“There’s reason to believe that the quest for happiness might be a recipe for misery” (Grant, 2015).
Happiness is a feature of the mind that ascends from positive mental attitudes, which, among others, incorporate the intention to not harm or hurt others, the want to provide help to our peers and to be happy with life as it is (Tashi, 2004).
Robert Holden (2008), defines happiness as a ‘way of being’
In search of happiness:
Basically, you are so concerned with getting to a place of happiness, you never really are happy, rather you are forever on the hunt or search for happiness because nothing is quite good enough to bring you happiness.
Happiness research and evidence show that people who are happy usually have more friends, more success in their work and career, and live longer and healthier than people not as happy (Fredrickson, 1998; Lyubomirsky, King, & Diener, 2005).
Live the best and healthiest you can, but be easy on yourself. Striving for happiness can be a lonely marathon, and you can end up being so concerned with your own happiness that you turn off others (Mauss et al., 2012).
Don’t let your happiness define you, you define your happiness. Happiness can be whatever brings you joy and ease your mind from all that can consume it. You define your happiness.
What can make you happy instantly? What do you hold most dear? What are your core values that you uphold? Honour? Respect? Love? Health? Being with a family member? A hike? Or watching the sunset? We each have many things that can make us happy.
Furthermore, what may make you happy may not make me happy. And that is something important to note that for there to be a secret recipe or formula it would need to be tested over and over again, and validated, right? There is no secret recipe or formula for finding happiness.
But that doesn’t mean that there aren’t ways to find your own happiness.
Can happiness be taught?
Yes, but it depends. It depends on the level of motivation, mental and physical health status, your spirituality, and your environment (Tashi, 2004). Happiness can be improved by changing your behaviour and thought process.
Boost your dopamine
If you spend more time being active, and less time spent in sedentary and habitual behaviour you will feel happier (Tashi, 2004).
• A great example is exercise, when you exercise your body is creating dopamine. Any form of exercise that gets your heart pumping is good.
• Eat foods that are rich in tyrosine (think almonds, bananas, beans, fish, eggs, avocado).
• Treat yourself by either going to get a massage or learning and practice meditation.
• Sleep until you are rested. There are some small instructions with sleep: make sure you give yourself enough time to get comfortable and relaxed, and enough time to sleep, and of course, enough time to get up and ready for your day.
• Listen to (and maybe dance?) to your favourite songs. You’ll get your heart pumping with good cardiovascular exercise, and it just feels good to hear your favourite type of music.
Express your gratitude
If we take a deeper look at gratitude, we find that ‘gratia’, is the Latin origin for ‘gratitude’ and means grace, graciousness, or gratefulness. Gratitude is an appreciation from receipt of something tangible or intangible from an individual (Giving thanks makes you happier). Gratitude is the most giving state of mind that we can train our thinking to stay in. When we give or receive gratitude we are happier for it.
Gratitude is another skill that when practised can teach someone how to be happy.
There is a direct link between happiness and gratitude. Expressing gratitude brings about happiness for the one giving thanks. The more someone is thankful or feels gratitude, the less there is time or room for negative thoughts.
Three common ways people can express their gratitude are:
1. By being gracious of their past (i.e., think of positive childhood memories)
2. By being gracious for the present (i.e., taking time to be present and enjoy)
3. By being grateful for what’s to come (i.e., hopeful and optimistic of the future) (Giving thanks makes you happier).
Feeling gratitude or receiving gratitude makes both parties happier or see things from a more positive perspective. How could it not, right? You are literally thanking someone or something for something that is positive. Positivity rubs off, and when you feel more positive you feel happier
Lyubomirsky (2008) provides 8 ways to boost gratitude in her book, “The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life you want,” and a brief online version “Eight Ways Gratitude Boosts Happiness.”
Mindfulness is the state in which whatever you are doing you are doing it with thoughtfulness, appreciation, and patience. You are not multi-tasking or thinking of other things. You are paying attention to every detail to what you are doing, and savouring it. Many things that you do every day can be done mindfully: walking, eating, bathing etc. Learning to live life in the present moment brings happiness.
Create the life you want through Goal Setting
Every choice you make defines a part of your journey. Make those choices very carefully (Maude) Goals can help set your intentions on actionable items that you can work towards to achieve success and happiness. Goal setting can lead to finding your flow, which can lead to happiness. Through his research conducted on Flow, across the globe, Csikszentmihalyi (1990) and team have found that “flow generally occurs when a person is doing his or her favourite activity—gardening, listening to music, bowling, cooking a good meal. It also occurs when driving, talking to friends, and surprisingly often at work. Very rarely do people report flow in passive leisure activities, such as watching television or relaxing.”
Write down your goals. Plan them out. Now on a separate sheet of paper, write them down very discretely and to the point. Now pin that somewhere, to the background in your phone, to the desktop on your computer, to your refrigerator. Somewhere – that you will see every day, so you don’t lose sight of your goals. Plan out your schedule. Give time for everything that needs to be done and you want to be done. For example, make time to pay bills online, and make time to go to your favourite band play on Saturday.
Work for your purpose (not just for money) If you are constantly chasing money it makes it a lot less meaningful. Materialism and money will not bring us refuge. Work towards meaningful goals, make each step of your progress mean something more than just material or financial progress (Diner and Biswas-Diener, 2009). And if you can’t name or describe your purpose or passion, find one.
The whole point and purpose of living a spiritual life is to live in harmony with one another. For example, “generosity, kind words, beneficial help, and consistency in the face of events” are the things that hold people together (Pursey, 2017). There is also the idea of having a divine relationship with someone or really anything place of work, family and friends that you interact with, the divine relationship dictates that we should not be attached to them in a way that makes us feel like we should control or change how they act really we should just be accepting them for who they are and the phase of life they are in.
The Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS) questionnaire created by David Watson, Lee Anna Clark, and Auke Tellegen (Mulder, 2018) was developed in a way to make it simple to understand how you feel during certain time periods. PANAS “lists different feelings and emotions on which you can link a score to, based on how you are feeling. First select a timespan before filing in the scores (Mulder, 2018). The different time options include (Mulder, 2018):
• Moment (how you feel right now);
• Today (how you feel today);
• Past few days (how you felt past few days);
• Week (how you felt during the past week);
• Past Few weeks (how you felt during the past few weeks); and
• Year (how you felt during the past year), and general (how you generally feel).
The Satisfaction with Life Scale
The scale was created by Ed Diener, Robert A. Emmons, Randy J. Larsen, and Sharon Griffen in 1985 and published in the Journal of Personality Assessment. SWLS is a “5-item instrument designed to measure global cognitive judgments of satisfaction with one’s life. The scale usually requires only about one minute of a respondent’s time,” (Diener et al., 1985).
To take the tests above and others that will help, visit here
How to become a happier person
Use these strategies, to become a happier person: (Goldsmith, 2012)
• Be with people that make you feel joyful. Best way to tell is that they put a smile across your face.
• Always honour your values. The more you take a stand on your values the stronger you will feel.
• Accept the good, the bad, and the annoying
• Always picture your goals.
• What makes you happy is what you should do.
• Have a purpose.
• Follow your heart.
• Be flexible, not rigid.
• Notice the beauty in everything.
• Be in the moment and go with the flow.
• Mental Health America (2019). 31 Tips to Boost your Mental Health. Retrieved from http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/31-tips-boost-your-mental-health
• Brain MD. (2017). 7 Ways to Boost Dopamine, Focus, and Energy. Retrieved from https://www.brainmdhealth.com/blog/7-ways-to-boost-dopamine-focus-and-energy/.
• Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1997). Finding Flow. Basic Books.
• Csikszentmihalyi, M. (1990). Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. Harpers Perennial.
• Csikszentmihalyi, M. The Futurist; Washington 31, 5, (Sep/Oct 1997): S8-S12.
• Diener, E. (2000). The science of happiness and a proposal for a national index. American Psychologist, 55, 34 – 43. doi:10.1037/0003- 066X.55.1.34
• Diener, E., Emmons, R.A., Larsen, R.J. & Griffen, S. (1985). The Satisfaction with Life Scale. Journal of Personality Assessment. http://labs.psychology.illinois.edu/~ediener/SWLS.html
• Diener, E., & Biswas-Diener, R. (2009). Happiness: Unlocking the Mysteries of Psychological Wealth. DOI: 10.1002/9781444305159. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/book/10.1002/9781444305159
• Fredrickson, B. L. (1998). What Good Are Positive Emotions? Review of General Psychology, 2, 300–319. doi:10.1037/1089-2622.214.171.1240
• Goldsmith, B. (2012). 10 Simple Ways to Find Happiness. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-fitness/201204/10-simple-ways-find-happiness
• Grant, A. (2015). Does Trying to be Happy Make us Unhappy?
• Holden, R. (2008). Authentic Success. [Audio File] Hay House.
• Lyubomirsky, S., King, L., & Diener, E. (2005). The benefits of frequent positive affect: Does happiness lead to success? Psychological Bulletin, 131, 803–855. doi:10.1037/0033-2909.131.6.803
• Lyubomirsky, S., & Lepper, H. (1999). A measure of subjective happiness: Preliminary reliability and construct validation. Social Indicators Research, 46, 137-155.
• Maude, S (2019). How to create joy today: 7 tips for a happy life. Retrieved from https://tinybuddha.com/blog/how-to-create-joy-today-7-tips-for-a-happy-life/
• Maus, I.B., Savino, N.S., Weisbuch, M., Anderson, C.L., Tamir, M. & Laudenslager, M.L. (2012). The Pursuit of Happiness Can Be Lonely. Journal of Emotion. 12(5), pp. 908-912. DOI: 10.1037/a0025299
• Mulder, P. (2018). PANAS Scale. Retrieved from https://www.toolshero.com/psychology/personal-happiness/panas-scale/
• Myers, D. G. (2000). The funds, friends, and faith of happy people. American Psychologist, 55, 56–67. doi:10.1037/0003-066X.55.1.56
• Pursey, K. (2017). 7 Buddhists Beliefs That make you happy, according to Science. Retrieved from https://www.learning-mind.com/buddhist-beliefs-happy-science/.