I recently listened to a great podcast on the science of happiness. It derives from the book 'How to be a better human'. I thought this tied in nicely with the start to the new year, where a lot of us reflect and have a good deal of motivation to set goals and change the things we aren't happy with.
What was interesting is that science is saying it is not the big things that make us happy, but rather the journey of making small but consistent physical, emotional, mental and social changes that leads to a greater feeling of fulfillment aka happiness.
So what are these small things that lead to happiness?
Humans are social creatures and connection with others is vital. With the ever-growing ease of digital communication it seems ironic that more people are actually reporting feeling increasingly lonely and depressed. We crave real social interaction - not empty social media interaction. The importance of community was also highlighted as vital to our happiness. We need a sense of belonging. This doesn't mean you need to be filling your social calendar every night of the week, a simple phone call to a friend (not text!), a group exercise class, coffee with a relative etc. Keep up the small social interactions for a big impact on your overall happiness. Next time you think you want binge something on Netflix, make a social connection instead.
It can be easy to forget how lucky we are. We generally have all our basic needs met. We live in a bustling suburb in a beautiful country. We have shelter, food, and family. Sometimes it can be really helpful to take a step back and appreciate the things we have rather than focusing on the things we don't have. Next time you're having a bad day - write down three things you are grateful for. I'm sure you will feel better for it!
Our brains are constantly in overdrive and the effects of technology leave us overstimulated and constantly jumping from one thing or thought to the next. It is important to be present on how you are feeling in that moment, both positively and negatively. To learn how to sit with your emotions and not mask them is an invaluable skill in itself. Learning some mindfulness techniques can do wonders for your mental health and overall happiness.
Focus on the Journey not the Goal
Time and time again the same thing comes up, and that is not to focus on the end result but instead the journey. The changes you are making to achieve that goal are what matters in the long run, not accomplishment of the actual goal itself. By focusing on the journey aka the habits and behaviors that helped you reach that goal rather than the destination you are not left feeling dissatisfied when the goal has been achieved, rather you can continue forward positively with a renewed focus. You can maintain your new routines, choices and habits and not lose all the hard work you put in.
Once you start doing this you will have more day-to-day enjoyment. It stops becoming more about the end result but more about what is happening now, and in turn, it will actually be more likely you will get to your next goal.
Your time is a precious possession. Don't give it out too freely. Put boundaries in place as to what you are and are not prepared to spend your time on. Try not to fill your bucket, learn what is important to you and don't feel pressured to please. Learn to say no and value your down time.
Give to others
We all know that helping others gives you a warm fuzzy feeling. It doesnt have to be a large financial donation. Take time to give your expertise to someone (who wants it), donate $5 to a charity or volunteer for something.
What I love about these tips is that they are totally doable. They don't have to be drastic, just small changes, daily or weekly, will result in an increase in happiness.