign up and hold yourself accountable along the way. Making small strides along the way towards meeting this goal can bring up a whole host of positive feelings, as well as mask more negative ones. It’ll increase your energy levels, reduce tension, and improve your self-image. It might be hard the first couple of days, but power through and you’ll be rewarded on the other side with endorphins.
Treat Yourself – The small pleasures really do matter. It’s almost like yoga. You are probably happier doing a couple of minutes of yoga everyday than one all-day yoga session once a year. Smaller pleasures that come frequently can have a more positive impact on your life than fewer larger ones. So go ahead, treat yourself to that piece of dark chocolate or buy yourself that bouquet of fragrant flowers at the farmer’s market. Consistent small rewards can do wonders for your long term satisfaction.
Spend on Experiences, not Things – Though it is important to treat yourself, as mentioned above, it’s important to keep in mind that material things will only pleasure you for so long. There’s a constant chase over the next “it bag”, or the next trendy nail polish shade, or the latest cell phone model. However, trends come and go (as we all know when thinking about gaucho pants, feather hair extensions, and bell bottom jeans), and you will never be fulfilled enough since material goods are so volatile and transient. However, experiences stay with you for a while . For instance, remember the intense amount of happiness you felt planning your first vacation with your significant other? Or that date night that you’ve been looking forward to the entire week? Experiences are social, unique, and make us visit them often in our heads. They really are the gift that keeps on giving.
It’s not One-Size-Fits-All – You scroll through your Facebook and your Instagram feeds. You are inundated with images of your friend’s “candid” pictures that seem to reek of perfect lives and unadulterated happiness. They are dancing at a club, or going to brunch at a swanky new spot that just opened up. They are having the time of their lives, and you can’t figure out why you can’t be as happy as they are. Remember, first off that a microscopic, filtered and carefully curated collection of photos of another person’s life doesn’t necessarily mean that they are any happier than you are. Social media has this tricky tendency to make everyone’s lives but your own seem perfect. Second, what makes them happy might not necessarily make you happy. Other people might derive intense pleasure from bungee jumping or cliff jumping, whereas your greatest pleasure may lie in a perfect cup of coffee and a novel. Or vice versa. And that’s okay.