“Don’t Worry, Be Happy” maybe a fun loving song, but what does it really take to be happy? Research shows that many aspects of your life benefit from you being happy. It reflects in better relationships with others and can improve your health. It’s such a simple idea that seems to elude most people.
One of the most highly attended psych classes offered at Harvard University was: Positive Psychology-aka-Happiness 101, taught by Prof. Tal Ben-Sharar, PhD. After publishing several books: ‘Being Happy’; ‘Happier’; ‘Even Happier,’ and others, he now travels worldwide spreading the message of happiness focusing on a more positive approach to life.
His understanding changed over the years and with it brought more information to share in his books. As a young man, he thought if only he accomplished his dream, then he could be happy. But after the short celebration once it was accomplished, he found himself wondering why the feeling didn’t last which led to his life long quest.
Dr. Ben-Sharhar’s view now relates happiness to more of a state of being than a fleeting emotion; meaning you can only find it within yourself. He believes there are things you can do in your day to day activities to promote a better state of being which leads to being happy. It’s not about will power, it’s about the habits you create in your life. The following are 14 suggestions he has for you to make a part of your daily ritual:
#1 Gratitude and appreciation.
An attitude of gratitude really can make a positive impact on your life. This has been featured before here and is worth an encore. Dr. Ben-sharhar’s suggestion is to make a list every day of 5 to 10 things in your life you are grateful for. Then throughout the day, remember to say thank you for each one of them.
#2 Physical activity.
Movement improves your mood. When you’re upset, your whole body begins to constrict. Take the time as soon as you can and do something physical. Go for a brisk walk or run up and down stairs in your building if you have them. Energetic movements makes you breathe deeper and that changes the chemistry in your system creating a more positive mood. You are more productive when you are in a better mood.
#3 Decisivness and persistance.
Decide what you want in your life and work persistently toward it. Great achievements don’t happen in a day or just happen by chance. It starts with a thought, then a decision to create it and persistence to see it to the end. It’s also a good idea to be a bit flexible in your expectations as it then creates room for an even better outcome.
#4 Spend your money on experiences more than things.
Remembering positive experiences brings back the feeling of it. Even if there were some struggles around it, the overall experience will be the lasting memory. Just for fun, take a look at a chair in your living room – does it bring back any happy memories of when you bought it? Now take a look at pictures of a vacation you enjoyed. Which one brings back fonder memories or a smile to your face?
#5 Face your challenges.
When difficult situations present themselves in your life, do your best to face them as they happen. When not dealt with as it unfolds, stress begins to build as you know it’s something you’re avoiding but needs your attention. As you set more aside, the greater the stress builds. This is an area that many people need help with and is why I am here.
#6 Good memories.
Surround yourself with good memories. Pictures, a momento of a special time; things that bring a smile to your face when you see them. These create a space you can feel happy in.
#7 Be kind and smile.
It costs absolutely nothing to be kind to yourself and others, but the rewards are incredible. People remember your kindness and are more apt to be kind to others in exchange. And something as simple as a smile can brighten your mood and those around you. What happened to our natural instincts? Babies and young children smile on average over 400 times a day, where we as adults only smile 40 times. Research has shown smiling actually changes the chemistry of your blood improving how you feel.
#8 Wear comfortable clothing and shoes.
Your feet support your entire body. When they are uncomfortable or hurt you are much more likely to be grumpy. Same with clothes that cause restriction, like tight waistbands. Tight, uncomfortable clothes restrict your breathing causing more tension. One way of being kind to yourself is to give every part of your body the room to move freely and be comfortable.
#9 The body was designed to be upright, stable and open.
Look at most people today who walk around slouched over with their head down looking into their cell phones. Even sitting they resume the same position. When you are slouched down, shoulders forward, with your head down, it’s a contracted posture. This again constricts breathing and causes tension. When you stand or sit up straight, with your head high and shoulders open, you are in an expansive state that lightens your mood and amplifies your performance.
Music that makes you feel good can uplift your mood and spirit. It can also have a positive impact to help inspire you. You know it’s the right kind of music when you feel good inside, being at peace or celebrating by singing and dancing along with the melody. However, beware of music that is harsh or has negative lyrics or demeaning words. Studies have shown negative music can impact your mood and health in the same way. What the music conveys in it’s message is what you get from it.
#11 What you eat and drink matters … especially to your happiness.
Nothing new here. For many years now, research has shown the more processed and chemical laden your food and drink are, the more suppressed your mood and health is. The closer to the natural state what you eat and drink are, the better it is for your mind, body and spirit.
#12 Sense of humor.
Learn how to -not- take yourself so seriously, even being able to laugh at yourself. Do silly things, have fun with what you do, when appropriate of course. Find ways to laugh more, be with people who bring a smile to your face, who make you feel good inside and happy to be with them. You can’t be angry when you are laughing. It’s truly good for you and research has proven it.
#13 How you look.
How you present yourself to the world around you reflects how you feel about yourself. Your posture demonstrates this as well. When you are happy with the way you look, you stand taller. It goes much deeper then the surface and resonates from within your being.
This may be the last step but accepting yourself as you are could actually be the first step to your happiness. Following with accepting things around you for what they are. When you want things to be different, to be what you think they should be, you are resisting the way it is, creating conflict within yourself which forms stress. The Serenity Prayer says it best: “Accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.” The wisdom is realizing the only thing you can change is you and things in which you are directly involved. That is where you can truly make a difference.
Here’s a final thought for you. Happiness can also be equated with joy, both are states of being that come from within. A state of being is how you feel about the whole of it. When you remember a positive experience, there may have been times of stress and discord as a part of it, but the overall feeling of that memory is one of happiness and joy. That is the whole of it.
May your journey through life bring you much happiness and joy with satisfaction and peace along the way. And if at times it is more of a struggle than you can handle, get the help you need.
Good information is worth sharing. Forward to your friends.
Tal Ben-Sharhar: ‘Being Happy’, ‘Happier’