The saying by a Vietnamese Clergyman Tich Nhat Hanh, “There is no way to happiness, happiness is the way” is an important truth that has to resonate with many of us. We spend our waking days in pursuit of our hearts’ desires. We take on jobs we don’t like, find ourselves in relationships we don’t want to be in, and other stresses that are imposed by life. We can complain, scream and shout about our circumstances or do something about them. I feel is the ultimate change that will get us closer to a life of contentedness and ever-lasting happiness, or will it.
Happiness Gurus, Experts, Monks, Phycologists and scientists have for many decades try to shed a light on this subject matter ab difficult question of “What makes us happy?” See these TED Talks that try address the same question. Apparently, we’re usually wrong about what will make us happy or unhappy. For example, research has demonstrated that people who win the lottery are no happier. And second, happiness is largely a matter of choice. Which is good news, because it means we can pretty much all be happier if we want to be.
The take away from it all is that we can do certain things everyday to make us more happier. (The following are abstracts from Inc.com):
1. Don’t expect happiness to be one-size-fits-all.
In a fascinating bit of product history, Gladwell recounts how the food industry discovered to its astonishment that some people like chunky tomato sauce. And what that discovery means in a broader context–that what makes me happy won’t necessarily do it for you, and vice versa.
2. Stop chasing things like success, fame, and money.
Or at least, keep chasing them but don’t expect them to make you substantially happier than you are right now. As psychologist Dan Gilbert explains, our brains have a defense mechanism that’s hard-wired to make us happy with the lives we have, whatever those may be. Even Pete Best, a drummer best known for getting fired by the Beatles just before they hit it big, now says he wouldn’t want it any other way.
3. Keep challenging yourself.
If you love your work, you’re good at it, and you’ve been doing it for a while, you probably have experienced “flow,” that state where you get so lost in what you’re doing that you forget yourself and everything else. That state of flow is where true happiness lies, says psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and we can also find it when doing something creative, or even something recreational. But only so long as we keep challenging ourselves. Boredom is the opposite of flow.
4. Be generous.
Connecting with other people and feeling part of something larger than ourselves takes us a long way toward happiness. Social scientist Michael Norton recounts afascinating experiment that proves–contrary to popular belief–that money can buy happiness, so long as you spend it on someone other than yourself. Not only will you have made someone else happy, you’ll have made yourself happy too, a happiness buy-one-get-one-free special.
5. Be grateful.
We tend to expect that being happy will make us feel grateful, but actually it’s the other way around, explains Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast–being grateful is what will make us feel happy. And gratitude is a choice, he says. How can we remember to be grateful? By reminding ourselves of all the gifts in our lives. Even something so simple as a water faucet was a true occasion for gratitude for Steindl-Rast after a stint in Africa where drinking water was scarce. When in time it started to seem ordinary again, he put a sticker on the faucet to remind himself what a wonderful thing it was.
6. Train your mind.
The way to do this is by meditating on compassion, says Buddhist monk Matthieu Ricard. It takes time, he says, but it’s worth doing. Brain scans show that monks who are practiced at such meditation show happiness activity in their brains that is “off the charts” compared with everyone else.
Though he doesn’t mention it, Ricard himself is the poster child for this approach. According to Google’s happiness guru Chade-Meng Tan, Ricard’s own brain scans show him to be the happiest person on the planet.
It sounds too simple to be true, but research actually shows that if you smile, you’ll have better health, a better marriage and other relationships, and increased life expectancy, says HealthTap founder Ron Gutman. So if you haven’t smiled yet today, what are you waiting for?
8. Tell the truth.
In a highly personal talk, The Vagina Monologues creator Eve Ensler recounts the epidemic of worldwide violence against women she learned about as a result of her hit show. For a while, these stories threatened to overwhelm her. But then she found herself at the head of a movement to end that violence and give young girls in Africa a refuge from violence she herself had lacked as a child.
And then she says, she learned, “this really simple thing, which is that happiness exists in action; it exists in telling the truth…and giving away what you want the most.” That’s the kind of happiness all of us can reach for.
9. Practice gratitude.
You know that if you hit the gym and lift some weights, your muscles get stronger and it becomes easier to lift that same amount of weight over time. But did you know that positivity works much the same way?
According to research, consciously counting your blessings is a workout for your brain’s capacity for gratitude, making it easier to be more positive–and happier–going forward. (Complaining works in the opposite way, causing your brain to default to gloom.) How do you cultivate appreciation for the good things in your life? Here are a few practical, science-backed ideas.
10. Focus on the now.
We usually think of daydreaming as a pleasurable activity, but recent studies show that letting your mind wander can actually make you miserable. On the other hand, according to science, paying careful attention to what you’re doing in the present moment boosts well-being–even if what you’re doing is as boring as the dishes.
That might sound a little out there–who could possibly enjoy folding the laundry?–but it appears that focusing on the task at hand acts as a simple form of mindfulness, calming the mind by blocking future worries or ruminations on the past in a way that’s akin to meditation.
11. Exercise more.
Sorry couch potatoes, but the science is unequivocal: Moving your body is a powerful happiness booster. According to one study, regular exercise actually works as well as the popular antidepressant Zoloft at relieving depression. Why? Like common mood-boosting drugs, working up a sweat increases the amount of neurotransmitters circulating in our brains. It also reduces stress, and, of course, keeps you healthy.
12. Get out in nature.
If humans are hardwired to need physical exercise in order to truly thrive, the same can be said of nature. Our species spent millions of years on the savannah, after all, and only a blink of the eye, in terms of evolutionary time, in cities. That’s probably why study after study demonstrates that getting out in nature has profoundly positive effects on our mood. Even putting a simple potted plant (or even a picture of one!) on your desk has been shown to boost happiness.
13. Be kind.
The point of generosity, as commonly understood, is helping others, but according to a raft of research, lending a helping hand is also a huge happiness booster for the do-gooder. “There are now a plethora of data showing that when individuals engage in generous and altruistic behavior, they actually activate circuits in the brain that are key to fostering well-being,” Richard Davidson, founder of the Center for Healthy Minds at the University of Wisconsin and author of The Emotional Life of Your Brain, has explained.
Humans are social animals, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that socializing makes us happier. For instance, one study revealed that, for those suffering through a grumpy day, meeting with friends as soon as possible was a surefire mood booster.
Even connecting others seems to make us happier. Another bit of research out of the University of Virginia and Harvard demonstrated that matchmaking also makes us happy (both the romantic and professional types). So don’t just call up one friend. Call up a few friends and introduce them.
15. Limit social media.
If connecting with friends is likely to boost your happiness, then any means you can utilize to plan get-togethers is great. Used for this sort of active purpose, Facebook and other social-media sites are likely to have a positive effect on your state of mind, but the same can’t be said of passively browsing other people’s feeds.
Looking at carefully curated and often highly distorted representations of other people’s lives has been shown to increase envy and loneliness, and decrease life satisfaction. One study even found that quitting Facebook results in a boost in well-being. So be conscious of how you consume social media.
16. Tame your materialism.
Here’s the bad news: A giant pile of studies shows that craving more and better stuff seriously dents your happiness. But there’s good news, too. Science also shows it’s entirely possible to get a handle on your materialism and boost your well-being by consciously reflecting on your values, keeping a careful eye on your spending, and turning away from advertising as much as possible.
17. Spend wisely.
Just because materialism is bad for your mental health doesn’t mean spending money can never make you happier, however. While it’s a bad idea to think that buying that bigger TV will have much of an effect on your mood for more than a few days, science has shown that spending on experiences rather than stuff can help us squeeze more joy out of our hard-earned cash.
Spending on travel, for instance, will purchase you the pleasure of planning the trip (which research reveals to be about as enjoyable as the trip itself), a chance to bond with your fellow travelers (see point No. 6 above), and a lifetime of happy memories to savor. It’s a much better deal than nearly anything you could pick up at the mall.
118. Trim your commute.
When researchers rank activities for how happy they make us, one consistently comes in near the bottom of the list–commuting. It’s no surprise that sitting in traffic is next to no one’s idea of a good time, but the magnitude of misery commuting brings into your life might surprise you. “Driving in traffic is a different kind of hell every day,”Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert has commented.
Article originally appeared in INC. Magazine
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