If you feel sad, discouraged or stressed out, you might not need to be. Keep reading if you want to learn how to have a happier life with these 10 hacks.
Think about the happiest time in your life, what did your life look like at that point? Mine looked like a time where I had all my ducks in a row. I was working out, being social, having a great mood and was focused on achieving my next big goal. You might recognize a similar pattern in your life. Let’s take a look together at what defines happiness and how we can use that to our advantage.
What is happiness?
Since the old ages, people have tried to define happiness for years. Hedonism says to avoid pain and strive for pleasure. Aristotle tells us to focus and act on our long term virtues. As you can see these are great definitions, however, they don’t feel complete.
Modern science adds three more crucial criteria to living a full life. In 2018 the positive psychologist Martin Seligman takes a look at all the research again and proposes the PERMA theory. He concludes that not only pleasure and meaning are important for wellbeing. He adds positive emotion, engagement (or flow) and positive relationships to the mix. Now that we understand this definition, we can hack happiness.
If we have a figurative wallet full of happiness, then the currency in which we pay is “emotional energy or time”. Some people are born with a fuller happiness wallet than others. However, we can earn more coins by investing in these happiness habits. The more “emotional time” in this wallet, the more resilient you are when bad things happen in life. The following hacks will invite you to think about how you spend your emotional wallet and how you can earn more emotional space and lower your stress.
Step 1: Accept being human
Everyone has highs and lows in life. Happiness is not a constant state. Feeling sad, angry, stressed are a part of life. If we refuse to acknowledge these feelings, they will get bigger.
Try not to think about a green bear, you will be preoccupied with that bear for a while. The green bear will have all control. You guessed it right, fighting this bear will tank your energy. The theory of why avoiding can be counterproductive was already explained in 1996 by Steven Hayes and colleagoues.
How do we solve this issue? Take notice of the negative feeling, be curious about where it comes from. There might be a need under there. Understand that you have a right to feel this emotion and recognize it. Now take action towards what you want to feel, or towards your needs. You might feel sad about not having your dream job. Acknowledge this and shift your focus on what you need to accomplish this goal. So in short, be mindful about your negative feelings and don’t get fooled when your negative voice is telling you that you can’t do or feel or be something. Making a shift to positivity, gratitude and mindfulness is exactly what positive psychologists prescribe.
Step 2: Shift to the positive
Positive thinking will make you feel happier and less depressed over time. Life will be easier to handle when you practice daily to notice 5 positive things. Furthermore, practicing to see the positive consequences of a negative event in your day will make you more resilient.
Step 3: Focus on gratefulness
Adding a prompt of gratitude in your diary can lift your spirits in the same way that positive thinking does. Enjoying the small things in life that you take for granted, even when life is not going well, can help you enjoy your day much more. Your situation is temporary. You can be grateful for what you have right now, f.e. your co-workers, the sun, not staying in bed today. Gratitude is a part of the Positive Psychology Intervention project.
If negativity, positivity and gratefulness were plants in your garden, which ones are you feeding right now? Which ones will grow in the future?
Step 4: Mindfulness
Mindfulness is proven to lower your stress and boost your mood. Italian researchers in 2016 believe that the perfect formula to mindfulness is deep breathing. Fill your belly with air, and empty the belly by breathing out. Notice with kindness when your thoughts are interfering, and gently bring yourself back to your breathing.
One of the goals of mindfulness is to feel more present, technology is ever-present with us today. We are always rushing and multitasking, even when we are spending time with family and friends.
Steps 5: Quality time with your support network
Checking your email while having dinner with your friends is not the quality time we are talking about. Mindful, quality time with friends and family can restore our balance.
Researchers say that your family, friends and lover will support you when things go rough and can be your biggest cheerleaders. Returning the favor and showing kindness can also make you feel great.
Step 6: Exercise
Plan some time in your busy day to get some exercise, it only takes 5-minute walk in nature. The mind and body are connected. Exercise can reduce stress hormones and improve your depressive symptoms. By including exercise in how you spend your energy and time, you will provide your body with an injection of happiness that it can not resist.
Step 7: Find a purpose
Sartre already asked about the meaning of life. He concluded that we should create our own personal purpose. Scientists confirm that he is right. Goals and objectives in life add a sense of direction and a feeling that your time on this earth matters.
Further living your life on your own terms can give you a sense of autonomy and personal growth.
Step 8: Flow
When selecting a purpose, you might encounter your special talents or something you truly enjoy. By using your strengths in a way that it is challenging to you, you can reach flow and have higher well-being.
Sometimes we are so focused on a task that we feel or think absolutely nothing. This is flow. Zoning out by zoning in on something else can relax our brain, and can give us a boost. The renowned psychologist Michael Csikszentmihalyi has written plenty of books about this concept (since 1991).
Step 9: Accomplish your goals
Achievements can bring joy and pride, following an article of the American Psychological Psychiatry in 2016. Feeling this great will lower your negative emotions.
Positivity reigns here as well. Small wins are still wins. You can learn how to formulate goals by making them SMART. Make your goal specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time-bound. Doran already had this idea in 1981, and since then many other scientists confirmed the idea.
Step 10: Manage your time
If all of these steps seem overwhelming, then start out by first managing your time and emotional energy. Saying yes to everything and everyone, can lead to stress and build up negativity. Research says that how you manage the time you do have, have a bigger impact on you than actually having time.
Our emotional battery will leak by doing things we don’t really want or enjoy. Set boundaries, guided by your values.
In short, how do we live a full and happy life?
Happiness is something you can learn. You can undertake these steps yourself, however, professional help is also available if needed. A therapist, psychologist and even medication can help if your well-being wallet is low right now.
In short, when you are not feeling happy right now, know that it will pass. Make room for your stress, sadness and anger. Don’t fight it, look at it with curiosity and move on towards the happiness you want and deserve. Focus on what is going well in life and what you feel grateful for. Make time for your friends and your family, and use that time to solely focus on them. Exercise, even when you don’t feel like it. And lastly, take action every day towards something that gives you energy and that you are passionate about. Keep working on yourself consistently and let it guide you to become the best version of yourself.