That was said by a buddhist monk considered the happiest man in the world after studies were conducted on his brain that showed the highest level ever seen in the area of positive emotions.
According to science, happiness is achieved by three different means:
50% is genetic
10% is circumstantial
40% is a skill that we need to cultivate
So how can we practise this skill and cultivate happiness?
Nurturing social connections
Acts of kindness
Living in the present
Working to achieve meaningful goals
Mind training or meditation
Belief in a higher purpose
There are two things that don’t bring happiness according to the studies: money and physical beauty. However, our security needs (food, shelter, safety) need to met. After that, money doesn’t really add to happiness.
Another important point is that human being adapt to changes. Therefore, changes such as getting married, a better job, beautiful housing and winning the lottery only bring temporary happiness. It is proved that after less than one year, lottery winners go back to their earlier levels of happiness. It also works the other way around. When something bad happens, it doesn’t take long for the happiness levels to return to normal.
What else has science learned about happiness or SWB (subjective well-being)?
Temperament is an important factor but some conditions such as being unemployed or living in a poor nation have a long lasting effect.
Some cultures have higher levels of happiness than others because happiness is valued more.
People in unstable or very poor nations have lower levels of happiness.
No one is happy all the time. Even the happiest people get unhappy sometimes.
Happiness is can be correlated with desirable consequences such as sociability, creativity, better marriages, better work performance, stronger physical immunity and resilience.
Happiness doesn’t come from pleasure but from working towards goals that are consistent with our values.
All in all, there are many things that are still uncertain about happiness. But one thing is certain: there’s not only one way to achieve it and a variety of factors play a part in it.
“You’ve got a lot of choices. If getting out of bed in the morning is a chore and you’re not smiling on a regular basis, try another choice.”
— Steven D. Woodhull
This is one of the most amazing quotes ever, in my opinion. This should be like a mantra that we should remember every day.
Life is too short to waste doing things we don’t enjoy and being with people that don’t make us happy. I remember I used to hear this all the time when I was younger: “That’s the way life is, you have to do things you don’t want.” When you think about small things, this is true. I don’t particularly like doing the dishes and cleaning my house but I have to do it. However, when we look at the bigger picture, this saying couldn’t be more wrong. You don’t have to spend your life in a job you don’t love or with people who don’t appreciate you or living in a place you hate. You should fight and find what you love.
If you’re not happy with your situation, something is wrong. It’s not okay to live your life waiting for something. I’m going to be happy when I move away. I’m going to be happy when I finish this course. I’m going to be happy when I have more money. NO! The time to be happy is now. If you’re not happy with your current situation, you have two choices: change it or accept it. By accepting it, I don’t mean settling but actually finding happiness in what you have, enjoying the journey.
I have a new habit, wherever I am and whatever I am doing, I like to think: “One day I’m going to remember this time of my life with a smile on my face.”
Even though things are never perfect, there’s always something good that you’re going to miss. At the same time, if changes occur in your life, there’s always something bad that you finally get rid of.
Sometimes, even when our life is going pretty well, we might feel that we are stuck in a rut. Routine is a part of life and some people (not me) actually appreciate it. However, even if you like routine, you always need a change. Some people dread changes but that’s another reason to force them. Changes are part of life and it’s good to get used them and learn to enjoy them. Doing something different will bring excitement to your life, give it more meaning and make wonderful memories. So today, choose to do something different. It can be whatever you want but if you can’t think of anything, here are some ideas:
- Eat breakfast food for dinner.
- Take a different route (to go to work or home or wherever you go often)
- Cook something new. You can get the recipe of f the internet or a cookbook or your mum. You can invent a cocktail if you’re not a good cook.
- Wear something different. Do you always wear dark colours? Try some bright clothes. Do you wear make-up every day? Try not wearing it and appreciate your natural beauty.
- Plan an unusual outing. It will be something different for each person. For me it would be watching the football at the pub, for example. I’m not a football person so it’s unusual for me to do that. Maybe for you it’s going to the park, bowling or a nightclub.
- Go for a walk at night (if it’s safe).
- Set yourself a challenge. Some examples:
Stop drinking for a month (alcohol or fizzy drinks)
Stop swearing for a week
Stop using facebook for a week
- Go to a restaurant/pub/bar you’ve never been before.
- Buy a lottery ticket. Just to feel that little rush before checking the results.
- Invite some friends over to your house.
- Learn something new: how to use chopsticks, how to say ‘hello’ in 10 different languages, how to sew, how to play an instrument, etc.
- Go skinny dipping in the pool (or the sea if you have the guts)
- Have sex outside.
- Do some studying or work sitting at a coffee shop or outside.
- Go sightseeing in your own city. This is the best one in my opinion. Sometimes tourists have seen more of our city than ourselves. When I have free time, I love to go searching for hidden places around Oxford.
Maybe you already do some of these things very often so they are not different to you. You can think of other things that would be different. Share your ideas in the comments =)
This one comes a bit late because I was away in Brazil having too much fun but I haven’t forgotten my promise so here are the 10 questions for March:
- How could today have been better?
Today’s just one day but it might represent your everyday so your answer can help improve not only today but your life in general.
- If you could add one hour to your day, what would you do with it?
Maybe you can rearrange things and find time to do it anyway.
- In three words, describe your spirituality.
- What new activity have you tried?
It’s very important to try new activities whenever you can. They give meaning to life and make you feel empowered.
- What do you daydream about?
Sometimes this can say a lot about you, what you want and how you are feeling.
- What makes you laugh?
Laughter is the best medicine. It boosts your immune system, boost your energy, diminish pain and protect you against the effects of stress. Therefore, you should do it as often as possible. Read more about it here.
- Who do you aspire to be like?
And what can you do to achieve that?
- When was the last time you felt like you were on top of the world?
Reliving good memories boosts your happiness. Plus this might help you figure out what you can do to go back to that moment or have more moments like that.
- What do you want to remember about today?
Every day has something good about it. Sometimes we forget to appreciate the little things that happen in our everyday life.
- Write down a few lines from a song or poem that you identify with at the moment.