No matter where we came from or what our backgrounds and beliefs are, we have one thing in common: we all want happiness. Despite our yearning for a happier life, for many of us, happiness can appear to be ever so elusive.
That said, while it’s true that some factors which influence our level of happiness may be out of our control (e.g: genetics or life circumstances), there are simple yet powerful actions that we can take on a regular basis to invite more happiness into our lives. Here, I’m sharing 5 easy practices that have helped me to not only lead a happier life but to maintain it too!
1. Develop an Attitude of Gratitude
Over the years, I’ve come to realize that the happiest people I know have one thing in common: they express gratitude as if it were their day job.
In order to attract more blessings into our lives, it is essential that we cultivate an attitude of gratitude. If this is something that you’re not accustomed to, you can begin by acknowledging that the basic needs we tend to take for granted, much of the world do not have access to. This covers everything from the roof over our heads, good health, running water, and access to electricity. Frederick Koenig, a German inventor, so eloquently said, “We tend to forget that happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.”
2. Focus on the Present
To attain happiness, one of the most effective things we can do is to learn to become more mindful and to focus on the present moment. As Eckhart Tolle, a renowned spiritual leader and author of The Power of Now, advised, “'Realize deeply that the present moment is all you have. Make the NOW the primary focus of your life.”
But what exactly can we do to become more present? Personally, I have found daily meditation sessions to be immensely useful in helping me to embrace ‘the now’ rather than constantly looking back to the past or anxiously anticipating the future. Focusing on what is right in front of us rather than allowing our mind to wander enables us to let go of pesky anxieties that would normally have a hold over us and rob us of our joy.
3. Collect Memories, Not Things
In this day and age of consumerism and obsessive use of social media, it’s hard to not get all caught up in the comparison game otherwise known as “keeping up with the Joneses.” But if it's genuine happiness that you’re looking for, you need to ingrain in your head that your self-worth does not rely upon your net worth.
Despite what society may have us believe, our value as a human being does not rest on whether or not we have the biggest house or the latest gadgets. Material goods, no matter how amazing they may seem, can only give us a short burst of superficial joy that we may mistakenly identify as happiness. The truth is, we know that it won’t be long till we yearn for a newer, shinier, and better version of whatever object we just purchased.
Instead of collecting material things, why not opt to invest more time and energy on creating and collecting priceless memories with your loved ones? Whether it’s through traveling the world or taking up hobbies you can enjoy with friends and family, investing in experiences rather than things will much more likely help you to create a life truly worth living.
4. Cultivate a Strong Support Network
Did you know that doubling the number of true friends can produce similar effects to happiness as doubling your income? Well, believe it or not, research has proven this to be true! Moreover, those who have a strong support network are likely to live longer lives when compared to those who do not.
They say that you are not truly rich until you have something that money can’t buy - and true friendships fit the bill. Hence, it comes to no surprise that happy people, in addition to their spouse and family, have at least two or more friends that they can truly depend on. They also understand that real friends are difficult to come by, so they not only invest the time and effort to establish friendships but also to maintain them.
5. Pay it Forward
In the book, Paradox of Generosity, two sociologists outlined a five-year study involving over 2000 participants that identified a direct correlation between generosity and happiness. In other words, the study illustrated that those who are generous are likely to be happier!
As cliché as the phrase “Tis' better to give than to receive” sounds, having spent a chunk of my professional life working in the non-profit industry, I have found it to be true. I personally believe that there’s nothing quite as rewarding as being able to pay it forward and be of service to those who are in need.
Whether you prefer to show your generosity by doing random acts of kindness to strangers or expressing love and compassion to your loved ones, you’ll find that the joy and fulfillment you’ll experience in return is simply incomparable.
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