Don’t Worry Be Happy
Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do. These four strategies will help you crank up your happiness levels.
The eternal quest for happiness—a pervasive and gnawing theme for so many women in today’s busy, often overwhelming, juggling act called life. It’s a seemingly complex subject with an endless array of opinions on the matter. For example, when you Google “How to be happy” over 7.5 billion results pop up. Sifting through that many pages alone can make one very unhappy!
Thankfully, most of the ways to find happiness do not require a life-altering leap of faith or thousands of dollars spent reclined on the couch of a therapist. In fact, as most experts in the field will admit, happiness is not actually something to be found. Happiness is not a destination, rather, already exists in each of us, as a mindset waiting to be acknowledged, unleashed, and recognized. So stop looking out and start looking in.
WHAT IS HAPPINESS, ANYWAY?
According to Acacia Parks, assistant professor of psychology at Hiram College in Ohio, “Happiness is a combination of how satisfied you are with your life (for example, finding meaning in your work) and how good you feel on a day-to-day basis.”
With that in mind, take a moment to reflect on both of these criteria and ask yourself, on a scale of one to 10 (10 being happiest), “How satisfied am I with my life?” and “How well do I feel on a daily basis?” The results of doing this have either made you more or less happy. But do continue reading because, as mentioned, happiness is a human emotion that already exists within each of us, and can be tapped into and ramped up, through mindset and mental practice.
HAPPINESS IS FINDING YOUR TRIBE AND LEANING INTO THEM
Social connections are good for us, says Dr. Robert Waldinger, a psychiatrist, and director of the Harvard Study of Adult Development. “People who are more socially connected to family, to friends, and to community live longer than people who are less well connected.” Appreciating our social connections for what they are, and not what we wish they were, is a terrific way to express gratitude for the people who shape our lives and provide us with meaningful connections.
However, just as important to happiness is being able to rid yourself of toxic relationships. If you have someone in your life who feels as though they are two cinder blocks on your ankles, bringing you down, holding you back, and making you miserable, grab the bolt cutters and free yourself.
HAPPINESS IS GRATITUDE ACKNOWLEDGED
It’s one of the most popular hashtags on social media: #grateful. Contrary to the in-your-face excesses flaunted on social media, gratitude is actually one of the quietest, most low-key, highly impactful ways to spark happiness. According to Harvard Health Publishing, “Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible.
With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives. In the process, people usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at least partially outside themselves.” They go on to say, “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
HAPPINESS IS BEAUTY IN UNEXPECTED PLACES
When was the last time you sat down and really, deeply, and intentionally looked for the beauty around you? Whether outdoors or indoors, directing our gaze on beautiful things triggers a happiness response. It may not even be a sight. It can be a smell, a sound, a touch, or a taste. Being present and seeking out beauty are sure-fire ways to lower your stress level and trigger feel-good memories and thoughts.
Stopping into a store to smell the same perfume your grandmother wore, feeling the softness of a sweater you’ve worn time and time again but never deeply paid attention to, buying a throw pillow for a couch that looks similar to the one you once saw at a beautiful sunny resort— there are ways to inject an appreciation for beauty into your life.
HAPPINESS IS EXERCISING YOUR HAPPINESS MUSCLES
If you’re like me, you work out for the mental therapy and stress release just as much as you do for the physical benefits. A toned mind and a happy brain are the results of chemical reactions that take place in the body when we perform strenuous, challenging, and sweat-inducing moves. Exercise releases endorphins, which are those feel-good hormones that leave us oh-so satisfied and relaxed for hours post-workout. Exercise and sport also require concentration—counting reps take the place of worrying about work. You can’t hold two mental thoughts at once, so exercise is like meditation in motion.