“Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.”
“Do not set aside your happiness. Do not wait to be happy in the future. The best time to be happy is right now.”
Roy T. Bennett
Happiness is a curious thing. Have you ever thought about what truly makes you happy, what you do or think that makes you happy? Research tells us that the key to being happy is not solely based on what we have, it is not based on our wealth or health, it is not based on if we are in a relationship. Happiness depends upon three things, yes our life circumstances are one, another is genetics, where we have a capacity for happiness that comes from our parents. The final factor in our happiness is our action. It is to be living a meaningful life that is guided by our goals and our values.
More than this, Acceptance and Commitment Therapist Russ Harris, describes the trap of happiness. He says that the absence of sadness, anger or other uncomfortable emotions does not equate to being happy and joyful. Rather he describes that it is possible for us to improve our mood without needing to aim for total happiness. He states that we should be aiming for a meaningful life. That third and most vital part of where research tells us happiness comes from.
So what are some ways that you can improve your mood and live a meaningful life?
- Recognize how you are feeling
Often we go about our days in a mindless, fast paced and automatic way. We don’t recognize that our mood has slipped until it is too late. The tip to improving your mood, is to just recognize how you are feeling here and now. Scan your body, head to toe, what are you noticing, give that feeling a name. Give that feeling a name.
- Smile and laugh
Tip two is to engage with those things that make you smile or bring a sense of joy and meaning to you. You can even practice a half smile, just a small smile, even if you do not feel like smiling, can help to release happy hormones throughout your body.
- Connect with people
Connectedness with those around us in one of the most important things in our hierarchy of needs. We need other people. So give someone a call, send a text, send a smile someone’s way.
- Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is a hot topic these days and many people confuse mindfulness with meditation. Mindfulness is about being present in the moment, just allowing yourself to be in the here and now. I recommend the app ‘Smiling Mind’ if you want to practice more mindfulness. However, if app’s aren’t your thing, allow yourself to make a coffee or wash the dishes with focus, truly notice each step you take, notice your senses (what do you see, hear, smell, feel, taste).
- Stick to a healthy diet
I know every doctor, or professional says it, but a healthy diet can go a long way to improving mood. Healthy foods can assist in the brain-gut connection and give us the best source of energy to help us live that meaningful life.
- Practice gratitude
What are you thankful for? Whether this is something you are thankful for within yourself (like being a caring person), or something you are thankful for about someone else (like someone helping you put away the groceries) or even something in your environment (like walking through a park on your way home from work), allow yourself to notice these throughout your day.
- Set goals and monitor when you reach them
Be proud of yourself and notice the small wins. This doesn’t have to be massive goals. It can be putting away the washing or ticking an item off your to-do list. Catch yourself reaching these goals and celebrate yourself.
- Move your body
Dance, run, play sport, do yoga, whatever it is that gets your body moving. Movement releases reward hormones in our body, they make us feel happier and healthier. This doesn’t have to mean competing in sports competitions, it could be stretching on the living room floor, or following a youtube exercise class.
- Live to your values
What are the things in life that are most meaningful to you? Choose activities that bring you closer to these values. For example, if you key value is family, organize an opportunity to spend time with your parents, grandparents, siblings, children, aunties or uncles.
- Practice acts of kindness
“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.”
It feels good to give kindness to others, someone you know or someone you don’t know. You can volunteer for an organisation, or offer to help someone carry their shopping. These small acts help us to feel proud of ourselves.
So what is one thing you can do today to improve your mood? Struggling for ideas, or those above are just not helping? Contact your GP or Prosper Health Collective and get some personlised help to improve your mood.
Russ Harris- The Happiness Trap
Centre for Clinical Interventions- https://www.cci.health.wa.gov.au/Resources/Looking-After-Yourself/Depression
Psychology Tools- https://www.psychologytools.com/self-help/behavioral-activation/