It’s here! Did you know that there is a day dedicated to happiness? It’s called the International Day of Happiness, and it’s today March 20th. As it states on their website “…this years theme is Happier Together, celebrating what we have in common rather than what divides us.”
In Part 1 of this blog I had mentioned the key finding of a 75 year Harvard study which demonstrates the importance of our connection with others. Also included was actions to help induce a sense of happiness including: practicing pro-social qualities, mindfulness, and flow.
Before we get started on Part II, I’d like to mention a further way to incorporate mindfulness into your day-to-day routine, which as I mentioned previously has been shown to lead to happiness. Five to ten years ago I was a meditation non-believer, but after practicing it for a few years now, I absolutely see and feel the benefits meditation can provide. In fact, several studies show how meditation can have positive effects on many aspects of health, resilience, and better relationships.
So let’s get to it. Here are three more researched ways you can take action in order to increase your #happiness!
4. Awe. You know, that experience you feel when you look up at huge beautiful trees, or perhaps looking at this beach photo here, or a beautiful painting. When was the last time you went star-gazing and saw a shooting star?
What tends to put you in a state of awe? It’s really about experiencing awe / wonder / beauty, which makes us feel like we are in the presence of something larger than ourselves.
Researchers have linked positive emotions – especially the awe we feel when touched by the beauty of nature, art, and spirituality – with lower levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (which are proteins that signal the immune system to work harder). Elevated cytokines have shown association to autoimmune diseases and depression.
UC Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner says “that awe, wonder and beauty promote healthier levels of cytokines suggests that the things we do to experience these emotions – a walk in nature, losing oneself in music, beholding art – has a direct influence upon health and life expectancy.”
5. Laughter. When is the last time you laughed? When is the laugh time you had a really good belly laugh? If it’s been a while, get on it! There are lots of funny movies, funny people, and other things that can induce laughter – like remembering funny times in the past, or surrounding yourself with people who like to laugh and find the humour in everyday life.
So, try not to be so serious all the time, seriously. A vast amount of research has shown that laughter can contribute to overall health and wellness including increasing your resilience and improving your overall mood.
6. Self-compassion. Kristin Neff, author of Self-Compassion, says that self-compassion is a state where you understand your own suffering and use mindfulness, kindness, and openness to hold it non-judgementally and consider it part of the human condition. In other words, self-compassion is where you would consider grace for the self even despite unfortunate circumstances.
Neff says that self-compassion entails three core components:
She goes on to say that we must achieve and combine these three essential elements in order to be truly self-compassionate.
Research has shown that people with self-compassion tend have an inner strength of self that is worthy of respect, and their sense of self-worth tends to be less rattled. They also tend to worry less about social comparison, and feel less need to retaliate for perceived personal slights.
This research suggests that self-compassion provides a sense of calmness. Think of it as a safe place from a perceived hurricane of positive and negative self-judgment. It can shelter you from questions like “Am I as good as they are? Am I good enough?” By practicing kindness, and realizing that all of us have an imperfect human condition; you can be confidently on your way to feel more safe and secure, feeling like you belong, and embracing life every day.
Of course, it’s not as easy as it sounds and it does take some work to realize and practice self-compassion. It may take baby steps to break old habits. A pause for self-awareness can help to self-identify when we need more compassion for ourselves. Consider how allowing, with an open heart, life to be as it is could help you change your life for the better.
You may be asking “isn’t it selfish to consider the self”? In response to this I would say that allowing self-compassion into your life may, over time, allow you to respond to challenges from others and life in general in a way that is more open-hearted and loving.
Overall, keep in mind that happiness is different things to different people. There simply isn’t one happiness strategy that works for everyone. Just do your best with what you have, be a better person than yesterday.
And please try to not let your happiness depend on what others say or do. Remember that happiness is truly up to you and it’s yours only. It’s an inside job.
Practice the above and I think that you will see a subtle difference over time. I am always making strides to practice these things too. Please let me know how this goes for you, or if you have any questions on these Actions. And don’t forget to go to the International Day of Happiness site to join in with other people celebrating this day of happiness!
OK now what are you waiting for? After you reflect on these a bit, start practicing these actions to increase your #happiness. Let’s GO! Now it’s time to get my introverted butt out the door and connect with the human race, even if it’s just a smile or a simple “hi”!
Looking forward to continuing on this happiness journey with you. Remember, we are all in this together!