“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
— Abraham Lincoln
“Happy,” the very word sounds good, and well, happy. Happiness is what we wish others on their birthdays, anniversaries, and other important occasions. Yet the overall level of happiness, especially for women, has decreased in the past 40 years. It seems the more we say we value it, the less of it we experience as a culture. Why?
Perhaps we are misled by the language in our Constitution about our right to “the pursuit of happiness.” Happiness is best experienced in the now, not by chasing after it. We are conditioned to strive for things, while actually the best way to achieve happiness is simply to be happy. This is not a riddle; happiness is a choice. How do we choose happiness?
First acknowledge that negative and unexpected things happen to all of us; by recognizing that we are not singled out will already help us feel better. Keep in mind that wonderful surprises can be in store for us, too — the law of attraction helps make that happen.
Everyone comes into the world with a happiness set point, some are set on the more positive side, and others on the negative end of the scale. Good news, you can change your set point! Here are six ways to shifting your mood and perspective, all can be done almost any time, and with practice they will shift your outlook in life.
1. Do something kind for someone else.
Altruistic behavior helps others and yourself, too. Helping others enhances our self-esteem and sense of life purpose, both of which are key factors in increasing our happiness. Make a habit of being considerate and giving to others. It will reward you with an increased happiness set point.
In meditation our cognitive processes are literally rewired so that we are calmer and happier. Our brains, instead of being rigid, are actually malleable and respond to our mindful efforts to improving our moods and attitude. Eight weeks of daily meditation have been shown to increase our happiness. Dedicate time, even if it is only 10 minutes each day, to quiet meditation, it will improve your sense of well-being.
3. Give gratitude.
Make it a habit to find reasons to give thanks. Especially when you are feeling down or sad, change your mood by searching for and giving thanks for the good things in your life. Looking for the existing good will increase your feelings of happiness by putting your focus on the things that bring you joy.
4. Do yoga, tai chi and exercise.
When we move our bodies, positive endorphins are activated and soon we’re feeling better! Spend regular time stretching mindfully and moving. Your body and mind will thank you.
Our facial expressions influence our moods. When we are frowning, we feel pain deeper and are sadder. Just moving your facial muscles into a smile will trigger an internal process of shifting your mood to a happier one. Soon, you will feel better and the smile will come naturally from within.
6. Go out into nature.
Nature is healing. When we are connected with nature by being around trees and plants, earth, mountains, rivers, lakes, or ocean, we are soothed and comforted. Even photos of natural scenes reduces our stress and enhances our well-being
There are times when it is natural to feel sad. We grieve the loss of loved ones, for broken dreams and other meaningful reasons. The six things outlined above can help you retire the grief. Realize that life is a journey, and that things happen for reasons that we may not understand at the time. To be happy, hold a longer perspective and face each day with equanimity. Trust that life is unfolding as it does for good reasons, and you will be happier each day. To your growing happiness.
“Each morning when I open my eyes I say to myself: I, not events, have the power to make me happy or unhappy today. I can choose which it shall be. Yesterday is dead, tomorrow hasn’t arrived yet. I have just one day, today, and I’m going to be happy in it.”
— Groucho Marx
Marilyn Tam, author of The Happiness Choice, is an international selling author, speaker, entrepreneur, humanitarian and former CEO of Aveda, President of Reebok Apparel Products & Retail Group, VP of Nike, and the Founder and Executive Director of Us Foundation. She is a co-host on the PBS special Soul Healing Miracles with Master Sha. Visit www.MarilynTam.com.