When I look back on the year that has been 2015 I will remember it for my daily pursuit of ‘happiness’. It’s not that I spent the years prior to 2015 being unhappy- it is just that this year I read, learned, listened and practiced all sorts of things to consciously understand just what being ‘happy’ means to me.
And what I have come to realise is that my pursuit of Happiness is a daily, weekly, monthly exercise that will probably be a part of my life for the rest of my life.
What does it mean to be happy?
For me ‘happy’ is such a wonderful and simple word that says so many great things. And even on those days when I feel ‘unhappy’ I still search for ‘happiness’ as I have come to know that when I am feeling happy, life and love are just easier.
We all seek to be ‘happy’ in some way. But what does that really mean? I have come to the conclusion that being ‘happy’ can mean different things to each of us but there are some bits of ‘being happy’ that are the same the world over- joy, contentment and feeling that we are valuable to someone or something.
In her 2007 book The How of Happiness, positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky, described happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
Sonja found through her research that roughly 50 percent of happiness is determined by our genes and 10 percent by our life circumstance, but 40 percent depends on our daily activities.
So we may not be able to tamper with the 50% of our happiness determined by our genes, and some might say that sometimes life’s circumstances may be out of our immediate control too, but I love that 40% of our personal happiness is entirely affected by how we choose to spend our days.
But what is the key to being ‘Happy’?
My study of the science of ‘happiness’ continues to show me the same thing over and over- good relationships keep us happier and healthier.
The Harvard Study of Adult Development– one of the longest running studies on human behaviour has found that the quality of our relationships is directly connected to our health and length of life. The research from Harvard makes it really simple- good relationships (and it is quality here that really matters) keep us happier and healthier and are a key to helping us to live longer.
My 4 keys to happier living
For me that 40% of my happiness that it apparently all up to me can be broken down into these 4 things-
1. Focus on the who not the what- I have said it many times before (and now I can quote Harvard research to back me up!) The relationships we have with others, particularly our close intimate relationships, are the most important things in our lives. Our immediate family relationships sculpt us into the people we are. The impact of parents on children, particularly in the first 3 years of life, is both incredible and terrifying all at the same time. It is the ‘who’ not the ‘what’ that surrounds us that will make or break us and so I encourage you to focus on the ‘who’. This does not have to be fancy, expensive or time consuming. It just means being there- picking up the phone and calling, having a conversation that you are actually in (and not just going through the motions) and being genuinely interested and curious in the lives of those that are important to you.
2. Live in the moment (even when the moment is unexpected and frustrating) Living in the moment to me doesn’t mean doing crazy dangerous things but being truly present in what you are doing when you are doing it and looking for the good in any situation. I describe it as looking for the silver linings. I write about it a lot when it comes to divorce which many would say has no ‘silver linings’. But I have seen it time and time again that where you can hold your head up high, be positive and look for the opportunity in any situation you can come out of those difficult moments a happier person.
3. Count your blessings- Each day I take a moment to ‘count my blessings’- to pause and reflect on those things for which I am grateful. When things are going well this is easy but when things are tough it is so much harder to even want to be grateful but those are the times I find I need it most. Make gratitude part of your daily rituals- it will take no more than a minute but can be a lot of fun particularly if you get your kids involved.
4. And above all be kind- Kindness is a trait I live and breathe by (well I try to but I know I still have moments where I am less kind than I hope to be!) It takes so little to demonstrate kindness and it is certainly something I cherish in return. Kindness and happiness go hand in hand for me. And kindness for each of us may be different but I sense it comes back to good old fashioned ‘values’. Treating others fairly, with respect, having manners, being curious and not judgmental- remembering that we never really know what is happening in another’s life. When people are challenging me in my life I adopt the motto- ‘Kill them with kindness’ and it works.
So there you have it! 2015- the year of exploring the art of being ‘happy’ and my 4 tips on what has worked for me. What about you? What has 2015 brought for you? What are you planning for 2016?
No matter what the goals for the year ahead I know that for me, just like for many of you, what will make (or break) the times ahead will be our relationships with those closest to us. We can almost do without everything else but if when we don’t have ‘love’ we are lost. We seek a life that is meaningful and often our relationships with our partners, children, family and friends create much of what makes life ‘meaningful’ or ‘happy’.
And so I think I know that despite my list of ‘goals’ or ‘dreams’ for 2016 all I really want is to be the best person I can be in that moment with all that life decides to throw at me. And to be happy.
Freebie for you to kick of 2016
So here you are- your very own 2016 ‘Happiness Calendar’. You can download your own copy, print and plan away!! Now it has been designed to be printed on A3 sheets but will still work on A4 (it just may be a little harder to read!)
So get printing and keep an eye out for your monthly ‘happiness challenge’ as you work through the weeks!
Download your copy here-
To a very ‘Happy’ 2016!