How to be happy

 

Spring is in full swing, and summer is on its way.

How can anyone not feel happy?

I can think of a few reasons why it may be challenging to feel a sense of happiness and contentment. Can you?

I don’t want to dwell on the negative, so this blog is about happiness. Throughout our time together today, we’re going to find out what happiness is, learn about emotions and finish with a few tips on how we can increase life satisfaction!

What is happiness? 

Happiness is a state of mind, not a personality trait. It’s an emotional state characterized by feelings of joy, satisfaction, contentment, and fulfilment. Happiness can come from the present moment or a recollection of past emotional experiences. Although there are many different definitions, happiness involves positive emotions and overall life satisfaction.

Happiness has a positive effect on our lives. Those high in happiness tend to experience frequent positive emotions and relatively infrequent negative ones. 

Did you know that we feel the most happiness in our 20s and 60s?

What are emotions?

Emotions are the body’s way of preparing us to deal with events without thinking about them. They’re subconscious, so we don’t choose to feel our emotions. Emotions happen to us automatically. Emotions help us sense when something essential to our wellbeing is occurring. For example, we feel anxious when we sense a threat or happiness when we experience a sense of pleasure.

Why do we have negative emotions?

Negative emotions raise our awareness of dangerous and detrimental events. We feel anxiety when we sense a threat and anger when facing or trying to correct a perceived injustice.  

Negative emotions give us mental tunnel vision and focus our attention on the adverse event and stop us from reaching out to others for help.

Let’s use June as an example. June is a first-time mum who feels anxious about becoming a mum. June sees this as a threat to her current life. She becomes focused on her responsibilities such as caring for the baby, her drop in income and maintaining her home. As a result, June becomes more anxious and stops contacting her friends and family. 

Although the prospect of being a mum can make you feel anxious as you begin to reconstruct your life mentally, it is not necessarily a bad thing. The feeling of anxiety motivates us to make the necessary changes we need to relieve the stress. For example, we may create a budget to help balance finances once the baby arrives. Or, draft a plan of household chores to share between those who live in the house ( or you could pay for help if your budget allows).

If June didn’t feel anxiety, she might not be motivated to reconstruct her life to suit her next life adventure, leading her to be ill-prepared to care for the baby or neglect her finances. 

What are positive emotions? 

On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have positive emotions.

Positive emotions such as happiness, curiosity, love and excitement have the opposite effect. When we experience positive emotions, we broaden our horizons, and we can think more broadly and creatively. We’re more likely to reach out to others and deepen our existing relationships.

What are the benefits of positive emotions?

Positive emotions help us both physiologically and socially. When we feel positive emotions, we sleep better and experience improvements in our physical health. Studies have also found that optimistic people live longer! Socially we become more extroverted and are more likely to reach out to others and deepen existing relationships.

How can we increase our happiness?

Gratitude 

Gratitude is remembering the good things that have happened to you. A positive memory could be an event, a person or a good thought you had. For example, it could be a kind gesture from a stranger or a hug from your child. Gratitude helps us to saviour the positive events in our life.

As you can imagine, practising gratitude increases our happiness.

When you practice gratitude, you may experience outcomes such as:

  • Increases in health 
  • Increased sleep
  • Less depression
  • Kinder behaviour towards your partner
  • Reduced aggressiveness when provoked 
  • Increased exercise and movement

Ways to practice gratitude 

There are various ways to practice gratitude, such as:  

  • Think of 3 things you are grateful for – Savour what makes you happy
  • Practice gratitude rituals.- When my kids were little, I used to be so thankful they were alive; it helped me appreciate them when times were hard (e.g. when they were awake in the night crying).
  • Show your appreciation to someone who did something nice- let people know you appreciate them by saying thank you!
  • Express gratitude by doing a kindness. Act with compassion without expecting anything in return ( sometimes I send my friends a gift in the post because ‘I saw this and thought of you.’
  • Tell the people in your life how you feel, what they mean to you – There is no need to go over the top. A simple ‘I’m glad we’re friends ‘or ‘Im lucky to have you is enough to brighten someone’s day.
  • Start a gratitude journal. Committing to writing down good things each day makes it more likely that we will notice good things as they happen.

My favourite way to practice gratitude is the gratitude journal. 

When I’m feeling sad, I like to look over the things I am thankful for; it helps me rebalance my emotions.

How to write a gratitude journal 

  1. Pick a specific time of day 
  2. Get a pen and notepad
  3. Write down something you are grateful for 
  4. Doing this activity for a week reminds you of what you can be thankful for when you feel low or overwhelmed. 

Pro tip – Writing your journal at a specific time each day primes your mind to search for reasons to be grateful. For example, writing your journal at 6.45 each day means you’ll mentally start searching for something to be happy about at around 6.30 each evening. It might be a good idea to pick a time before a stressful event like putting the kids to bed or visiting your inlaws!

I hope you found this blog helpful.

I encourage you to share your happiness and write three things you are happy about in the comment box.

I look forward to reading your comments. 

Take care 

Laura 

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