Psychologists say we have a happiness set point. This means that we have a basic level of happiness or unhappiness that we have been conditioned to expect in our life no matter how our external circumstances change. So if we want to become happier, to raise our happiness set point, we have to create habits of happiness: that is we need to consciously choose the path to move us in the general direction of greater happiness. Below are 8 points that will help increase your set level of happiness and build healthy happiness habits.
1) Gratitude: be grateful for every single circumstance of your life and let it be used for your growth. When we accept adversity and good fortune and look upon them in the same way the shift towards happiness is internal. Nothing and nobody can take that away from us. It is our reaction to what happens that causes us pain. When we accept that we don’t have to understand everything but to be at peace with what is, our happiness is internal, not dependant on external circumstances. So practice being in a state of gratitude. Start a gratitude or grace journal. Track every day all the things you have to be grateful for. You may start with small things and it may be difficult at first if you feel knee deep in problems. All the more reason to practice being grateful and the more you consciously become aware of the multitude of ways in which you are already blessed, the more your enthusiasm will grow. What you focus on increases. What you notice expands.
2) Follow your passion and find your life purpose. Don’t finish your life and ask what if my whole life has been wrong? Instead have the courage to lead your own life, not the life you think you should, according to society or parents or any other conditioning that takes you away from your true purpose. Find something that you love and move towards it. Head yourself in that direction even if you think you may not be able to get there. So if you want to be a painter but you have no time and need to keep working to provide for your family, you can still borrow books from the library on painting or you may be able to set aside just an hour a week to put colour on the page from home. Fall in love with the process not the end goal. Just knowing you are taking even the smallest steps to do more of what you enjoy will make a difference to your happiness. Happiness is made up many tiny little habits that in the end all amount to something. “Advance confidently in the direction of your own dreams and follow a life which you have imagined, you will meet with a success unexpected in common hours”. Thoreau If you find that you are in a place of sadness or depression, know you only have to take tiny baby steps in the direction of what you might enjoy. Try taking one short walk or savouring small mouthfuls of delicious sustaining food. Just choose one thing that you could imagine you might enjoy and experiment with that. Then if it makes you feel a bit better, do more of that!
3) Spirituality. The greatest hunger we human beings have is the hunger for meaning. Once your life has meaning you realise you are not alone and you increase your levels of happiness and contentment. There is no place that God is not. There is a source from which all creation emanates and to which all returns. . When we remember this, happiness seems to just show up and we find ourselves bubbling up with joy or our eyes filling with tears for no apparent reason other than we realise the miracle that is life. Let the divine grow in you. Commit to living a spiritual life. Become attuned to how spirit works in your world. Go outside and observe a blossom tree, listen to the birds, watch a sunset. Become aware of how much you already have and give your attention to that because what you pay attention to grows. Take your eyes off yourself and ask how may I serve? The only way to find a deep peace is to become comfortable with silence. It has been said that we are spiritual beings having a human experience. It is the spirit that gives life. We will find joy and love in allowing the spirit to have its proper place in our lives. This will orient us towards service and connection and the only true question for our lives becomes how well do we give and receive love. So decide what really matters. It is only the ego that leads us to the false programming of society: distinctions such as success/failure, paradigms of materialism, consumerism, achievement/outcomes and so forth.
4) Practice present moment awareness. The past is gone the future may never eventuate. If you take up now with the past that’s called guilt, the future: worry. We really only ever have now. You can choose to live your life in fear of the future and anxiety and stress, or in resentment and bitterness about the past. Or you can choose to live in the present moment. However it is enthusiasm, hope, trust, gratitude, acceptance and peace which will put you in a high energy state and move you in the direction of happiness. St Francis of Assisi said “Where there is darkness let me bring light, where there is hatred let me bring love, where there is despair let me bring hope, injury, pardon; sadness, joy.” Be the person to bring love, forgiveness, light and joy. Don’t be prepared to give away or waste your present life currency in resentment, anger, or blame and wishing things were different from how they are.
5) Acceptance. “Lord grant me the serenity to accept the things I can’t change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” In order to embrace life and to be happy we need to accept what is; it is only then that we can change and move in a different direction. While we fight and resist the situation of our lives we set up a dynamic of conflict and stress. Change the way you look at things and the world you live in will change.
6) Forgiveness. Many are unwilling to let go of the past. They are still hurting in the present for something that happened eons ago. What a waste of precious living is taking place. When we forgive ourselves and others we undo the power of the ego and we take the energy from the story to which our mind has attached itself like glue. Be aware of the triggers of the ego: fear, judgement, attack, anger, guilt and then move forward in the light of love and truth. Forgive yourself for the projections you have made, the judgements on others and yourself. There is a Hawaiian prayer called “Ho-opono-pono” which can help us move through the process of forgiveness and is very simple. It goes like this: I’m sorry, Please forgive me, I love you and I thank you. We apologise for the judgements we made, we seek forgiveness of others and ourselves for the same, we release them and ourselves into the power of love and we thank them for this particular opportunity for growth. When we enter into this process of forgiveness we undo the power of the ego to keep us separated, divided and keep us locked in judgement.
7) Honesty. Look at whatever comes up honestly and without judgement. Whatever emotion arises from within you, allow it to be present, to notice it and to look at where it comes from. Welcome feelings of sadness and joy equally, don’t judge what comes up but practice allowing yourself the respect of honouring yourself and your process. When you have learnt what you need to, let it go. Emotion is just energy that needs to keep flowing. It gets stuck when we resist it.
8) Take responsibility. It has been said that the greatest gift we humans have is our capacity to choose. We only need to say Yes! We only need to practice being present in any given moment as truly and honestly as we are able. When we fail to show up, when we are preoccupied or reactive, we miss out on the moment. And then we notice gently and begin again. When we are able to experience our capacity to choose, we are really taking full responsibility for the lives we live. It is similar when we allow others to walk their own path in loving respect, taking the focus off changing their behaviour and being responsible only for our own.
When we look into our own lives reflectively and take appropriate action accordingly, we will raise our happiness set-point. We can build our happiness muscle by working on creating habits of happiness some of which are outlined above. But perhaps of greater significance is that we will be living the path of love. Love of ourselves and those with whom we share our lives; which we know and trust in the end will be the ultimate source of true happiness and provide the very ground of our being.
© Margie Ulbrick
For more valuable relationship advice or to make an appointment for singles or couples counselling in Melbourne, speak with Margie on 0403 814 477.
m:0403 814 477