By “Empress NK”
“Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Abraham Lincoln
“We cannot become what we need to be by remaining what we are.” Max de Pree
“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” Dalai Lama
“Research has shown that the best way to be happy is to make each day happy.” Deepak Chopra
A few years back, I read that when the actor Warren Beatty (formerly a notorious Hollywood playboy) met his now wife Annette Bening, he noticed she was the most disciplined person about happiness he’d ever met. That was the first time I’d heard anyone mention happiness as a discipline.
The more I read, observed, and experienced, the more I realised how true it was that happiness was a choice, and a discipline.
Choosing to be happy is a step some people will never take. Deciding to become disciplined about being happy every day (or pretty damn close) is the next step some people won’t ever take either.
Happiness is an iterative process; you have to repeat beneficial thoughts, choices and actions. You have to regularly check that what you are doing is actually resulting in your happiness or if you need to change course / tactics.
Happiness must be pursued on the individual level, by YOU. It is not anyone else’s job to make you happy; at best they might be able to add to happiness you already have. No-one else can tell you the exact details of what will make you happy – you can get some pointers, rough guidelines, overall themes, but you have to be the one to pick up the tools and build it yourself.
Taken together, I suggest that the four quotes at the top of this post lead to this:
Decide to be happy or more happy.
Embrace the fact that you will need to make changes in order to become and remain happy, or more happy as the case may be.
Accept that certain actions you take are more likely to lead to happiness, and some are more likely to lead to unhappiness, so choose wisely.
Build your happiness each day – by your thoughts, choices, and actions.
I mentioned that there are some pointers / rough guidelines out there on being happy, compiled below are some suggestions (paraphrased to cut down on length but mostly from other writers). Do your own research too – each of us is unique and what makes us happy is a unique blend of factors.
Life is an adventure, every day presents new opportunities. Have an open mind and have fun with life! Take advantages of situations (no matter how frustrating or painful) to grow, learn something new, and or do something different. E.g. every experience of love (good or bad) is an opportunity to grow into a better version of you. Get out of your comfort zone: try new approaches, go to new places, try new activities, meet new people – and see the difference it makes to your life and enjoyment of it.
Live today instead of dwelling on the past or constantly thinking of the future. Find peace with yourself and your past. Rather than remaining angry or hurt throughout your life, choose to forgive yourself and others, and move on. The present is a present – a chance to take decisions and actions today in order to benefit your tomorrows.
A positive mindset is power working in your favour. Everyone’s life has positive and negative aspects – your happiness is influenced by which you focus on. Leave what you can’t control and spend your energy on what you can control; your attitude and your actions. The best way to move away from something negative is to move toward something positive, so replace worries with positive actions, and replace toxic people with non-toxic people.
Listen to what you think and say about yourself, replace negative thoughts with positive ones, and over time you will change the trajectory of your life. Become an optimistic person and reap the benefits – I recommend the book Learned Optimism for those who want to study this more.
Create your own sunshine e.g. read something positive everyday. Have funny / inspirational / beautiful pictures on your phone to cheer you up. Go about with a smile on your face. Listen to music that puts you in a good mood before / during / after an unpleasant task.
You are unique so live your unique life. Stop giving your power away and start / increase taking responsibility for your life. Don’t let even a drop of your self-worth rely on other people’s acceptance of you. Be careful about who you give the microphone and stage to in your life. Don’t dim your light just because it will hurt someone else’s eyes.
People will love / like you, and people will hate /dislike you; a lot of the time it will have nothing to do with you. How others treat you is their choice, how you respond is yours.
If you feel you must compare yourself to someone, compare yourself to an earlier version of yourself. Know what makes you unique, celebrate it, and enjoy your own life.
Have goals and work hard to achieve them. A price must be paid for achieving goals, usually in the form of hard work and persistence. You are praised in public for what you practice in private – invest the time, discipline, and energy to master whatever fields you want to be in. Sometimes you’ll see someone to whom things seem to come naturally. Do not be fooled – you might not know what they were learning at the age of 6 (legal concepts from their parents, how to run a business from their grandparent, how to flirt with boys from their older sister), and you might not know what proportion of the last 24 hrs or 7 days they invested in mastering that skill or technique (trying every combination of a 24 eyeshadows palette, practising a 5 minutes presentation over 100 times, daily 1hr workout routines to get the exact body tone and definition they want). Put in time and effort and you too can have some things come naturally to you ☺
The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle is a book that breaks down how humans become more skilled in music, sports, art, maths, and everything else in life. He found that there’s a pattern common to all of them — Deep Practice (specific kinds of practice can increase skill up to ten times faster than conventional practice), Ignition (a higher level of commitment or passion), and Master Coaching (the “talent whisperers” that fuel passion, inspire deep practice, and bring out the best in their students). These three elements work together within your brain to form myelin, a microscopic neural substance that adds vast amounts of speed and accuracy to your movements and thoughts. Myelin grows, and like anything that grows, it can be cultivated and nourished.
Want to get ahead? GET STARTED. Take small, frequent steps and they will add up – the snowball effect. Measure your progress every day, no matter how small. You are a work in progress; which means you get there a little at a time, not all at once. You may not be where you want to be yet, but keep looking at how far you’ve come.
Increase your moments of Flow. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi discovered that people find genuine satisfaction during a state of consciousness called Flow. In this state they are completely absorbed in an activity, especially an activity which involves their creative abilities. During this “optimal experience” they feel “strong, alert, in effortless control, unselfconscious, and at the peak of their abilities.”
Flow is created by activities with a specific set of properties: they are challenging, require skill, have clear and immediate feedback (one knows whether one is doing the activity properly or not), and have well-defined success or failure metrics. Flow is a constant balancing act between anxiety, where the difficulty is too high for the person’s skill, and boredom, where the difficulty is too low. A properly constructed flow activity leads to increased skill, challenge, and complexity over time. Identify your Flow activities and do them more often – that’s a natural high right there.
Connect with people, life isn’t meant to be lived in isolation. The happiest people on the planet are the ones who have deep, meaningful relationships. Look for quality in friends, not quantity. Have at least 2 or 3 trustworthy friends you can share your experiences, worries, and dreams with.
Don’t avoid eye contact all the time. Listen to people, ask follow-up questions about their stories. Become your unique variation of charming / personable. Share your smile and laugh with the world.
In all your dealings with people, don’t forget the importance of having boundaries, of vetting from the start and continuing to vet, and having healthy attachment styles. These are essential to you being able to have the space for positive / beneficial people in your life and deter / remove the toxic / unsafe people. Remember the space in your life is limited, so choose wisely who and what to let into it – don’t exclude everyone or include everyone.
Take care of your body. If you don’t have your physical energy in good shape, then your mental energy (your focus), your emotional energy (your feelings), and your spiritual energy (your purpose) will all be negatively affected.
Identify which foods / drinks / supplements make a positive difference to your body, brain performance, and mood. Eat more of them and less of those that have a negative impact. If you’re fortunate enough to not have any food sensitivities, make the most of it ☺. You have a unique body, so test things for yourself – I eliminated ginger and saw a reduction in headaches and migraines, after years of many naturopaths recommending ginger for headaches and migraines.
Exercise for the endorphins, for the increased blood flow to your brain, for the detoxification effects, for the pride from accomplishing tough workouts, and for the confidence that comes from knowing you look good with or without clothes.
This was a long post, with plenty for you to chew on ☺. I’ve got to go, but will end with this:
“Happy people accept responsibility for how their lives unfold. They believe their own happiness is a by-product of their own thinking, beliefs, attitudes, character and behaviour.” Marc and Angel, from https://www.marcandangel.com/2014/11/04/a-simple-thing-you-can-do-today-that-will-make-you-happier/
If anyone’s interested, the University of California, Berkeley has a free eight-week Science of Happiness online course. I haven’t tried it myself but thought might as well mention it. https://www.edx.org/course/science-happiness-uc-berkeleyx-gg101x#.VJzRnV4yA0