Unfulfilled desires can be disastrous to our happiness, if we indulge them. Sometime desiring things motivates us to work on acquiring them, and working to do so can be a great source of happiness. However, when desires for more things, more accomplishments, more money, a better job, a better mate or other such prizes in life dominate our thinking, they can dramatically limit our happiness. We can decide to make our happiness and the happiness of others our greatest desire, and thereby stay focused on what we all really want and need.
Just Get Happier!
A very effective method of becoming happier is to simply sit or lie down, and focus on the feeling of happiness. Whether you just sit and smile, or actively come up with pleasant thoughts like “I feel great,” focusing on nothing else but feeling happier is an excellent way of better getting in touch with, and strengthening, the feeling of happiness. After a while, you’ll find yourself tuning into this pleasant feeling at other times of the day when you’re also engaged in other activities.
Remember to Feel Very Happy!
When we think about remembering, we usually appreciate its importance to academic and work-related learning. The better we commit what we learn to memory, the more effectively and quickly we learn.
We often become so involved in day-to-day activities that we simply forget to feel happy. Remembering to feel very happy is a simple and powerful way of helping our happiness become more habitual.
We often overlook the important role memory plays in creating and sustaining our level of happiness. We can learn to evaluate the events of our lives in ways that maximize pleasure, and minimize displeasure, and thereby achieve greater happiness. However, learning these to create these pleasant appraisals is just the first step. In order for this learning to be most effective, we must commit it to memory so that it is available for us to unconsciously apply to all of our situations. This process of committing beneficial learning to memory is called integration, and our aim is to have our positive appraisals, and our happiness, become habit.
Becoming much happier is a skill like playing a piano, throwing a baseball, or writing. The more we work on becoming happier, the happier we will become. As with any skill, it is helpful to schedule practice times and to have a program or routine to follow. To practice my happiness, I sometimes sit at a coffee shop, smile gently, and silently think to myself “I feel very happy,..excellent, wonderful,” etc. while writing down these positive adjectives for emphasis. The basic purpose behind happiness practice sessions is to help us better get in touch with the feeling of happiness, and to help us learn to choose happy thoughts rather than simply accept whatever thoughts happen to come into our minds. Gently smiling throughout our days is also a great way for us to become happier and continuously remind ourselves that happiness is something we should strive to feel always.
Talk about Happiness
We talk about work, money, sports, other people, problems and a myriad of other topics throughout each day. Ironically, the aspect of life most dear to us rarely gets into our conversations as a distinct topic. Talking about happiness with our friends and families is extremely useful to us and to them as well. It will help us understand happiness (what it is and what it isn’t; what will bring it and what will take it away), and it will help us keep our happiness at the forefront of our minds, where it should be.
I have personally found that most people love to talk about happiness, as long as the tone is optimistic and enjoyable. Since most of us are only marginally happy, it can sometimes be unpleasant for others to have their limited happiness called to mind. It’s usually best to talk about what we can do to become happier, and then explore what stops us from doing so. Taking a problem solving approach to the topic of happiness can be extraordinarily productive.
Focus on the Body
We often live in our heads, and this cerebral kind of existence can distract us from “feelings” of happiness found and felt in our bodies. By focusing on the endogenous pleasures within our bodies (e.g. our skin, arms, legs, etc.) we can learn to continuously stay in touch with these happiness-evoking pleasant feelings . Instead of getting our happiness primarily from what is going on around us, or what is going on in our head, we can get it from the pleasant feelings that are an inherent, physical part of us.
Go on Vacation!
Vacations are, for most of us, the happiest times in our lives. Getting away from our work and daily routines for a few days or weeks of leisure and enjoyment is a great way for us to quickly get happier. We can also use vacations to help us understand how much more enjoyable our non-vacation lives could be if we simply made an effort to hotly pursue our happiness year ’round. We should consider our happier vacation days or weeks very important to us. We can appreciate them and have them motivate us to, from then on, hold on to that greater happiness “no matter what.”
Basic Emotions and Moods Work
Psychologists have published findings suggesting that one’s entire emotional experience can be understood in terms of six basic, or universal, emotions. These six emotions are happiness, sadness, fear, anger, surprise, and disgust. One principle reason emotions researcher Paul Ekman describes these six emotions as basic and universal is that, unlike with other emotions, people in any part of the world who see a photograph of a person expressing these six emotions can readily identify the emotion. All other emotions are theorized to be comprised of various distinct combinations of our six universal emotions.
Of These six, happiness is pleasant, sadness, fear, anger and disgust are generally unpleasant, and surprise is neutral, leaning toward the unpleasant side. Since these emotions, and the moods they create when sustained, will ultimately determine our happiness, we should strive to minimize the five unpleasant emotions, and to maximize happiness. In theory, becoming happier is just that easy.
Psychologists have also determined that we can choose our emotions by choosing to evaluate the situations and circumstances of our life in certain ways. This process is called cognitive appraisal, and has been used very successfully by cognitive-behavioral therapists to help clients overcome depression. This process of systematically changing one’s evaluations from less pleasant to more pleasant is called cognitive re-structuring, and is one of the principle techniques making cognitive-behavioral therapy the most effective psychotherapy for depression.
An effective way for us to become happier is to simply believe that we are happier than we actually feel we are. For example, if we feel “not very happy,” we can choose to believe that we are “mildly happy,” “very happy,” or even “completely happy.” As we repeat these new beliefs to ourselves they become stronger, and we gradually come to feel greater happiness.
Psychologists have found that our beliefs can change simply by being exposed to new beliefs, even when these new beliefs are inconsistent with our original beliefs. Advertisers routinely apply this finding in their promotions. For example, a person who at one time believed that Ford made the best automobile may come to believe that Chevrolet deserves this distinction, simply by repeatedly hearing and/or seeing an advertising slogan such as “Chevrolet Makes the Best Car in the World.”
It takes several days for this technique to create a noticeable increase in our happiness. Several weeks will be needed to create a significant increase, and several months to create a more lasting increase in our happiness. There is a limit to how often and continuously we can expose ourselves to a new belief without having the repetitive process become unpleasant, and this limit varies with each individual.
There are several basic ways to apply this technique. One way is to simply tell oneself , for example, “I am very happy” repeatedly throughout the day. Another way is to read this statement various times throughout each day.
Choose Your Thoughts Wisely
Happiness is dependent on our thoughts – We do not have to keep thinking unpleasant thoughts simply because they come into our minds. We can choose to think pleasant thoughts instead. The more we practice stopping our unpleasant thoughts and thinking pleasant ones, the better we will become and the happier we will feel.
See Happiness as the Point of Life
Happiness is the point of life – The better we realize that happiness is the only aspect of life with inherent value (everything else is valuable only to the extent that it increases happiness) the more we will devote time and effort to our happiness and the happiness of others.
Becoming much happier is as easy as just smiling more. Smiling feels good, but it also reminds us to feel happy and communicates our happiness to others, encouraging them to feel happy with us. Maintain a slight smile throughout your day, and you will find it much easier to feel happier. Consider that the happiest people you know are the ones that seem always to have a pleasant expression, and you will understand the wisdom behind smiling.
Stay Happy Amidst Sadness
Our sadness usually doesn’t help others – Sometimes we feel that it is appropriate for us to feel sad in order to help others. When we are doing what we need to do to help others, (like visiting a sick friend, or giving charity) we should feel good about our kindness. Many times we are more helpful to others who are going through a difficult time when we keep up our spirits than when we join them in their sorrow.
We should compare ourselves wisely, or not at all. There is a popular expression that says comparisons are odious. If we must compare ourselves to others, it is wisest to compare ourselves to those whom we believe are less happy, or are less advantaged than we are. Comparing ourselves to those who are less happy can feel good, but we should also try to become happier by helping them feel happier.
Optimism is important to our happiness – We can see our glasses as half full, or half empty. We can hope for the best, and expect that things will turn out well, or we can dread what might go wrong, and worry about our future. Happiness research shows that worry is the number one enemy to happiness, and as we become more optimistic, we become happier.
Choose Happiness over Money
Money has very little effect on our happiness – The better we realize that, above the poverty level, having or making more money will not make us any happier, the more we will spend our time and effort on activities that will make us happier.
Like Yourself and Others
Liking ourselves, and others, is very important to our happiness – Liking feels pleasant, and not liking feels unpleasant. We should strive to like ourselves and others more and more, seeing the best in everyone as much as possible. As we do this we will enjoy ourselves more and more. Since we are with ourselves always, it is especially important for us to like ourselves very much.
Make Happiness Your Success
Our only necessary success, on a personal level, is being very happy – We can be a total failure at virtually every other aspect of our life, but if we are wise enough to succeed at being very happy, we can consider ourselves very successful. Having succeeded at our happiness, our next greatest success should be to help other succeed with their happiness.
Consider Happiness and Obligation
We have an obligation to be happy – When we are less happy we are less fun to be with, and bring down the mood of others. For the benefit of others, we should strive to be as happy as possible. Also, for those of us who are religious, it is important to understand that God want us to feel happy with all the gifts we have been given, and to the extent we refuse to be happy we are being ungrateful.
See Happiness as the Highest Good
Happiness is the highest good – Many of us are very concerned with goodness. When we understand and accept Aristotle’s statement that happiness is the highest good, we realize that the happier we become, the better we are as people. Of course we must not allow our happiness to come at the expense of others.
Invest in Relationships
Other people are our most relied on source of happiness – Knowing this fact will motivate us to invest our time and energy in developing, enhancing, and maintaining close friendships and many acquaintances. We will also realize that since we spend so much time with our family, it is especially important to devote much time and effort to our family relationships.