Ways to improve our Happiness Quota

Just lately every time I open a magazine, delve into social media or listen to a Podcast, I see the word “happiness” somewhere in the by-line. It seems that everyone is talking about happiness in some form, or rather how to cultivate and conserve it.

So what is happiness exactly and do we recognise it when we have it? 

Recently I have been pondering over the question of happiness and what it takes to be happy. I’m interested on two main levels, my own personal happiness particularly after the losses of the last two years. But also, the happiness of those around me. 

How does happiness differ from contentment, and where does joy fit in?

In her book “Atlas of the Heart”, Brene Brown says that joy is “sudden, unexpected, short lasting and high-intensity”. Whereas, happiness is “stable, longer-lasting, and normally the result of effort”. 

Joy is more internal whilst happiness is more external. Brown also goes on to say that the researchers cannot come up with a clear definition of happiness. Then once we add contentment to the mix it can get a bit more confusing.

For me right now I see happiness as the ability to recognise moments of peace or pleasure and taking the time to savour those moments. Also recognising that this moment is all we have so all I need to focus on is the here and now. This actually takes the pressure off thinking about whether I am happy or not. 

As Humans we are generally geared to have more negative emotions than positive ones. We have around 50,000 thoughts a day and around 70-80% of these are negative. The good news is that only around 30% of our happiness is pre-determined which leaves us with a lot of scope for building up our happiness reserves. 

So, we can choose to be happy but it’s up to us to do the work and set up healthy habits. Below are just some suggestions:

  • Cultivating a Gratitude practice works for many people and it’s healthier than reaching for your phone first thing. 
  • Drink your morning coffee in silence
  • Set an intention before you begin your work day
  • Try and get some daylight/sunlight some time during the day, even for 10 minutes
  • Build some exercise into the day
  • Seek out positive people and social support
  • Laugh!
  • Be of service to others. This is a great way to build contentment.
  • Be aware of your breath.
  • Notice the moments in your day that bring you joy. It may be the sunset, birdsong, the colour of the blossom etc.
  • Work at getting good sleep
  • Spend time in nature
  • Have a Spiritual Practice, whatever that looks like for you. 

I could go on and on. Generally, the things that bring us happiness, joy or contentment are the simple things but when we rush around in our chaotic lives, we can end up missing so much. 

Finally some words of insight from Thich Nhat Hahn.

“Spirituality is not a religion. It is a path for us to generate happiness, understanding & love, so we can live deeply each moment of our life. Having a spiritual dimension in our lives does not mean escaping life or dwelling in a place of bliss outside this world but discovering ways to handle life’s difficulties and generate peace, joy, and happiness right where we are, on this beautiful planet.”