As you begin the journey of building a full and happy life, an important aspect of the process involves examining the question, “What is the core of my happiness?”
The New York Times published an article titled “How to Be Happy” that describes happiness as something that exists apart from objects or status.
Rather, true happiness is about discerning the specific things that give each individual a sense of purpose, value, and joy.
Extreme events, whether good or bad, don’t make a difference in the long-term outlook of a happy person. That person can still revert to their happiness baseline or even elevate that baseline with practice. Because, research has shown that people do have the ability to control their own levels of happiness. And, neuroplasticity, the brain's ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections through life, makes it possible to continuously develop your happiness over time.
Here are 10 ways to explore your joy and invest in your own happiness.
1. Participate in the things you love to do
"Happiness is inside, not outside; therefore, it does not depend on what we have, but on what we are." — Henry Van Dyke
Focus on doing what you love, rather than accumulating objects, accolades, and power. In order to be your truest and best self, find the activities that truly interest and excite you. When you contribute your efforts to something you’re passionate about, something larger than yourself, you experience the joy of fulfillment.
One recent study found that fulfillment is a key component of happiness, defining it as, “a long-lasting, internal sense of wholeness, in which we find value in recognizing our personal impact on the world around us.”
2. Cultivate a positive environment when you love your surroundings
A peaceful and positive home environment can have a significant impact on your happiness and mental health. Decluttering, letting in plenty of light, and embracing greenery are all positive steps toward creating a comfortable and supportive home.
Connecting to nature also increases awareness and appreciation. Try to step outside and enjoy the great outdoors from time to time. This could mean visiting a park, walking trail, or any environment that brings you joy. When you go outside regularly, you’re allowing nature to help you:
Improve memory and mood
Increase energy and motivation
Increase awareness and focus
3. Find a form of exercise you enjoy and get moving
Endorphins are a group of hormones that are released through exercise and provide a happy feeling that might seem like a euphoric state. They can contribute to an energized outlook.
Even small amounts of exercise are proven to have a positive impact on mood, improving cognitive functioning and memory, and reducing depression and anxiety. As this article in Forbes points out, “Exercise is also related to happiness because it is an experience, rather than an item to own.”
4. Uncover the humor in life and laugh often
Laughter also releases endorphins and brings balance to a bad situation or tough circumstance. Humor is a proven way to lift one’s mood, allowing people to engage more positively with the world. In fact, a humorous outlook can be so powerful that laughter therapy is now a tool utilized by counselors, health coaches, and therapists to lessen stress, and reduce anxiety and depression.
Practice laughing and see if it makes a difference for you.
5. Invest in relationships with loved ones
“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.” —Muhammad Ali
People have an innate need for wholehearted friendships and relationships, including the freedom to confide in others and feel a sense of belonging. Research has demonstrated time and time again that strong social relationships are key to happiness and health, even playing a role in longevity. So, make time to grab a coffee with that friend you haven’t spoken to in a while — it’s bound to give your happiness a boost.
6. Stop putting things off until tomorrow
“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
Rather than procrastinating on the things that are important to you, get to work on your deep desires and dreams now. While you might not be able to quit your job and begin a new career as a glassblower, you can take small steps toward the things that matter to you. The only thing anyone has for certain is the present, and nurturing your dreams today is the best way to avoid regrets tomorrow.
7. Be the authentic version of yourself
“Just be yourself,” is common advice, but what does it actually mean?
Research reveals that people who live authentically are more likely to experience high levels of satisfaction. In order to be your own authentic self, identify your unique character strengths from the VIA’s list of 24 characteristics. The list includes items such as love of learning, bravery, teamwork, and more. The Character Strengths Survey allows you to measure your strengths, develop a better understanding of your own nature, unlock your potential, and travel toward happiness.
When you connect with others you feel better about yourself. When you help others, you benefit physically, emotionally, and mentally. Being of service also makes you more open to receiving help when you need it, builds self-efficacy, and contributes to a stronger community. Even small actions like offering a friend a ride or buying someone a meal can give you an endorphin boost and make you feel more connected to the world around you.
9. Practice self-compassion
Most people struggle to treat themselves with compassion and avoid self-criticism and judgment. Self-compassion recognizes that, while everyone faces setbacks, treating oneself with kindness is far more conducive to happiness than beating oneself up over perceived errors.
This article in the Harvard Business Review points out that self-compassion supports a growth mindset, one in which people, “see the potential for growth and thus are more likely to try to improve — to put in effort and practice and to stay positive and optimistic.”
It also allows for greater acceptance, understanding, and comfort. Not that you won't have to deal with tough situations and tragedies, but you’ll perceive these things as part of a shared humanity. This gives you the tools to find clarity, value, and balance when facing any hardship.
10. Don't run away from discomfort
“Do one thing everyday that scares you. Those small things that make us uncomfortable help us build courage to do the work we do.” —Eleanor Roosevelt
It’s natural to want to avoid discomfort. When you choose to lean into it instead, and then emerge triumphant on the other side, it leads to feelings of accomplishment, relief, and confidence. Discomfort often accompanies challenges and new experiences, both of which are opportunities for growth. A little momentary pain or uncertainty is well worth the long-term benefit to your happiness that growth brings.
Getting started on your happiness journey
When you participate in the quest for happiness, you’re digging in and discovering what truly matters to you. It involves stepping out of your comfort zone, being willing to try something new, and practicing a different way of thinking, being, and doing. Remember that you are unique and have many capabilities, dreams, and gifts to lead you in your own direction.
Vera whole health coaches are trained to help members create plans to prioritize their mental health, self care, and wellness. Please don’t hesitate to reach out for support because an investment in personal happiness is also a commitment to your greater health.