“If you spend your whole life waiting for the storm, you’ll never enjoy the sunshine.” –Morris West
Are you happy? It’s a simple question, but with numerous variables underlying it. What makes someone happy? Is there more than one route to happiness and more than one way to measure it?
If you’re an economist or a social scientist, you may conduct scientific surveys that try to gauge levels of contentment or satisfaction. If you’re a religious leader, you may wonder if someone feels spiritually fulfilled, connected to a community and in touch with his or her chosen deity. Being married often boosts happiness, as does a genetic basis for a sunnier disposition. Older women become less happy than their male counterparts, who report increased levels of happiness as they age .
In the end, happiness may come down to what you’re looking for in life and how you define this nebulous term. In different societies throughout history, happiness has been equated with sheer luck or the certitude of religious belief. Others have thought that happiness means being a good person or being able to live a life of pleasure and leisure.
Just as definitions of happiness change, so too does our ability to handle adversity. Numerous tales exist of people undergoing tremendous hardships — cancer, losing a job, a bad breakup — and finding themselves in the end as happy as or happier than ever. Despite the difficulty in pinning down what happiness is and how to achieve it, i’m going to take a stab at it in this article, in which I offer a few tips.
1. Don’t start with profundities. I realized pretty quickly that, rather than jumping in with lengthy daily meditation or answering deep questions of self-identity, I should start with the basics, like going to sleep at a decent hour and not letting myself get too hungry.
Science backs this up; these two factors have a big impact on happiness.
2. Do let the sun go down on anger. I had always scrupulously aired every irritation as soon as possible, to make sure I vented all bad feelings before bedtime.
Expressing anger related to minor, fleeting annoyances just amplifies bad feelings, while not expressing anger often allows it to dissipate.
3. Fake it till you feel it. Feelings follow actions. If I’m feeling low, I deliberately act cheery, and I find myself actually feeling happier. If I’m feeling angry at someone, I do something thoughtful for him or her and my feelings toward them soften. This strategy is uncannily effective. Real Simple: Small, helpful gestures with big impact
4. Rather than watch TV, use your time more mindfully. Read, walk, meet friends, or join an evening group or class. Use your time to connect to others and yourself. Or jump in and do something different, spontaneous, and wild!
5. Create: Even if you don’t consider yourself an artist there are so many ways to express creatively. Cook with a loved one, dance in your living room, sing in the car, journal without editing or crossing out, learn a new joke.
Be happy, wild, and free as you express yourself more creatively!