A guest post by Hannah Braime
Happiness: it’s the holy grail we’re all working towards. What many of us forget, however, is that happiness isn’t waiting at the end of a lottery win, a pay rise, a new house or a shopping spree, it’s the result of all our decisions on a day-to-day level.
One of the most important realizations I experienced in my own exploration of happiness was that there are two kinds of events that contribute to this much sought-after feeling. The first type includes the big life-changing events that can provoke a lot of discomfort and upheaval in the short-term, but ultimately leave us in a better place than we were before.
In this post, I want to talk about the second type of events. These are a lot more subtle, but just as powerful. These events are the small practices and choices we make every day. On an individual level, they can seem inconsequential but, together, they deeply contribute to our short-term and long-term happiness.
Here are five things I’ve found incredibly beneficial to my happiness that we can all start doing today.
1. Turn off the TV
I quit TV at the beginning of 2009 and it was one of the best decisions I made for my happiness. Don’t get me wrong, I still love certain TV programs, and I relish the thought of catching up with the latest season of programs like Mad Men online.
The difference between this kind of TV watching and the kind of TV watching I was engaging in before is that it’s conscious. Now, I watch programs I enjoy and get value from. Before, I used TV as a silence-filler, a distraction, and I spent far more hours than I like to count watching programs I didn’t really like for the sake of it. I used TV as a ‘way to relax’ without acknowledging that it wasn’t leaving me feeling relaxed, it was leaving me feeling bored, restless and unfulfilled.
2. Start a News Diet
The idea that we need to stay in touch with the news is one of the most pervasive social myths of our time. First of all, we don’t need to know what’s going on – try going on a news diet for a month and you’ll discover that you can function in society just fine. Secondly, the vast majority of news content is grim and of dubious accuracy. Is staying up-to-date with the latest arrests, robberies, assaults and funny pet stories really enriching your life?
Try a news diet – the chances are you’ll feel a lot more liberated and happy as a result.
3. Practice gratitude
I’ve experimented with many gratitude practices, both on my own and with my partner. Solo, I’ve kept a gratitude journal of 10 things a day I’m grateful for, or even 100 things I feel grateful for in my life right now. Over the past couple of years, my partner and I have taken time to talk about the best part of our day and, more recently, express three things we appreciate about the other person, before going to sleep.
As we go through our day-to-day lives, it’s easy to slip into tunnel vision and the ‘to-do’ mentality. We can spend so long living in the past or the future, that we neglect the present and what we have right here, right now. Whenever I consciously take the time to appreciate what is working in my life, what I love, and what is meaningful to me – no matter how small it seems – I immediately feel a lot more fulfilled and self-accepting. Setting aside time for appreciation and gratitude paves the way to happiness, as well as a deeper connection with ourselves and others.
I want to start with a small disclaimer: meditation wasn’t exactly something that left me feeling happier right away. When I first embarked a regular meditation practice, a lot of discomfort and internal chatter came up for me around my (in)ability to sit still for 10 minutes and not get caught up in the thoughts and stories of my monkey mind. After about a week of fidgeting, however, something shifted and the benefits of regular meditation started to become clearer.
This was November 2011. I had done a lot of guided meditation before this point, but no silent meditations, and no daily practice. At the time, I was commuting to work in a different city, which meant getting up at at 5.30 to fit my meditation in before running to the train. It was bitterly cold, dark, and oh so very early. To my surprise, however, I actually started to look forward to these times of quiet stillness as a chance to connect with and centre myself before a busy day.
In my experience, just sitting for 10 minutes a day will help you feel more grounded and connected to yourself. These sensations might not be the same as happiness, but they are a strong foundation for feeling like the best version of yourself.
5. Get Moving
It’s a cliche – but like all cliches there’s an element of truth involved. Getting yourself moving is a great way to show your body some love and show yourself that you’re taking care of your physical needs and health too. Combine that with a blissful dose of endorphins and, voila, happy feelings.
This doesn’t mean going for a 5km run, although if that’s your style then by all means do what works for you. Getting moving might include yoga, Nia, salsa, dancing around your living room, a long walk, or any kind of movement-based activity that strikes your fancy. Enjoying what you do is more important than doing ‘proper’ exercise.
What do you do to increase your happiness on a daily basis? Leave a comment and let us know.
About the Author
Hannah runs Becoming Who You Are, the guide to authentic living. She is passionate about helping people create the lives they want from the inside out using a rational approach to personal development. Download the free ebook “The Five Most Common Blocks to Authentic Living and How to Overcome Them” and find more resources for authentic living at www.becomingwhoyouare.net.