What is the core of (an individual's) happiness? That's just one question you'll need to explore as you make your way toward a blissful, wholehearted, and happy life.

The New York Times article "How to Be Happy" explores how defining happiness and the pursuit of it can be easily done together. The article points out that there's a difference in the tangibility of happiness; it's not about things, status, or relationships. It's about discerning what things are at our core and truly give us purpose, value, and joy.  And to be okay with the possibility of disappointment knowing that "if we don't actively seek to be happy, we're far more likely not to become happy at all."

The article also highlighted that it doesn't make a difference if an extreme event, bad or good, happens in a "happy" person's life (in the long-term). Studies have shown that you can revert to your baseline of "happiness" and even elevate or raise your baseline with practice. Neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neutral connections through life, makes it possible to develop happiness or a state of bliss.

 In this article you'll read about 11 ways to explore what makes you happy, including:

  • Do something you love. Keep working.
  • Love your surroundings. Create a positive environment.
  • Find humor and laugh.
  • Move and exercise your body, mind, and soul.
  • Cultivate relationships by surrounding yourself with others/loved ones.
  • Do it now (no waiting for tomorrow).
  • Be yourself, authentically.
  • Be of service to others. Connect with those that need connection.
  • Practice self-compassion.
  • Let go.
  • Lean into purpose/discomfort.

Do something you love. Keep working.

man-working-on-pottery

"Happiness is inside, not outside; therefore, it does not depend on what we have, but on what we are." — Henry Van Dyke

Focus on getting the most out of your life and doing what you love rather than getting things. 

We say it all the time, "I want for you to be healthy and happy." What we want for others is what we want for ourselves.  As a health coach, I hear this repeatedly at the beginning and throughout an individual's journey to "be their truest and best self." I believe it's built into all of us to yearn for our own unique happiness or bliss. 

The more we strive toward getting more from life, the better we become as a person, and the happier we become. Less is more, comes to mind for me, or placing importance less on things, power, and accumulation of "stuff" and more on the joy we get from feeling fulfilled.

Love your surroundings. Create a positive environment.

girl-outside

Connecting to nature gives us awareness and appreciation, possibly increasing our joy or happiness. Create positive surroundings for yourself at work, at home, with family or a friend, or by getting into the great outdoors, a park, a favorite walk, or any area that speaks to you and brings you joy. 

Nature can help:

  • regulate emotions 
  • improve memory
  • benefit those suffering from depression
  • enhance our mood toward the positive
  • energize us 
  • motivate us
  • reduce stress
  • boost our immune system
  • decrease hypertension and the risk of tachycardia
  • increase awareness and focus
  • help us to perform better
  • give us increased concentration
  • decrease chances of developing ADD

Find humor and laugh.

people-laughing-together

Humor and laughter can be linked to happiness. Have you ever heard of laughter therapy? It's a real thing and has been linked to leading and engaging with the world with a more positive outlook or perspective. One of our health coaches has used this with patients, and I've participated as a health coach. It's incredible how even a forced laugh eventually melts away to a genuine laugh and changes one's mood. 

Laughter helps to release endorphins and can bring balance to a bad situation or tough circumstances. A little laughter and humor can lift the human soul out of the negative. Practice laughing and see if this makes a difference for you.

Move and exercise your body, mind, and soul. 

person-running-outside

In moving our bodies during activities or exercise (especially consistently), we get those doses of hormones called endorphins, giving us humans a positive or happy feeling. In a recent WebMD article, they explain it as having happy chemicals in our bodies that seem like euphoric states. I liken it to a "runner's high." These hormones and states give us a positive and energized outlook.  

I’ve heard this from others and know this personally; that if I'm not in a consistent exercise routine (for me that's running or biking or both, daily) I feel lacking in energy. If I skip even one day of exercise or wait until later in the day to "get-it-done," my energy and mood aren't the same. This also explains why exercising in the morning sets a positive and happier tone for the day for many of us. 

Cultivate relationships by surrounding yourself with others/loved ones. 

group-hugging

As a health coach, making a strong coaching plan or plan-of-action" with my patients is the very heart of how to start forward movement in behavior change. The question posed to the patient is, "What drives or motivates you, in general, both internally and externally?" More than 80-90% of people respond with some version of a relationship, whether that's family, building relationships with others, or the need to be social. There's a need to have wholehearted friendships and relationships with others, to confide in others, and to feel a sense of belonging.

Do it now (no waiting for tomorrow).

calendar

"One of the most tragic things I know about human nature is that all of us tend to put off living. We are all dreaming of some magical rose garden over the horizon — instead of enjoying the roses blooming outside our windows today." — Dale Carnegie

One theme I've heard from my health coaching patients over the almost 14 years I've been in this field is, "no regrets" and wanting to "age well." Thinking about that, I find myself hearing Dr. Wayne Dyer's voice in my head as he encourages people to make the best of the only thing we know we have for sure, the present. He says —  "don't die with your music still inside you." I hear this as, don't put things off, work on the areas of your life, or your deep desires and dreams, now. Even if that means the smallest steps toward them.

Be yourself, authentically.

people-making-goofy-faces

"Just be yourself," you hear people say, but what does that really mean?

According to the Via Institute on Character, character strengths are different from your other personal strengths (your unique skills, talents, interests, and resources) because they reflect the "real" you — who you are at your core.

The study of strengths started in the early 2000s, to scientifically study the positive traits in human beings. Out of these hundreds of articles and research across many cultures came a groundbreaking strengths test or the VIA Character Strengths Survey. This test measures 24 character strengths in individuals, which, in turn, allows an individual to dive into who they really "are" at their core. This information can unlock not only your potential but your progress toward bliss or happiness.

Be of service to others. Connect with those that need connection.

two-girls-talking

"If you want to feel good, do good," is the slogan for Action for Happiness. They talk about how  people not only get an endorphin-rich boost from helping others, but people that see that act of kindness and receive the act of kindness get the same physical, emotional, and mental benefits. Isn't that interesting? 

Connecting to others is a way to feel good about yourself. It enables us to be more open to receiving help and builds self-efficacy and a stronger community.

Practice self-compassion.

two-people-talking-laughing

To love thyself with compassion, being free of our self-criticism and self-judgment, is a difficult undertaking for most of us. According to  (Barnard & Curry, 2011) and Neff (2003) in a paper on "the importance of happiness and psychological wellbeing," self-compassion is a state of mind with three main elements: 

  1. Self-kindness versus self-judgment
  2. Sense of common humanity versus isolation
  3. Mindfulness versus over-identification

In this paper, they also talk about how being compassionate with ourselves allows growth, acceptance, understanding, and comfort in our own lives and can lead the way to a more resilient and happier life. Not that we won't still have to deal with tough situations and tragedies in our lives, but we will reassure ourselves that these things are a shared humanity. This gives us the tools to find clarity, value, and balance when facing any hardship.

Let go.

woman-meditating

In an online article put out by Positive Psychology (September of 2014) about letting go, Suzanne Gerber talks about how "the ego never wants to surrender; it wants to be right." and to hold on to things, but how the heart is different. The article goes on to say, "how people typically get to surrender is that they realize that something isn't working in their lives and that they need to find a new approach." Once that overwhelming feeling is in play, the only way toward peace is to release it or to "let go." When one can do this, it begins movement toward bliss or happiness and away from the negative struggles of ego or the "being right/this is the way I do things/I can't change" mindset.

Lean into purpose/discomfort.

dad-daughter-looking-at-each-other

When we lean into discomfort and come out on the other side, there can be a great feeling of accomplishment, relief, and a higher sense of confidence. When living with a sense of purpose again, we gain a calm and confidence about ourselves. 

I think about the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and how uncomfortable and unsure we all felt. At the beginning of this horrible crisis, trying to move through it was likely a learning, grieving, and "leaning-in" process. Some of us may have come to the perspective of gratitude for the simple things and relationships that we may have taken for granted previously. "Leaning in" was not necessarily a choice but may have benefited our planet, relationships, and ourselves (in the way of appreciation).

You'll know that you're in a state of bliss when you experience one or more of the following (says Psychology Today):

  • You have numerous experiences of synchronicity.
  • You feel as if you're contributing to the collective good.
  • You feel energetic.
  • You feel exceptionally creative.
  • You feel completely alive.
  • You feel playful and joyful.
  • You feel a sense of direction in your life.
  • You have a deep sense of meaning.

The quest for happiness means committing yourself to dig in and discovering what truly makes you happy or blissful; being willing to try something new (without judgment or the harsh critic inside you); and practicing this new way of thinking, being, and doing. Stay the course and all this will help lead you to your happiness! 

Remember that you are unique and have many capabilities, dreams, and gifts to lead you in your own unique direction. So, good luck on your expedition and adventures my friends!

References:

Online article, Humor Makes Us Happy and Happiness Is Contagious, December 22, 2017, by  Peg O'Connor Ph.D. Posted May 18, 2018.

Positive Psychology article, The positive effects of nature on your mental wellbeing. By Madhuleena Roy Chowdhury, BA, 6-5-2020. https://positivepsychology.com/positive-effects-of-nature/

(Online) article in Home Psychology, Happiness Is Not Doing What You Want, It's Loving What You Do (June 10, 2016) https://exploringyourmind.com/happiness-not-want-loving/

WebMD medical reference reviewed by Smitha Bhandari, MD on February 18, 2020. https://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression#1

Online article, New York Times, author Tara Parker-Pope, September 2019.https://www.nytimes.com/guides/well/how-to-be-happy

Online site, Action for Happiness: https://www.actionforhappiness.org/10-keys-to-happier-living/do-things-for-others/details#:~:text=Helping%20others%20is%20not%20only,our%20time%2C%20ideas%20and%20energy.

Online site for the Today show (2020), article How to be Happy. https://www.today.com/health/how-be-happy-8-ways-find-more-bliss-t109346

 5 Daily Tips for Happiness, Bliss and Positivity in Life, by Katherine Hurst (2020). https://www.thelawofattraction.com/5-tips-for-happiness-and-bliss/

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