If happiness is free, how come people cannot find higher levels of happiness?
What if I told you today that everything you know about happiness is wrong? What if I told you that your brain was not designed to be happy?
It all started about 200 thousand years ago, our ancestors lived in caves. Men would only leave the cave to hunt, and women would only leave to gather food. Men were called hunters, women were called gathers. Both genders had two goals for surviving and thriving. Happiness was not something that they cared about.
The only reason we survived and other creatures didn’t is our mind. Our biggest weapon was not a stone or a stick, it was our brain. We were not the biggest animal or the strongest, but we are the smartest. The mental ability that helped us survive has kept us unhappy and stressed for a long time.
We survived because our brains focus on the negative aspect of life. Scientists call this tendency “Negativity Bias”. This negative bias allows us to pay attention to any signs of danger, and react. That is the reason most of us are afraid of the unknown and I’m convinced you can not be afraid and happy at the same time.
Our brains might have evolved, but it is still wired the same way, we care about survival and safety more than anything in our day-to-day lives. In terms of happiness, we are wired to think it’s not as big of a deal. The same is true for wanting greater happiness, it’s psychologically a lower priority.
What is Happiness?
Despite it being a lower priority deep down, happiness has grown into such an important aspect of our lives today. Over the years we’ve learned of negative biases but also of positive psychology and how happiness can bring about positive emotions, long term life satisfaction, and provide other perks.
But what exactly is happiness?
On the surface, it’s an emotional state that is defined by our feelings of joy, contentment, fulfillment, and satisfaction. It has several definitions, but it all involves life satisfaction and positive emotions.
Because happiness is described with such a broad definition, psychologists and social scientists use the term ‘subjective well-being’ when discussing the emotional state.
But digging deeper, happiness is at its core, two things:
- On the scale of emotions, the happiness scale is heavier when someone is happy. You’ll generally be feeling more positive emotions rather than negative.
- Your life satisfaction is high and is being met in several areas of your life such as relationships, work, achievements, and other aspects that you value deeply.
What’s the Wrong Way To Search For Happiness?
With that understanding of happiness, it’s important to understand that happiness is a choice. It’s not a reaction to the circumstances or position that they’re in.
Despite that, people often get the wrong idea of what happiness is like and where you can find it. The wrong way of finding happiness is looking for it in the following places:
In the Next Purchase
For so many people, they are conditioned to think that happiness comes in the material possessions they have. They look for happiness in nicer cars, cool tech, bigger houses, or on-trend clothing. Those are all temporary boosts to happiness and create a cycle where you have to buy the next big (or small) purchase.
In a Paycheck
You know the saying “Money won’t make you happy” has some truth to it. People still bother to see if it’s true and they end up learning it never will be the source of happiness.
In a Future Relationship
It’s true we’re designed to be in relationships with one another and that there is a lot of joy to them. However, relationships require two things: humility and selflessness. Believing that there is someone out there that can bring your happiness level to the top is the same as going on a journey where there is no destination. Yes, relationships can be built to be far stronger and find fulfilment in them, but the responsibility for your happiness is on you and not on the shoulders of others.
In the Next Physical Enhancement
Your health is definitely important for various reasons. However, looking for happiness in physical appearances is an uphill battle as well that only devalues you. It becomes easy to value yourself and look at yourself in terms of physical appearance and it’s not healthy. This is on top of our bodies may not be designed to get certain results.
In an Upcoming Competition
Competition is everywhere and it creates a mentality where one person’s success and happiness in life equals one less opportunity and sadness in others. This thinking is a poor way to think as it leads people to think that happiness is akin to pie.
There are only so many slices available. It’s a problem because happiness and all other things are continuously growing.
In the Person That’ll Solve Their Pains
Blaming other people for your negative emotions or general unhappiness is a terrible approach. The same is true with shifting the responsibility of your shortcomings or faults to other people. It’s bad for your mental health as the victim because you’re not creating any motivation to change.
It’s similar to the idea of being locked in a cell. Someone can have the key and open the door for you, but id you sit there all the time and not be willing to stand up – and change – then you’ll lose.
15 Tips To Form Habits For Happiness
Instead of looking for happiness in all of the wrong places, consider the following tips in order to find greater happiness.
1. Find Your Why
Forget about your goals, think about your purpose. Think about the underlying reasons you want to accomplish your goals.
The Classic author James Addison wrote about finding happiness, he said:
“There are three grand essentials to happiness in life, something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.”
If you can find something that you love to do and can make a real impact doing it, that is your why.
Simon Sinek popularized this term in 2009, in his book Find Your Why, he recounts this story.
He once sat next to a man on a plane. Sinek asked this man one question: What do you do? The man responded that he has been living his dream for 20 years.
Sinek was intrigued, so he asked more questions, the man responded, my company produces steel. How can steel make this man happy? The man clarified “we make products that are easy to recycle.”
This man found something to do: produce steel. Something to love, keep the environment clean. Something to hope for, creating a safe environment for the future generation. What do you love to do?
I love helping people create better lives by sharing tips, tools, and strategies to move their lives and businesses forward. That is my why. What is yours?
You can find yours here: How to Find Purpose in Life and Make Yourself a Better Person
2. Be Present
When you are driving a familiar route, your brain starts to daydream. It shifts its attention from driving to your internal thoughts, we call this mind-wandering.
Have you experienced this?
Mind-wandering is a special human characteristic. It allows our brains to drift away from the task-at-hand to focus something else. It helps us to be more creative, but it hinders our ability to live and enjoy the moment.
Matt Killingsworth is a former Harvard researcher, he believes that people want a lot of things out of life, but they mainly want happiness.
He studied our brains, and he concluded that our wandering mind is responsible for our unhappiness. He believes that our wandering brains have more impact on our happiness than our income, education, gender, and marital status.
He conducted scientific research over multiple years, he asked people three questions:
- How do you feel?
- What are you doing?
- Are you thinking about something other than what you are doing?
If people answered “yes” to the last question, their brains were not present at the moment and they were less happy. He concluded that being present and happiness are correlated.
It seems that being present is essential to our happiness.
- If you go to a concert, watch the concert through your eyes, and not through your camera lens.
- If you take a road trip, don’t worry about reaching your destination, enjoy the road.
- If you have dinner with your family, ask them questions, and listen to their answers.
3. Care, Connect, Create
Humans are social creatures, we like to be connected to other people and we like to take care of others. Surround yourself with people who care about you and you care about them. Connect with old friends.
Make it a point to show your friends and family that you care about them and that you are grateful for their presence in your life. Showing this in your day-to-day life can create positive emotions and help your mental health.
Connect with your loved ones on a deeper level. My most important job in life is being a father, and taking care of my family.
I make a conscious effort to have dinner with my family every day. I go out with my wife every Sunday.
I coach my kids’ soccer teams, I attend their Karate practice, and I engage with them every day.
I call or text my friends as much as possible. I check on my parents every day. I’m intentional about connecting with my family, friends and everyone I come in contact with.
Creating doesn’t just stem from the relationships that we have. You can look to create something with your hands or build something too.
Dan Ariely is one of my favorite behavioral economists, he emphasizes the importance of using our hands to create things. He believes that creating things with our hands leads to our happiness.
He points out that IKEA understands this concept, and that is why they sell complicated furniture parts with vague instructions manual and ask customers to assemble them.
The process is horrible, but the satisfaction that people get after they build their own furniture is enormous.
Build something with your hands, the joy that it brings to your heart is amazing. Connect with people that you care about, and create a life worth sharing. Start today.
4. Close Your Open Files
In their best-selling book, Willpower: Rediscovering the Greatest Human Strength, Roy F.Baumeister and John Tierney estimate the average person has about 150 unfinished tasks that he or she thinks about all day long.
I have about 3 unfinished tasks that I’m thinking about right now, leaking faucet, fixing my AC, and adding more products to my website. These tasks are called open loops, and the more open files you have, the less happy you are.
You need to close most of the open files in your head, the easiest way to do that is brain dump or what I call “drain the pain”.
Write all of your unfinished tasks down. This tactic will trick your brain because your brain feels better when you write your tasks down.
It tricks your brain to think that you did something about it which will help with your mental health and boost your level of happiness.
5. Celebrate Every Victory
Football players celebrate every down, every tackle, and every touchdown. They do not pay attention to the score, they celebrate everything.
Adopt this mindset, celebrate every time you complete a task. If you answer an email, stop and celebrate for a moment. If you have a difficult conversation with your coworker, enjoy your accomplishment.
Dr. Rick Hanson advises people to savor positive experiences. He encourages people to celebrate after any accomplishment. This practice will train your brain to move from a positive state to a positive trait.
What did you celebrate today?
Exercise increases endorphins reduces cortisol and adrenaline in our body. It is also a proven remedy for depression and anxiety.
According to the New York Times, small amounts of exercise have a big impact on our happiness in our day-to-day lives. People who work out at least once a week are more cheerful than those who do not exercise.
Tony Robbins believes that motion creates emotion. If you do not like how you feel, go to the gym, walk outside, or practice yoga. The benefit of 12 minutes of exercise can last up to 12 hours.
If you hate exercise, this article will change your mind.
According to the American Psychological Association, more sleep would make you happier, healthier and safer. From my experience, I can assure you that tired people do not create happy people.
You need to sleep to function. Sleep is very important to your overall sense of happiness and wellbeing. Lack of sleep slows your reaction time, impairs your memory, and reduces your happiness.
It also weakens your immune system and slows your critical thinking.
If you want to be happy, pay attention to your sleep quantity and quality.
Sleep is critical to your happiness, do not sacrifice sleep to watch another episode on Netflix.
8. Declutter Your Life
Declutter your space and your life, clutter leads to stress.
Get rid of anything that you have not used in 18 months. Do not let physical objects occupy an emotional space in your life. let it go. To get yourself started, start by recycling three items from your wardrobe today.
Mike Hanski talked about the importance of decluttering:
“Clean homes and organized spaces are proven to reduce stress, improve happiness, and even improve your eating and exercise habits.”
Keep your environment clean and gain more happiness.
Decluttering is not about getting rid of stuff, it’s about getting control of your life. Ask what is the purpose of everything you have? What value does it provide? Can you digitize it? Whom would it hurt if you get rid of it?
9. Eat Chocolate
A study in 1996 showed that chocolate causes our brains to release endorphins making us happier.
Chocolate has phenylethylamine, it is considered a natural antidepressant, Tryptophan which produces a feeling of happiness, and caffeine that is well known as a wake-up drug.
There is another study that was published by the National Library of Medicine proved that eating chocolate improves our health and improves our mood.
I eat chocolate daily, and I enjoy the taste and the benefit of my habit. Go to the closest store, get some dark chocolate and enjoy it.
10. Sing and Dance
In 2013, Pharrell Williams released a song that has been heard more than one billion times around the world. What is the name of the song? Happy.
Happy spread across the world like a virus that can not be stopped. It invited listeners to either clap their hands or move their bodies. Pharrell Williams understood people a deep desire to be happy, so he repeated the word “happy” 57 times in less than four minutes.
If you doubt the power of music on your mood, think again. I challenge you to listen to this song and not to be happy. The power of this song is its simple lyrics, in fact, the first words that Williams said were “It might seem crazy what I’m about to say.”
Do not take music for granted, great songs move us. It forces our body to vibrate and experience the moment.
If you want to find happiness in everyday life, follow these steps and I guarantee you that you will be happier by the end of the week.
11. Accept the Good
Happiness is a long journey and for some greater happiness is one of those life goals that goes on forever. While that is fine, it’s important to keep in mind that just because you’re chasing happiness doesn’t mean you’re unhappy right now.
Learn to look at your life and take stock of what is working for you right now. It’s also key to not push away something because it isn’t perfect either.
Along the same lines, practicing gratitude is another method as it’s defined as appreciating what is valuable meaningful to you. To truly practice gratitude, you have to look at what you have.
12. Help Others Seek Happiness
I mentioned above one of the wrong ways to be looking for happiness is seeing everything as a competition. That is true, however, the opposite of seeing things as a competition can be a source of happiness.
That being seeing things as opportunities to share.
As I said, all aspects of life are ever-expanding and more and more people are able to enjoy it. It doesn’t make sense for one or a small group of people to be constantly battling themselves or others over who gets more pie.
Instead, if people were open to change, they’d learn there is more satisfaction and happiness if they decided to help the people around them.
13. Enjoy the Simple Things in Life
While possessions don’t drive a whole lot of happiness, spending time in experiences big or small can be worthwhile. When we look back at our lives, we often don’t think about our material possessions.
Rather, we look at the experiences we have had.
Being by the people who love you, silly jokes, warm summer days, and starry nights. Those are all experiences and gifts that we will remember. And even if they’re not significant or grandiose, they do add up.
14. Happiness Through Flow
Have you had those moments where you are totally “in the zone” and nothing can pull your attention away? That’s called your flow state.
Entering a flow state typically happens in situations like playing games, sports, dancing, cooking, gardening, driving, work, and anything artistic in nature.
These sorts of things drive happiness for us because entering this state means being able to develop our talents to the fullest. It’s a sign of deep love and appreciation for whatever that pursuit is.
15. Live Into Your Values
Our values in life can be defined as our general beliefs in what is desirable for us. Things like fairness, freedom, equality, creativity.
Understanding what we value in our lives specifically can be a major source of happiness as it would encourage us to do activities that result in those things.
Actions create the valued outcomes and so identifying our core values in life can define future actions and who we wish to become.
Living a happy life is all about the actions that you take in your life and that the aspects that you value are fulfilling in your life. It’s not just one thing that drives us to pursue happiness in our lives. Keeping that aspect in mind and considering the tips above will ensure that you live a happier life.
More About Finding Happiness
- 26 Things To Remember If You Want To Be Truly Happy
- 20 Secrets Genuinely Happy People Never Told You
- How to Be Happy: Why Pursuing Happiness Will Make You Unhappy
Featured photo credit: Preslie Hirsch via unsplash.com
|||^||Psychology Today: Our Brain’s Negative Bias|
|||^||Doctor Alan Zimmerman: The Three Grand Essentials of Happiness|
|||^||Matt Killingsworth: Our Happiest Moments: Matt Killingsworth at TEDxCambridge 2011|
|||^||Dan Ariely: Why we’re so attached to our own creations — even when they’re ugly|
|||^||Dr. Rick Hanson: Hardwiring Happiness|
|||^||The New York Times: Even a Little Exercise Might Make Us Happier|
|||^||American Psychological Association: More Sleep Would Make Us Happier, Healthier and Safer|
|||^||Science Focus: Does Chocolate Make You Happy?|
|||^||PLoS One.: Chocolate and Health-Related Quality of Life: A Prospective Study|