“Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” – Aristotle
“Life wasn’t all too bad really, but I wasn’t that happy either,” recalls Henrik Edberg, creator of The Positivity Blog and author of The 7 Timeless Habits of Happiness. “I think the problem was that I didn’t understand myself or the world around that well. I didn’t understand what I needed to do to create a happier life for myself.” Well, now he does:
1. Choose Happiness
“Most people are about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” – Abraham Lincoln
Misery and happiness aren’t about external circumstances; they are a conscious choice. “You choose each day what you focus on and how you interpret your reality,” Edberg writes. So instead of seeing the world and yourself “through a lens smudged by negativity”, you consciously choose to look outwards and inwards “through a lens brightened by positivity”. This could involve being grateful for what you have, spending time in an environment of happiness with people who lift you up, and choosing positive information such as personal development reading over negative information like endless news reports.
2. Get Your Physical Fundamentals in Shape
“Those who think they have no time for healthy eating will sooner or later have to find time for illness.” – Edward Stanley
“How we manage our body has a huge, huge impact on our thoughts, emotions and everything that happens in our personal world,” Edberg explains. This is why we need to eat healthy, exercise regularly, and get enough sleep.
3. Create an Action Habit
“Action may not always bring happiness; but there is no happiness without action.” – Benjamin Disraeli
It’s been said that the only place success comes before work is in the dictionary. We need to stop waiting for other people to solve our problems and take action in order to see results. Use a morning ritual, do things even if you don’t feel like it, and take responsibility for the process, not the potential results.
4. Be Here Now
“The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.” – Buddha
Guess what? The past and future don’t exist. They are simply thoughts arising in the present moment. By focusing on the present, we can improve our social skills (no more thinking of what to say when you should be listening to what’s being said), improve our creativity (no more worrying about what others will think of our work), and release stress. And by focusing on what’s in front of us (through practices like guided meditation and breathing techniques), we also learn to appreciate our world more.
5. Help and Make Other People Happy
“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.” – Chinese Proverb
“When you do the right thing and make people happy you feel good about yourself,” Edberg points out. “When you make someone else happy you can sense, see, feel and hear it. And that happy feeling flows back to you.” Give value by bringing a positive attitude to your interactions, giving useful advice, or offering a listening ear to someone who needs it. And let’s not forget about smiles and hugs! Even though people may not always appreciate what you do or feel compelled to reciprocate, you should still persist and feel good for doing so.
6. Do What You Love to Do
“Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” – Albert Schweitzer
The fact that you’re working at a full-time job doesn’t mean you can’t (or shouldn’t) pursue your passions on the side. “There is always time,” Edberg explains. Things won’t always be great but the work won’t feel as hard nor will you have to force yourself to perform. Spend some time exploring and asking questions to bring clarity. Most importantly, remember to add value to the world and not simply to yourself. “By using your talents and skills and at the same time helping people and giving them value in some way you can find the opportunities to both do what you love and to earn money to support yourself from it.”
For more, see Seven Keys to Discovering Your Passion by Jonathan Mead and Success Built to Last
7. Let Go
“When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.” – Lao Tzu
So much of our suffering is caused by our clinging. We hold on to who we are and what we believe to the point where we must always be right. We hold on to things that are impermanent and things we think will make us happy even though they never really do. Sometimes we simply need to accept things as they are and then let them go. We need to stop trying to control everything and stop fussing over things that don’t even matter. And while it may be hard at first, it gets easier as time passes. Our happiness depends on it.
Edberg admits that this book won’t solve all your problems or make you happy all the time. But he firmly believes that with some effort and persistence, focusing on one aspect at a time, you can start to see major differences in your life as was the case for him. What do you think? Are there any other habits of happiness you would add? Please share your thoughts in the comments!