7 Principles of happiness
We’re all on this constant search for happiness. And it’s funny that something so many people crave is so difficult to attain. We look for it in all kinds of places… A nice home, a successful job, the perfect partner or weight, but even when we attain all these things happiness still eludes us.
The reason why? We’re so busy looking for it in achievements and pleasures we miss the fact that happiness is actually born from the inside out.
There are seven principles that significantly contribute to the state of our happiness.
Let’s take a closer look –
Seeing the world through the lens of gratitude
Gratitude is the ultimate antidote to unhappiness because when you’re experiencing it, it’s almost impossible to feel bleak.
It helps you see the bright side of things when life can otherwise feel impossible. It enables you to appreciate your circumstances and all that you have, rather than focusing on what you lack.
Gratitude is not always easy.
Life is far from perfect, but when we experience challenges, pain or loss that’s when it’s most valuable.
The more you practice gratitude the easier it becomes, and the more benefits you experience.
Studies have shown that people who practice gratitude consistently report psychological benefits such as being more alert, optimistic and happy.
They experience social benefits like feeling generous, compassionate, and connected to others.
There are physical benefits such as a stronger immunity and ability to cope with stress and pain.
Gratitude blocks toxic and negative emotions and enhances positive ones, so you can see why it’s worth the effort to practice.
Just imagine what it would feel like to have wonder, thankfulness and appreciation as your primary state of being?
Offer yourself love and acceptance
Did you know the way you think about yourself is more directly connected to your happiness than the circumstances of your life?
One of the most crucial keys in experiencing day-to-day joy is the level of our self-love and acceptance.
You’d think this would be a given.
But without even realizing it, most of us are incredibly self-critical. We judge ourselves for everything.
We either don’t have enough money or love, security or success, talent, beauty or possessions.
And we blame ourselves for all of it.
We have this idea that the harder we push ourselves, the higher we’ll excel, and the higher we excel, the happier we’ll be. This means constant critiquing, berating, and judging.
The problem is, we’ve got it all wrong. It’s not through judgment that we find motivation or happiness. It’s through self-love and acceptance. Happiness and self-acceptance go hand in hand.
In fact, our level of self-acceptance determines our level of happiness.
Basically, we experience as much happiness as we believe we’re worthy of.
The practice of self-love and acceptance is an invitation to stop judging ourselves. It’s about accepting who we are with an open heart and treating ourselves with the same kindness, love and compassion we’d offer a good friend—or even a stranger, for that matter.
It teaches us to be gentle with ourselves rather than harsh and critical. And instead of the endless comparison game we play, we can start appreciating our unique magnificence, which includes our imperfections.
It’s through self-love and acceptance that we find peace and happiness in our hearts.
Learn to let go
It’s natural for us to want things to be a certain way. If we had it our way we’d control everything: Our parents, our health, the weather…
Unfortunately, in the game of life, there’s not much we can control.
We can however, choose how we respond to things when they don’t go our way. And the answer is in letting go.
We cling to anger, regret, grudges and opinions. But is fighting to hold on to that which happened in the past actually useful?
Or does it actually hurt us? Might it be that we actually find freedom and happiness by letting go of the past and accepting the present?
When you have no control over how things go, and you get angry, or upset, the person you’re hurting most is you.
Allow yourself to feel whatever comes up when you experience resistance – that’s essential.
But it’s important to keep in mind, that the sooner you can accept whatever’s going on, the sooner you experience freedom and peace of mind.
It’s in the act of letting go, that happiness returns.
Live in the now
Most of us carry this sense that happiness is somewhere out there in the future. Our hope is that we’ll find it in our next relationship, purchase, or experience.
But all it takes is a quick look at Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs to see that as soon as we’ve satisfied one need another one arises. This leaves us unhappy and unfulfilled.
We might experience happiness for a short time after getting that shiny new thing, but ultimately, it’s fleeting, and we’re right back where we started.
Pursuing things we don’t have in order to feel happy is a never-ending race.
In order to find real happiness, we have to stop looking for it in the future, ‘cause where it’s actually found is in this very moment.
Most of us don’t recognize, we’re rarely in this moment, but it’s true – nearly all our thoughts revolve around the past or the future. Now, sometimes this can be useful.
Life involves planning ahead and learning from the past, but often, our minds are full of regret and worry, which actually holds us back.
Based on our past experiences, we decide we can’t achieve things, so we don’t even bother trying. And when we’re worrying about the future we’re putting ourselves through unnecessary grief visualizing outcomes that may never even happen.
When we’re living in the moment we’re not ruminating about concerns or are anxious about what might happen.
We’re connected to what’s happening right now. And when we befriend the present moment that’s when we experience happiness.
I think we can agree that we’re all most comfortable when it feels like we’ve got life under control.
Unfortunately, we can’t ever be certain of what the future holds. Even when it looks like things are going one way, anything can change in a heartbeat.
Change, of any type is scary. When something changes it challenges our ideas and feelings of safety and security. Change might involve risk, failure, or heartbreak. We have such a fear of the unknown, we’ll do anything to prevent it. That might mean staying in an unhealthy relationship or job… Not taking a risk towards your dreams, not leaping towards goals due to the potential of failure…
We try and protect ourselves by remaining in our comfort zone, doing what we’ve always done to get the results we’ve always gotten, but even then, it’s impossible to control anything for long.
Change is a constant and is always right around the corner.
That leaves us with a choice: we can either live with fear or learn to embrace uncertainty. Imagine if you were able to view the unknown as an exciting opportunity rather than a threat. What if it were possible to turn towards uncertainty rather than fear it?
Befriend the unknown rather than run from it. Suddenly life wouldn’t feel scary at all, would it?
You’d be fearless.
Stepping into that place of fearlessness requires a peaceful mind. So meditation is one of the most productive activities you can practice to open to uncertainty.
Prioritize your health.
Often in the daily grind of life, our health gets sacrificed. After all, we have to prioritize. We can’t abandon work ‘cause we’ve got to get ahead.
Preparing healthy food is time consuming so we eat out or skip meals… we postpone hitting the gym… Getting enough sleep is a rarity…and taking time out to give our racing minds a break becomes a fantasy.
Life takes over, our health falls by the wayside, and we wonder why we aren’t happy.
The benefits aren’t always visible.
To start, exercise is one of the most effective instant happiness boosters of all time. Study after study show that regular physical activity increases happiness, reduces anxiety and stress and alleviates depression.
In many cases it’s been shown to be just as effective as antidepressants.
In addition to strengthening your muscles, joints, lungs, heart, and memory, the serotonin and endorphins that are released enhance your mood and sleep.
So as you can see there are plenty of reasons to get active.
Getting rest is also imperative. Considering that a single sleepless night can make you irritable and moody, it’s no surprise that chronic sleep deprivation leads to depression and anxiety. When we don’t get enough sleep, we’re less focused, less attentive, less creative and patient – so if you want to be happy, make getting enough shut-eye a priority.
A healthy diet is also vital. When we fill our stomachs with refined sugar, artificial sweeteners and processed food it leaves us tired and cranky. In contrast, healthy food choices help combat depression and boost our mood.
Last, it’s important to give our minds a break from overstimulation and stress. And there’s no better way to do that than through meditation.
It’s proven that meditation has a multitude of positive effects that directly impact our happiness. It’s one of the top tools for managing anxiety, ill health and depression.
Meditating helps people feel more calm, clear and centered, providing a sense of well being that can last all day.
Take time to play.
When was the last time you laughed? I mean, really laughed. One of those big belly laughs that goes on and on and brings tears to your eyes. If you’re lucky, it was over the last couple of days.
But if you’re like many of us, you’re so busy trying to get ahead or tending to your to-do list, that laughter isn’t as familiar as it once was.
Children laugh on average up to 300 times a day, Adults, about 17 times. That’s a huge difference in our level of happiness.
Obviously, age is a factor because kids don’t have the same concerns and responsibilities as we do, but part of why they laugh more is because playtime’s on their calendar.
Adults find it hard to schedule in “fun,” because there are only so many hours in a day and many of us feel we have to earn our playtime.
We’re on a race to success and feel our time is too precious to sacrifice. But research shows that happiness is a huge part of what leads to success.
This means rather than spending all our time focusing on achieving future goals, it benefits us to access joy right now.
How much happiness do you experience when you’re doing things in order to get ahead in the future, versus immersing yourself in an activity that brings you joy in the moment? It’s likely a significant difference because it’s proven that when we’re in a flow and completely immersed in something, our level of happiness is the highest.
Think of how good it feels when you engage in activities that make you happy.
What it’s like to be with people who make you laugh.
Reflect on how it feels to be completely swept up in a hobby you’re passionate about.
One of the keys to happiness includes carving out time each week to engage in play. Not waiting till you’re further ahead in life to feel you’re entitled to take the time.
In our 7 days of Happiness Program we explore each of these principles and you’ll be guided through a themed meditation along with practical strategies you can test out in your own life to enhance the level of your happiness.