According to the World Happiness Report 2019, the feeling of happiness is declining in our modern societies… But individually, with simple techniques, we can reverse that trend. In this article, I would like to give you some tricks and techniques to actually feel happier on a consistent basis.
First and foremost, understand a principle that is very dear to me: true happiness comes from within and you should not let the power of making you happy in anyone else’s hands. As Oprah Winfrey wrote in her book What I know for sure:
Happiness is never something you get from other people… If you feel incomplete, you alone must fill yourself with love in all your empty, shattered spaces.
Indeed even though it might be comforting to find appreciation, support in your family, friends or a partner…none of them should be a prerequisite for your own happiness. Happiness comes from within, and you can work to develop it by implementing habits and rituals into your life.
Another foundational understanding is that happiness comes in the present moment. That is the happiness Paradox. The more you chase happiness, the more unhappy you shall become. Chasing happiness implies not being satisfied with this current moment in time which means as you’re wishing for a different future or reminiscing about the past, you’re fighting this moment in time which leads to feeling unhappy because you’re not able to exist anywhere else than in the present.
It is also important to understand and acknowledge our inner voice, that little dictator that we hear sometimes, and creates us problems or tells us that it is not going well … This is called the tyranny of the mind.
Now I am about to share cheat sheets to leverage your happiness potential. Happiness means a large array of different things for different people. So in order to improve happiness, we are actually going to focus on techniques to diminish moments of poor negative emotions.
The rituals I’m about to share are based on the Pareto principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. It states that, for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. The cheat sheets, which are going to act as the little things that have big impact, revolve around the three aspects of the tyranny of the mind: first, that the mind is negative, second, that the mind is compulsive, and third, that the mind is internal.
1 – Gratitude
The mind is negative: negative thoughts are faster and heavier within our brain. The mind remembers more negative thoughts than positive ones. We, as homo-sapiens sapiens, are programmed to react more to threats than to treats.
To thwart the negative mind, the first habit to incorporate into our life is GRATITUDE. I recommend to do it every day, even better is to have a gratitude journal and every day write the things you are grateful for in it. To get into this habit, acknowledge the simple things in your life (I’m grateful for this delicious meal I had, I’m grateful for this inspiring conversation I had with a friend) or the things we often take for granted (I’m grateful I’m healthy, I’m grateful I have a home). Be specific, and install this habit on a regular basis, ideally every day. You will ultimately rediscover the joys of the present moment.
Nowadays as soon as I have a negative thought or something pulling me down, I enter my gratitude mode and focus on it so that the negative thought just goes away.
2 – Meditation
The mind is compulsive: the mind creates about 60,000 thoughts per day, incessantly talking about the past or the future, regardless of what we are doing in the present moment. To train the mind being in the present moment, the best tool is the Meditation practice. Meditation is not nearly as difficult as lots of people think. Here is a quick how-to: sit-down in a comfortable position, a position where every muscle in your body can relax, close your eyes and next thing focus on your breathing, try to slow it down. To help you focus on your breathing you can do breathing exercises that will make it less natural to breathe, hence force you to focus on it; eg. alternate nostrils breathing, Wim Hof breathing, focus on the cold air coming in and warm air coming out, focus on the air path inside your body… Whenever you notice a thought coming in, don’t try to shut it down, just observe it and let it go, it means do not feed that thought. You can start with 5-min, 10-min meditation and grow longer as you feel more and more comfortable into the practice.
Meditation has plenty of virtues, amongst them: meditation makes you smarter by improving your memory, concentration, and creativity. It makes you happier, by allowing negative emotions, such as sadness and anger, to pass quicker and focus on positive emotions, such as joy, gratitude, serenity, that make us feel good. Meditation makes you live longer, by slowing the aging of cells, diminishing the risks of cardiovascular disease, and diminishing inflammatory disorders.
But mostly, meditation makes you feel better. It helps us reconnect with the joy of simply being, the satisfaction of breathing well, with the fact that life is magical. It allows us to see our problems aren’t as insurmountable as they can seem, and to realize that what’s on your mind is usually not that big of a deal!
3 – Mind clearing
The mind is internal, meaning it processes a lot of thoughts inside. The thoughts are ruminated inside and might become a problem as they go inside in circles, whereas if externalized they could be easily solved. To externalize them you can either isolate yourself and say it out loud. You’ll notice how the answer might come to you unexpectedly. Or you can also write things down.
Personally what I do every morning is “emptying my mind” of all the thoughts I have going on, I call it “clearing the mental desk”. Then I replace the negative thoughts by positive affirmations and I finish my journaling up with gratitude notes. After that I can go on and start my day fresh and ready!
Last but not least, after practicing these 3 practices for 10 days you’ll start seeing a shift in your life. And after 21 days, according to science, they will become habits and you won’t need the will power anymore to do them. And this will significantly improve the number of moments of happiness in your life.
Sow a thought, and you reap an act; Sow an act, and you reap a habit; Sow a habit, and you reap a character; Sow a character, and you reap a destinySamuel Smiles, 1887
When I joined the SFM, I was thrilled to discover that not only it was a great digital education platform, but also a supportive and inspiring community with whom I share these values of living our best lives. Find more about the SFM community here.
I hope this article has helped you. Share your comments below about your own techniques.