I have been thinking about happiness a lot recently, especially this past week. Everywhere I have looked there have been articles and posters about how gratitude is the successful attitude, about how happiness is essential for stress free living, all sorts of things like that. And today, on my Flipboard App on my phone, there was an amazing article about the 5 skills you need to increase your happiness. Okay, thought I, I am giving in to the signals I am being sent. Here is a blog post all about happiness and getting more of it.
So, according to this article that I read this morning, the first skill you need in order to increase your grin quotient is the ability to savour things. If you savour a meal, you take your time over it, you enjoy the flavours, the textures, the time and energy which it has taken to prepare and cook the food. You linger, you prolong the experience and you intensify your enjoyment of the moment, making it last for as long as possible. You should do the same in your everyday life. You can savour the past, by reminiscing. You can savour the future with positive anticipation of what might happen. You can also savour the present moment – by using that often trotted out modern phrase, mindfulness. Apparently, savouring life boosts optimism, reduces stress and gets rid of a whole lot of negative emotions, making you happier, more optimistic and more satisfied with life. And the more you recognise the good stuff, the more good stuff you see.
The second skill which is required to increase happiness is to say thank you. This is the attitude of gratitude writ large. If you can identify and appreciate the things people do for you, and the things themselves, and then say thank you… well, the result is sheer magic. Not only does it increase your optimism and self confidence, but it has also been shown to dampen your desire for more “stuff” all the time (well, why do you need the newest and latest gadget when you are really thankful for the one you have in front of you? Makes sense to me!). Of course being sincerely thankful for the people in your life as well means that you can have a deeper relationship with them. That is always worth it. According to research, it can also give you longer and better quality sleep. I am soooo up for some of that!!
The third skill we need is to aspire. This is a bit trickier – but basically it boils down to having a reason for being, a sense of purpose and to be hopeful. It enable you to be optimistic about the future. People who have created meaning in their lives are generally happier and more satisfied. If you have ever experienced genuine (and not forced and false) optimism, you will know that you are drawn to them like a moth to a flame. It is a magnet almost. When you have that sense of purpose and a goal to aim towards, it makes goals seem attainable and challenges are easier to overcome. You will feel more successful, and you will be more successful! Also, if you use the skills you have in every day life, all the time, you will increase your self esteem, curb stress and increase your vitality. So, if you have a skill, show it off! And smile about it!
The fourth thing to do to increase you happiness, and arguably, it is the one which ought to come first in this list, is giving. Of course the person you are giving to will reap a reward, but did you know that the giver gets one too? This is one of the reasons that every major faith has an aspect of charity to it. Habitual givers have less stress, less isolation and less anger. When you see what your gift can do for someone else, that makes you happier, more connected to the world and more open to new experiences.
Finally, happiness can be increased with the use of empathy. Empathy is the ability to care about others. If you can imagine and understand the thoughts, behaviours or ideas of other people, then congratulations, you are empathetic. It is easier for some people than it is for others, but the good news is that compassion can be taught. Empathy means that you will feel less judgemental, less frustrated, less angry and less disappointed about people. Apparently it helps you to develop patience (Umm… I am very empathetic… I am just extremely impatient as well!). Empathy also helps to solidify bonds between human beings, which is essential to the building and maintaining happy and healthy relationships. This compassion needn’t just be for others though. You need to be compassionate to yourself as well – the old “cut yourself some slack” argument.
I am definitely going to take up these five practices to increase the happiness in my life. I could do with the extra boost, and especially if there is an upswing in the amount of patience that I might have. To finish, I want to leave you with a quote from Terry Prince which I found on my Facebook timeline this morning…
“Your life is your Garden,
Your thoughts are the seeds,
If your life isn’t awesome,
You’ve been watering the weeds”
Here’s to happiness folks!