Are you happy? When asked this question, do you stop to ask yourself, “What is happiness anyway"? I wonder how many people even stop to clarify what happiness means to them or what can be done to improve the present level of happiness that exists in their lives.
Some people believe that happiness is something that is the result of external factors in their lives such as success in their profession, the accumulation of wealth, meeting the perfect mate or creating the ideal family. Holding on to such a belief allows the forces of our everyday lives to dictate our level of happiness. According to this belief, one could wake up in a present state of happiness feeling very satisfied and content with their world. As they progressed through their day, however, they may lose this state of happiness as they are faced with the struggles of their day to day lives.
Such inconveniences as traffic, crying children, unexpected tasks at work, rude interactions with others, miscommunications with their spouse or children and the like, could send their happy state of mind in an out of control downward spiral leaving them feeling sad, frustrated, and dissatisfied with their lives. By allowing the happenings of their daily lives to dictate their happiness level, such people are at great risk of living lives that are unpredictable and that are controlling them rather than them controlling their lives. The long term result of such a belief system could be a state of depression and pessimism in regard to the future.
In contrast, other people have a drastically different philosophy in regard to happiness based on much of the research that has been done on positive psychology. One of the leading psychologists in the field of positive psychology, Martin E. P. Seligman, teaches that one can cultivate and experience authentic happiness and become more optimistic about the future.
Those individuals, who follow the teachings of Dr. Seligman and other positive psychologists, recognize that life will endlessly throw challenges in their path. But to the extent that we make the daily choice to use our resilience and our core strengths to tackle such challenges will determine our level of happiness. This type of happiness is happiness from within because it is acquired by making a daily choice to be happy rather than to allow external factors to dictate ones level of happiness. Such people view the future with optimistic hope and excitement as they create the life they want to live.
So, what does it take to be happy from within? What can one do to improve their perspective on how to achieve and create happiness in their lives?
Here are some simple suggestions to improve your present level of happiness based on the wisdom of some of the great pioneers in the field of positive psychology:
1. Make happiness a habit. Happiness is a choice that needs to be made every day, every hour, and every minute in fact. Those individuals who are the most happy are so because they choose to be.
2. Cultivate mindfulness. In developing the capacity to be fully present in each moment, one can live a life of greater depth and meaning. By training oneself to be in the here and now, in the present moment, we immediately enhance the quality and fullness of life.
3. Direct your daily thoughts. Be aware of the thoughts that you believe in as truths. In order to become aware of your thoughts, begin by writing down your thoughts. Then read what you have written and question whether or not these thoughts are helpful to you or realistic. Are they truths based on facts or just your own beliefs? After analyzing your thoughts, write down other possible truths that could exist in relation to the belief that you presently have.
4. Live in a state of FLOW: “FLOW" is a theory that was discovered by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi who is a pioneer in achieving inner happiness. He suggests that flow is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. To achieve flow an activity must have the following components: the activity must be challenging, it must be clear in how it will progress meaning that the rules are simple, it must require all of our concentration, and we must feel we are making progress and are in control. Activities that promote a state of flow include those activities that require discipline such as an art, a sport, or a religion. They more flow activities that we incorporate into our lives, the happier we will feel.
5. Practice forgiveness: Among all great religions taught throughout the world, a common call to forgive one another exists. Forgiveness leads to the path of inner happiness. Failing to forgive someone takes from our heart by filling it with anger and hatred every time we think of the person that we harbor negative feelings towards. In genuinely forgiving another person for a wrong that they have done, one will feel a huge healing to their heart almost as if their capacity to love has increase because their heart has literally grown in size!
6. Develop discipline: According to research conducted on inner happiness, one of the essential factors in a person’s happiness is their level of self-discipline. By overindulging in food, alcohol, sex, etc. , a weakening in our mind, body and soul can result. By practicing self discipline in our daily lives, we strengthen our mind and self-image because we promote a feeling that we are in control of our body. By using restraint, we achieve stability which leads to contentment.
7. Be an optimist: Among the many findings of Martin Seligman’s pioneering work on positive psychology, is the highly effective way to increase wellbeing by thinking in an optimistic manner. Seligman has shown that optimistic people are more successful at work, are healthier, have more friends, and experience more enjoyment out of life. This is so because they perceive problems as temporary and do not take them personally. Such optimistic thinkers view the events that happen in their lives as always having a positive side. They elect to believe that ones ability to conquer hardship is determined by how one recovers from a setback. They hold on to the belief that nothing can hold them down permanently.
8. Simplify your life: Life in our modern society has become overwhelmingly busy and complex. To restore a sense of balance to our lives, one must try to do less, own less, worry less and push ourselves less. To do this one can give away possessions that they are not using, reduce the number of hours they work each day, chose to see friends less so they spend more time with their family, and take some time each day to just sitting and not doing anything but be in the moment.
9. Exercise regularly: Daily exercise has been proven to have a huge impact on how positive we feel about ourselves. This is so due to the fact that giving our body a regular workout helps reduce tension and stress. Exercise also changes our body’s biochemistry because during exercise we produce natural endorphins that make us feel happier (also known as “the runner’s high"). Regular exercise also helps to reduce fat, improves muscle tone, clears the skin, and promotes a general sense of strength. Such benefits experienced by regular exercise have been shown to lead to significant increases in self-esteem which is a mental state that is closely linked to inner happiness.
10. Give love freely to others: Being told “I’m loved" ranked in the top ten most pleasant activities by subjects in a resent research study. Interestingly, this also works in reverse; wellbeing researcher P. M. Lewinsohn and M. Graf have shown that expressing our love for someone makes us feel good too. In addition, that feeling tends to stay with us throughout the day.
These are a few first steps to incorporating choosing to be happy from within into your daily lives. The decision to do so lies within each one of us. Each of us has the power begin our personal journey toward living life to the fullest each and every day! Why not begin your journey today?
Elizabeth Savino is a Personal Life Coach and the owner of Sole Life Coaching. She specializes in Women in Transition. For more information on acquiring happiness from within and empowerment techniques, you may contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elizabeth Savino is a personal life coach and founder of Sole Life Coaching. She specializes in women’s issues and women in transition. With the support, guidance, and motivation of a life coach, women gain clarity about what direction they would like to move in the next stage of their lives. Elizabeth assesses the individual life of each client to identify areas for growth. They then formulate the steps needed to reach the client’s specific goals.
Elizabeth began her career teaching students with special needs and varying disabilities for several years. She chose to put her professional career on hold to devote her time and energy into being a role model and teacher for her own children. Elizabeth also used this time as an opportunity to pursue interests that she felt passionate about.
Elizabeth spent much of time researching the benefits of positive psychology on human destiny. She became increasingly aware of the power that human beings innately have to create their own destiny.