10 Ways To Grow Your Own Happiness

10 Ways To Get Happy Now

Today I am going to share with you 10 ways to grow your own happiness.  Are you struggling to shake off that gloomy feeling, or constantly shifting between cheerful highs and sorrowful lows?  In the past you may have looked for a distraction to snap you out of a bad mood, reached for the chocolate or, if all else had failed, resorted to antidepressants.  But if you find it hard to feel positive about life, the good news is that you can train yourself to be happier.  

New studies suggest happiness isn’t just a product of a stable childhood or a naturally sunny disposition – it’s closely linked with the physical structure of the brain, which is something that can be changed.

Researchers from Kyoto University, Japan, have found those who rate themselves as happy have more grey matter in a part of the brain called the precuneus.  Not only do these people experience happiness more strongly, they feel sadness less intensely and are able to find a deeper meaning in life.  And previous research has found it’s possible to increase grey matter in this area of the brain – meaning that no matter what’s happening in your life, you can develop your own happiness, rather like strengthening a muscle.

If you’re wondering why you should bother, our mood can dictate everything in our lives, from whether we’re able to form good relationships to how healthy we are.

One key activity that has been shown to help change the brain is meditation.  Studies have found that regular mediators alter the structure and function of their brains – an effect known as neuroplasticity.  As a result of years of meditation practice, French Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard was shown to have increased activity in the left prefrontal cortex area of the brain, which is linked to positive feelings.

Ricard, author of Happiness: A Guide To Developing Life’s Most Important Skill, recommends meditating for 20 minutes every day.  ‘Start by simply paying attention to the sensations of your breath going in and out,’ he advises.  ‘If your mind wanders, which it will,  bring it back to your breath.’

As you get used to this, you can use the same principles throughout the day whenever your worries start to get on top of you.  When you notice yourself drifting from the present moment, you focus instead on feelings of hot or cold, or sounds around you.  It’s all about consistency, though.  ‘Regular practice is needed – it’s like watering a plant,’ said Ricard.

While meditation is an essential happiness skill, building contentment is also about doing lots of small things each day to lift your mood and cultivate positive feelings.  Of course this won’t guarantee permanent joy, but getting into the happiness habit can act as a buffer against life’s difficulties, helping you bounce back when things are tough and allowing you to enjoy the good times to the maximum.

Yuna Ferguson, assistant professor of psychology at Pennsylvania State University Shenango, USA, champions the idea of using meditation and other methods to enhance your mood.  But she offers a word of caution about constantly asking yourself: ‘Am I happy yet?’  She says: ‘Rather than focusing on how much happiness they’ve gained and doing a kind of mental calculation, people could focus more on enjoying their experience of the journey towards happiness and not get hung up on the destination.’

To actively improve your mood, try out these 10 exercises, remembering to enjoy yourself on the your journey to thinking yourself happy.

10 Ways To Grow Your Own Happiness

Let Go Of Your Expectations

Often, the big things we think will make us happy actually don’t, argues Professor Paul Dolan, government wellbeing adviser and author of Happiness By Design.  for example, parents report that bringing up children gives life more meaning, but it doesn’t actually lead to higher happiness levels.  Similarly, money can’t buy you joy.

So forget about concentrating on what you believe will make you happier overall.  Professor Dolan says it’s more about paying closer attention to what brings you pleasure in each moment.  ‘We’re happier if we are focusing on the person we’re with, and the thing we’re doing right now.’

You could get the most out of family life by enjoying a Sunday afternoon out with the kids – and staying closely in the moment rather than worrying about the next week at work.  If you’re playing with your pet, concentrate on the game instead of shaking a toy half-heartedly while watching TV.  Whatever you’re doing, you’ll get more from it if you give it your full attention.

10 Ways To Grow Your Own Happiness

Turn Negatives Into Positives

Our thoughts control our moods, so it’s worth trying to transform a negative mindset into a positive one.  ‘Positivity affects everything from how quickly we recover from an operation to how long we live – the positive among us live longer,’ says Rachel Kelly, who wrote Walking On Sunshine, to share the strategies that keep her upbeat after suffering from depression.

But how can you be more optimistic if you’re naturally a glass-half-empty type?  According to Kelly, the first step to improving your mood is to simply notice your negative thoughts.  It’s easy to allow them to spiral downwards, so make an effort to become more aware of any negative patterns.

‘Next realise these thoughts aren’t facts.  It’s worth questioning them because many turn out to be false assumptions,’ she says.  If you can’t successfully challenge a negative thought, accept it while breathing in.  When you breathe out, try to find a more positive way of viewing the situation or issue.  For example, if you’re feeling anxious that you’re going to argue again with your partner, tell yourself that if a row  does kick off, you’re going to listen as well as talk calmly – the disagreement could actually end up being positive.  Whenever you do this, the old neural pathways in the brain that process negative ways of thinking begin to fade and are replaced by positive ones.

Be Thankful

One study found people who write down the things they’re grateful for on a regular basis feel more optimistic, exercise more and visit their GP less.  The “three good things” exercise is a handy tool,’ says Rachel Kelly.  “As you wind down for the night, think of three positive things that happened that day.  

The more detailed and specific you can be, the better.  Reflect on each one how it made you feel.’  Tell your partner how much you appreciate them too.  Research shows that when people take time to express gratitude for their partner, they also feel more comfortable airing concerns and this can make the relationship healthier.

10 Ways To Grow Your Own Happiness
Write Your Gratitude List Every Day

Do Something Kind

Doing something thoughtful for someone else is a proven way to boost your own happiness.  The reason being it can help give your life meaning and purpose, and draw your focus away from your own problems.  To get the most benefits, Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, advises against random acts of kindness such as buying a coffee for the person behind you in the queue.  

While you might get a short-lived kick out of this sort of act, doing something another person truly benefits from gives you a deeper feeling of contentment because it genuinely helps them.  ‘Its more productive to target someone who’s in need of a little more help,’ says Rubin.  ‘Help a colleague even when you’re rushing to meet a deadline yourself, or go out of your way to assist an overwhelmed parent who is juggling toddlers and shopping bags.’

10 Ways To Grow Your Own Happiness
Help Someone Who Needs It

Act Upbeat

If you can’t shrug off that bleak mood, act as if you feel cheerful.  First, put on a smile – research has shown smiling, even when you’re faking it, helps you feel more relaxed.  And the more you can perfect a genuine-looking smile, the better – that means grinning so the smile reaches your eyes.  A study at the University of Kansas, USA, asked people to hold chopsticks horizontally in their mouths (try grinning and holding a pencil horizontally in your teeth), which resulted in them moving their facial muscles to mimic a smile.  These people were better able to cope with challenging tasks afterwards.  This is because your brain is constantly monitoring your body to see how you’re feeling, which includes scanning facial expressions.

As well as painting a smile on your face, Professor Sir Cary Cooper, a psychologist and wellbeing expert, suggests that you can trigger a good mood.  He says, ‘wear your favourite clothes on ordinary days and don’t save them just for special occasions.  Put on bright colours and talk about cheerful things.  This can make a difference and help you feel more upbeat.’

10 Ways To Grow Your Own Happiness
Smile

Clear Your Clutter

It’s been proven that being surrounded by clutter has a powerfully negative effect on your mood, according to research by neuroscientists in the USA.  The mistake many of us make, says Gretchen Rubin, is saving up for one big tidy.  ‘Mess makes it harder to focus and can leave you irritable,’ she says.  ‘Instead, you need to de-clutter on a regular basis.  Whenever you have a spare minute, clear a shelf or a kitchen drawer.  

If you’re standing around waiting for the kettle to boil or your toast to pop out use the time to see what you could clear up – even small things like a recycling of junk mail, putting away teabags or hanging up a coat can make a big difference.  Get rid of anything that isn’t beautiful or useful, too’.

Have a De-Clutter

Connect Physically

It can be tempting to stay in touch by email or social media, but it’s no replacement for seeing friends in person.  Plenty of studies have shown the happiest people spend more time socialising.  And that doesn’t just mean having nights out with lots of pals – spending quality time with your partner is also important.  Make the effort to snuggle up, even if you’ve been together for years, because frequent hugs can boost levels of the love hormone oxytocin, which encourages feelings of intimacy and closeness.  

Making small connections with others throughout the day is also beneficial, easing stress and boosting contentment, says Professor Cooper.  ‘Smile at people in the street, chat to bus drivers and people who serve you in supermarkets,’ he says.  ‘This kind of everyday interaction can give you a lift.’

Do What You Love

For me this is an obvious one to add to my 10 ways to grow your own happiness and have been saying this for so long.  Having a hobby that absorbs you is an important way to get sources of stress into perspective and boost contentment,’ says Professor Cooper.  A study at the University of British Columbia, Canada, found people who spent time pursuing their passions were happier than those who prioritised their job.  

So leave work on time and do something you enjoy.  ‘One of your hobbies should be an exercise you really like,’ says Rachel Kelly.  ‘I feel more alive when I live in my body as well as my mind,’ she adds.  So instead of focusing on what it is you can do to lose weight or get fit, find something you really look forward to, whether that’s dancing swimming or running.

Do Something You Love

Toast To Good News

We often see a harsher version of ourselves than is the reality.  So to give yourself perspective, be more attentive to your good points.  Notice your achievements – at the end of each day, note down what you’ve done well, whether that’s completing admin that has been hanging over you, getting to the gym despite feeling tired, or lending an ear to a friend who’s having a hard time.  This will build you self-esteem so you feel more in control.  

When it comes to the bigger bits of good news, like getting a promotion or plucking up the confidence to ask a friend out on a date, allow yourself to acknowledge it by telling others – research shows those who share good news are happier and more satisfied with life.  By choosing the most enthusiastic friends to tell you’ll get a more positive response, which will reinforce your own satisfaction.

Get Musical

Listening to upbeat music you like really can life your spirits.  Studies at the University of Missouri, USA , found listening to positive music daily for two weeks lightened people’s moods in the short-term and boosted their overall happiness.  There’s no other stimulation like music to arouse the brain,’ says Professor Paul Dolan.  Make music part of your daily life – put it on when you’re getting ready in the morning, exercising or whenever you need a lift.  Having a musical soundtrack to your day will help you feel amazing.

Listen to Music

I hope you found 10 ways to grow your happiness of interest.  I’m going to start applying these to my life; let me know how you get on if you do the same but remember it won’t happen overnight.  This is something to be worked on, on a daily basis.

If you would like to add your own items to my 10 ways to grow your happiness – please leave them below.

Tracey x

 

64 Tips for Living a Happy Life Starting Right Now

Happiness is a habit that we have to practice on a daily basis. Life is full of uncertainty, fear, and struggle; but we can cultivate a practice that brings out the true joy living inside us at all times

Be happy

It doesn’t matter what your age is or how much money you have in your bank account, your marital status or what you do for a living, we all want to be more successful in our lives. Of course, defining success is different for each us, but here are proven ways that can make you more productive, happy and successful in life.

Please feel free to share this list, add to it, and make it your own. Happiness is a habit that we have to practice on a daily basis. Life is full of uncertainty, fear, and struggle; but we can cultivate a practice that brings out the true joy living inside us at all times. These practices will make us more resilient and allow us to bounce back with more ease and grace from life’s challenges.

64 Tips for Living a Happy Life Starting Right Now

Be committed

No matter what goals you have set for yourself in life, you have to be committed. It’s through commitment that you’ll continue to make the improvements needed to better yourself. Whether it’s taking a chance on launching a startup, getting a gym membership to improve your physical well being, or taking a cooking class because you want to become a chef, commitment is what drives us all to become more successful.

People care about you; not your success

Let’s be honest. People don’t care about the expensive clothes you wear, how big is the house you own or the car your drive. That’s not to say that they don’t respect your achievements or possessions. Instead, they care for you as an individual and they’ll support you no matter what — because they love you. Believe it!

Be grateful everyday

According to researchers Martin Seligman, Robert Emmons, and Michael McCullough, being grateful can result in feeling better about your life, more enthusiastism and more willingness to help others. Being grateful may even reduce coronary artery disease. Take the time to write down what you’re grateful each and every day.

Money can’t buy happiness

As The Beatles famously proclaimed, (money), “can’t buy me love.” You know what else money can’t buy? Happiness. Just because you’re earning six figures doesn’t mean that you’re necessarily content. Sure, money is obviously needed, and it makes some things easier. But, you should be focusing on your passion and not how much your paycheck is.

Don’t take rejection personally

At some point we all face rejection. Instead of taking it personally, use it as a learning experience. Why did a someone reject your proposal? Maybe there wasn’t a market for your product. Perhaps you didn’t have a convincing pitch. Maybe the their partner just called and said he’d spent their extra cash. Accepting and learning from rejection is one way to guide you to success.  Learn from rejection and use it as motivation to make things bettter!

Have a backup plan

You never know when the unexpected is going to happen, but when it does happen, you’re surrounded by chaos. Being prepared for the worst case scenario can at least make things a whole lot less chaotic. 

Travel

As Yii-Huei Phang states on The Huffington Post, traveling is a great way to “develop a person’s character” and become more open-minded. Additionally, while traveling is a great way to get away from the daily grind, it also helps you appreciate what you have back at home.

Don’t multitask

If you’re feeling constantly burnt out it’s probably because you’re doing too much at one time. Research has found that “when you switch away from a primary task to do something else, you’re increasing the time it takes to finish that task by an average of 25 percent.” You’re also burning your reservoir of energy. Both of these issues decrease your productivity and prevent you from accomplishing tasks and goal.

Embrace a growth mindset

Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck argues that we have two-mindsets; “fixed” and “growth.” A fixed mindset “assumes that our character, intelligence, and creative ability are static.” A “growth mindset,” however, “thrives on challenge and sees failure not as evidence of unintelligence but as a heartening springboard for growth and for stretching our existing abilities.”

Balance work and life

When work interferes with life, it can result in employees getting burned out and decreases base morale in the office. While this may not be an option for employees, it proves that everyone needs time away from the office. If you’re able to spend less time in the office by working remotely or having flexible hours, you should be able to be productive in both your personal and professional life.

Don’t hold grudges

There is really no need to hold onto a grudge. It can mentally wear you out and makes you miserable. And, doesn’t life seem to go a whole lot smoother when you’re not angry?

Stick it out

After years of studying both children and adults, psychologist Angela Duckworth found that one of the characteristics of successful individuals is having grit. During her TED talk Duckworth stated, “Grit is passion and perseverance for very long-term goals. Grit is having stamina. Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality. Grit is living life like it’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

Live in the moment

You can’t change the past and you have no control of the future. Live in the moment and enjoy what’s in front of you right here, right now. When you’re busy making too many plans, you’re causing stress that prevents you from enjoying the present.

Take care of yourself, then help others

According to Mark Snyder, a psychologist and head of the Center for the Study of the Individual and Society at the University of Minnesota, “People who volunteer tend to have higher self-esteem, psychological well-being, and happiness.”

Additionally, helping others is beneficial for our health. But, how can you help others if you haven’t taken care of yourself first? Take care of your needs first and then begin to help others.

Giving: Do Things for Others

  1. Give sincere compliments often. You can easily lift someone’s spirits by complimenting their work, attitude, style, or anything else you genuinely find remarkable. Not only will it help them but it will help you be seen as a person who is uplifting and nice to have around.
  2. Say thank you to the supermarket cashier, coffee barista, taxi driver, or anyone else who makes your life easier.
  3. Write a thank you letter to someone.
  4. Hold the door open for the person behind you.
  5. Carry a Homeless Care Bag in your car and hand it out when you see someone in need.

Relating: Connect With Others

  1. Say “I love you” to someone you love.
  2. Give someone a hug.
  3. Tell your co-worker how much you appreciate the work she/he does. Be specific.
  4. Practice mindful listening with your friends.
  5. Have device-free lunch and dinner time with co-workers and family. Each person agrees to turn off their devices and have a meal connecting with only the people at the table.

Exercise: Take Care of Your Body

  1. Take a walk and smile at everyone you pass.
  2. Do 20 Jumping Jacks. This easy, do-anywhere exercise is sure to give you a quick energy boost and get the blood flowing. It also helps get creative juices flowing, so it’s a great break to take during work or when feeling stuck on a project.
  3. Do a headstand. Headstands are a great way to flush fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients to the brain.
  4. Take the stairs instead of the lift or escalator.
  5. Go for a bike ride, walk or hike with a friend. Getting outside in nature has a restorative effect on the psyche. Research shows that just 15 minutes of walking in a park or forest increased feelings of vitality and relaxation.

Awareness: Live Life Mindfully

  1. Smell the flowers and while you’re there count the number of petals they have. Really notice the beauty nature provides us.
  2. Watch the sunrise or sunset. Remember that no matter how difficult things get, the sun will rise again tomorrow.
  3. Light a candle or fire and watch how mesmerizing the flames can be.
  4. Eat an orange mindfully (or raisin, piece of chocolate, anything you have on hand).
  5. Marvel at the all tasks your body performs automatically without you having to tell it anything. Breathing, feeling, digesting, thinking, yawning, blinking, sweating, shivering….how many can you come up with?

Trying Out: Keep Learning New Things

  1. Ask more questions. Keeping your mind open to the marvels of the world is fuel for your imagination.
  2. Visit a museum or historical site in your town or city.
  3. Try a new sport, yoga class, or activity in your area. Studies have shown that learning a new sport increases the volume of gray matter in parts of the brain responsible for motor movement.
  4. Learn to draw, play an instrument, cook a new meal, or learn a language. Learning helps build self-confidence and feeds creativity.
  5. Teach what you already know. Teaching others forces you to take a new perspective and often leads to deeper understanding.

Direction: Have Goals to Look Forward to

  1. Plan a trip. Having a holiday on the horizon builds the excitement of anticipation.
  2. Create a Weekly Ritual. Rituals provide stability and comfort while also connecting you to the present moment. If your ritual includes others, such as family movie night, it becomes a great way to connect and nurture relationships.
  3. Sign up for an event that you have to train for, like a mud run or a triathlon — bonus points for doing it with a group. The sense of accomplishment that comes with completing a goal after months of training is one of the greatest happiness boosters I know of. It builds confidence in all areas of life.
  4. Break down larger goals into small, attainable actions that move you towards your goal. Have a weekly check in to make sure you are on track.
  5. Find a mentor, coach, or teacher who can help guide you and hold you accountable.

Resilience: Find Ways to Bounce Back

  1. Listen to your favorite happy song at full blast and sing it loud! 
  2. Meditate. This is a great way to build strength of mind, heart, and spirit. If you’re new to meditation start with just one minute of focusing on your breath coming in and out. When you get distracted (and you will), just begin again. 
  3. Smile. Studies have shown that the body can trick the brain into thinking it’s happy by flexing the zygomatic major muscle, which is the smiling muscle. So when you’re feeling blue, turn up the corners of your mouth and your brain will get the signal to be happy.
  4. Be curious. Rather than judging setbacks or disappointments as bad or failures, approach them with curiosity, like a scientist. Figure out how you could improve for next time. Use everything as a learning experience and you will always be moving forward.
  5. Lean into the pain. This may seem counterintuitive, but a lot of our struggle comes from the resistance we use to avoid being uncomfortable. Often times, once we open up to the pain, sadness, fear, etc., we release the power it has over us and see it as the temporary state it truly is.

Emotions: Look for What’s Good

  1. Keep a daily gratitude journal. Each day write 3–5 things that happened that you are grateful for.
  2. Make a Gratitude Board. This can be a chalkboard, white board, bulletin board, any type of board, that you can write or post things you are grateful for. Keep it somewhere that you see often so it serves as a reminder of how much you have to be happy about.
  3. Make a practice of sharing the best moment of your day with family or friends at dinner each night. Knowing that you have to come up with something good that happened each night will train your brain to look for the good things in your day.
  4. Know what makes you happy and do more of it. Does dancing put you in a good mood? Then make a point to dance a little each day.
  5. Visit the Soul Pancake website. They create inspiring, heartwarming, uplifting, and humorous content guaranteed to put a smile on your face.

Acceptance: Be Comfortable With Who You Are

  1. Practice loving-kindness meditation. This type of meditation cultivates the awareness that happiness is accessible to us at all times.
  2. Notice what your self-talk is like. Are you constantly criticizing and judging yourself? If so, try talking to yourself the way you would talk to a friend or loved one.
  3. Have an open mind. The more accepting you are of yourself, the less you care what others think. This allows you to open your mind and broaden your horizons.
  4. Challenge yourself. Step outside your comfort zone once in awhile and you will begin to grow exponentially. This can be as big or small as you like. I like to say each day I will do at least one thing a little more, or a little better.
  5. Nurture yourself. Get a massage, go to a spa, take a warm bath.

Meaning: Be Part of Something Bigger

  1. Volunteer. Whether your thing is teaching underprivileged kids, visiting the elderly, or helping clean up the environment, there are numerous ways to volunteer your time and feel part of a community.
  2. Visit the planetarium. It’s amazing what learning about the solar system does for putting things in perspective. Even gazing at the night sky can have inspire feelings of deep connection.
  3. Join a community group. Whether it is social activism or a recreational sport team, getting together with people in your community will make you feel a deeper connection to the world around you.
  4. Adopt a pet. There are an abundance of domestic animals that need loving homes. Having another living thing that is dependent on you brings deeper meaning to your life.
  5. Plant a garden. Tending to a plant, especially one that you will eat, creates an appreciation for the nourishment the soil can provide and a deeper respect for Mother Earth.

And there you have it, some of my tips for cultivating a happy life. I hope they provide some inspiration and motivation to discover your own best ways to live a happier and more meaningful life.

Tracey xXx