How do happy people get through a rough day? How do they stay motivated, even when life’s challenges come knocking? According to those in the know, about 50 percent of our happiness, our happiness ‘set-point’, is determined by inherited personality traits. That means that half our happiness is totally within our control. Booyah! So, even if you’re pre-programmed to feel gloomy, there are still things you can do to brighten your mood. Here are some happiness hacks that work for me.
Let it go
By default, I’m not very good at letting things go; mulling over conversations, beating myself up for things done or not done or losing a sense of perspective. But when I focus on the things I can control, balance resumes. The reality is, crap happens to all of us. It’s how we choose to deal with that crap that defines our happiness. We have to have faith that things will turn out ok. A wise boss once said to me – ‘It’ll be alright in the end; if it isn’t alright, it isn’t the end’!
Hook up with other happy people
There are two types of people in life. Drains and radiators. And the drains are really good at a) attracting other drains and b) drowning out the radiators with their negativity and dramas. Need a shot of happiness? Seek out a radiator. If you’re struggling with sadness, depression, worry or anger now is the time to spend more time with those close to you who are the happiest. Without a doubt, their positive attitude rubs off.
Fake it till you feel happiness
There is one girl I’ve known since school and when I think of her face, it is permanently set with a gorgeous big smile. Now she has had her fair share of life challenges to deal with, but my abiding memory of her is of someone who is always smiling. It’s a smile that is the biggest differentiator between happy and unhappy people. You can’t be happy all of the time so sometimes it’s ok to fake it. In 1990, Paul Ekman’s research showed that adopting a ‘Duchenne smile’ i.e. a full smile that involves the facial muscles around the eyes, produces a change in brain activity that corresponds with a happier mood. So faking it really is good (sometimes!).
Live in the now and be grateful
The wise Master Oogway in Kung Fu Panda said: ‘Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That’s why it’s called the present.’ Unhappy people tend to dwell in the past, worry about the future or pine for what others have that they don’t. But happy people live in the moment. Being consciously aware of the moment we are in is a precious skill. I’ve not nailed it, but I’m definitely working on it. It’s about being grateful. Living in an always-on world where we are bombarded with images of others being über-happy can make this hard. The antidote? Write down three things you love about your life, right here, right now. It works.
Go offline and re-connect
Make a pact with yourself to unplug for a decent chunk of time every day. Whether you read, call a friend, listen to your favourite music or paint your nails, just re-connect with the real world. Signing off from social media means you start living your life rather than watching others live theirs.
Five ways to feel happier in the next five minutes:
- Straighten up! Our posture dictates how we feel.
- Walk it out for 20-minutes. It gets the heart pumping and the happiness flowing.
- Crank up the tunes and dance round the room to your favourite anthem.
- Do someone else a favour. A quick random act of kindness never fails to lift the mood.
- Tick one item off the to do list – send an email, clear that cupboard, ring a friend and arrange to meet up