I like to think I'm a jolly, upbeat person, certainly I'm a happy one, but recently I've decided to really crank that up, to inject yet more happiness into my life. This has coincided with work I've been doing with a number of clients for whom regular feelings of happiness had become elusive. If that resonates for you, then read on for some ideas to make next year a much happier one! Resolve to be Happy ‘Happiness', I'm sure you'll agree, is a really important component of life. It's something we all purport to strive towards and yet for many of us it is unattainable. Sure enough, we do (and arguably need to) experience other emotions too. We all have desperately sad times, times when we're bereft, times when we're bored, times when we're angry or frustrated.
Sometimes happiness is perceived as something that is engendered by our circumstances, but whilst what is happening around us can and does have a profound impact, bereavement for example can remove happiness from one's life, with good counselling and an underlying positive mental attitude, even those in the deepest slough of despond can, in time, raise themselves back and embrace happiness.
What we would all aspire to, I imagine, is that throughout life our dominant mood is ‘happy’.
I believe that this ‘dominant mood’ happiness can be a choice, as simple as that. There is no magic wand. Yet, you can transform your life as if by magic, from mundanity and general negativity, at will, by making a choice and taking action.
Many however, choose a path which makes them sad and unhappy. Because it is the way they know (their ‘comfort zone’ you could say) they believe it is ‘just the way I am', or maybe they denigrate the pursuit of happiness as ‘trivial', ‘pointless’ or even ‘selfish’.
Well, I'm having no truck with that - I'll choose a light heart over a heavy one any day and know that a positive approach to life and the desire for happiness has a profound impact on, not just me, but those around me also.
I've been asking clients of late, ‘what is there, what is present, what's going on, when you're happy’. We start to compile a list. The only rule is that the list contains things the client can do themselves, i. e. things that are not dependent on someone else taking action.
Almost always this list is created as a result of considerable soul-searching, because extraordinarily we often seem to resist that which makes us happy in favour of that which leaves us negative and unmotivated. (For example, eating a whole packet of chocolate Hobnobs or Jammy Dodgers in the certain knowledge of feel ghastly afterwards. ) Or perhaps things you do only occasionally or have to be talked into that ultimately make you happy. (For me that can be going swimming or taking a stroll in the countryside. )
I invite clients to make their list and to entitle it ‘ingredients for happiness’. Then, I encourage them to acknowledge and accept that not to do these things is a choice they are regularly making which impacts on their happiness. The next step (and this is the good bit!) is that they choose to take action regularly and then inexorably start to feel happiness pervading their lives.
Here's a list of the type of thing that comes up, including some of my own ingredients for personal happiness (in italics):
- Connect with other people. Getting up into the hills in the company of a group of friends, walking alongside each for an extended period, really catching up with their life; or having dinner with loved ones - sheer bliss. I love the banter - and the fact that my family and friends are all such good cooks.
- Visit beautiful places. (Lying on soft grass, warm sun, dappled shade, beside a stream. The sound of my family and friends’ laughter and conversation in my ears. )
- Take time to keep a journal. (For me this also means finding just the right book - the aesthetic is important. )
- Be around happy people, revelling in their joy. Choose who you hang out with - dump the grumps!
- Find your passion; it may be gardening, painting, singing, stamp collecting, whatever, but once you've found it, just do it. The new-found motivation will impact on every area of your life. (This is one where you may have to be brave, read my story here . )
- Simplify your life. If you've got a big mortgage, a fancy car, regular holidays abroad, that's your choice, but are you happy?
- Watch nature take its course through the changing landscape throughout the year; delighting in the minutiae of this. (There is such joy in looking from my study window onto the woodland behind. Bluebells in amongst the vivid greens of Spring and now, bare trees revealing hills beyond. Close to, I can see the tops of snowdrops pushing through the soil. )
- Make others happy, a sure-fire way to personal happiness. Helping someone just for the pleasure of it. (Remember that old saying ‘what goes around comes around’ - i. e. do good things, not for what the recipient can do for you. You will be repaid, but perhaps from elsewhere. )
- Be enthusiastic about whatever you're doing, pushing aside thoughts of what you could be doing instead. (A real trial for a grasshopper-brain like me).
- Gratitude is a major component of happiness. You don't have to be a religious person to give thanks. Being grateful is part of really living in the moment and heightening your awareness. Just stop briefly to acknowledge your happiness and to say a little thank you, to your creator perhaps or simply to yourself for having chosen the happiness path.
Once we acknowledge and accept that happiness is largely a choice we can then reflect on the fact that even though we know what behaviour makes us happy, we sometimes choose not to do it. Mad, isn't it? In fact, it's simply a bad habit we've got into, and habits can be changed through making new choices.
Remember, happy people take action. Taking action is the ONLY way to make change happen in our lives.
Jan Scott - facilitating personal change http://www.thelifecoachforyou.co.uk . . . the most significant event in my life for many years. You have delivered everything I hoped for when I first read your website. RR, Oxon