For as long as you can remember, you’ve probably been told time and again how to be happy. Our parents, the media, and our government all want us to conform to what they think is the key to our happiness.
However, scientific research has recently pinpointed what actually makes you happy and it’s got nothing to do with how big your bank account is or how famous you are. Your happiness mainly depends on the choices you make and the habits you keep. Albeit, there is a fair amount that also depends on genes—and also your circumstances—but the way you approach life is what ultimately dictates your happiness.
First, let’s go back a little to define “well-being.” What does it actually mean? Think of a time when you were at peace with yourself and the world around you, a time when you were content. When you felt that things were blissfully going your way in all areas of your life and when you were aware of your potential and had an ambitious plan to reach your goals.
For each and every one of us, there are 5 areas in our lives that help determine our state of well-being. If one area is affected negatively, it affects the rest of the areas.
The World Health Organization divides well-being into 2 categories: subjective and objective. Subjective well-being is derived from your own life experiences. Objective well-being is derived from how your personal life circumstances compare with social values, expectations, and norms.
A genuine state of well-being must be based on the following:
Eating a well-balanced diet
Getting good quality sleep
Being able to cope with stress
So how can you be happy? Most of us draw up a list in our minds of all the things that will make us happy. Even though each list may be unique in terms of the details, most lists will indubitably include the following:
A successful career
Lots of money
A powerful position
Moreover, there’s nothing wrong with having goals to strive for. The problem is that once you reach one or all of these goals, your feeling of happiness starts to wane because what was once new and exciting is suddenly the norm. It’s a basic human characteristic; it happens to all of us. However, the good news is that this means that your happiness is constantly evolving, which makes you evolve and grow with it.
There are many things you can do to ensure a constant state of balanced emotions. You shouldn’t despair when things don’t go your way. Here are 4 tips to nurture your well-being:
1. Amp up Your Positivity
This doesn’t mean you overlook all the negative things that happen around you. It just means you acknowledge that something bad happened that set you back, and then you find a way to step back up and learn from it. Positive people look for the value in negative situations. They have a resilient and centered perspective on things.
They realize that it could’ve easily been much worse. They also make it a point to get compensation after they’ve been through a stressful situation. This can be in the form of some materialistic compensation, or it can mean that they simply search within for inner peace and tranquility
You probably think that this is something innate; that people are simply born resilient and buoyant. However, the truth is they’re not. Our thinking patterns generate our emotional patterns. So, for example, if you keep thinking you’re no good at a certain job - you’ll be emotionally unable to accept yourself in that job.
Moreover, emotions are powerful things that can dictate how our lives turn out, if we let them. The way we feel is even responsible for how certain chemicals increase or decrease in our brains. Positive people learn—by practice—how to enjoy their lives, be productive, and flourish.
They realize that the world doesn’t come to an end when bad things happen. They still keep a supply of healthy coping mechanisms that have been previously tried and tested at their disposal, just in case
2. Practice Mindfulness
Whenever you’re depressed or worried, you’re either beating yourself up about something that happened to you in the past or worrying about something that may or may not take place in the future.
Why not switch to the present for a change? When you practice mindfulness, you focus on what’s happening around you right this very second; any sound, any smell, any feeling you have in your body - you get the idea. When you are pulled in so many directions, you lose focus on the little things that happen throughout the day.
Many studies have been carried out on the effects of mindfulness and they have shown that this practice is a vital step to happiness and well-being. Therefore, it’s safe to assume that happy people don’t let the small things that happen throughout their day go overlooked and underappreciated. They’re observant and grateful. When people are focused on the now, they’re more likely to feel peaceful, centered and happy.
Even if you’re not into meditation, you can practice mindfulness by simply sitting in a chair that is in a room with very low light and no distractions. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Just five minutes a day will reduce your stress levels, boost your sense of inner peace, and help you to be satisfied with your own self. If you’ve never tried meditation and would like some tips, there are many sites that tell you exactly what to expect, like the example meditation technique above that can be done anywhere in under 5 minutes.
3. Get to Know and Use Your Unique Talents
A wonderfully empowering way to find your own sense of well-being is to tap into your strengths. This will help you to boost your level of self-esteem because you’ll be spending time doing something extremely well and with lots of love. That spirit will show on your demeanor, on your facial expressions, and in the way you deal with people. You will become more comfortable with who you are.
When you feel confident, others find you more approachable. You also become better at dealing with others—both the people you know and strangers. You become more accepting and less judgmental. You also start to avoid comparing yourself to others or over-thinking.
However, realizing what your talent actually is may not be as simple as it sounds. To help with this dilemma, Tom Rath has released a book, Strengths Finder 2.0. This book contains hundreds of strategies to help you get to know your inner strengths so you can put them to good use.
The flip side is that once you’ve become familiar with your own talents and strengths, then it’s time to go out and learn something new. Learning new things helps to motivate you and to boost your self-confidence. It also piques your curiosity and keeps you mentally alert. You don’t have to take night classes or apply for a diploma. You can learn new things by going to a Zumba class, learning to paint, or joining a club.
4. Stay Fit and Healthy
If you don’t take care of your body by eating right, sleeping well, and exercising regularly, then it’ll be difficult to maintain a healthy mental outlook on life. We each have four forms of energy:
When one of these is out of tune, things don’t go well for the other three.
Consistent exercise increases the release of feel-good hormones in the brain and decreases stress levels as well as blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It also helps strengthen memory and concentration, which can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Try working out for an hour, 3-5 days a week. It really doesn’t matter what type of activity you do as long as you’re having fun.
Moreover, if you sleep less than 7 hours a night that means you’re depriving yourself of some much-needed sleep. This directly affects your happiness and emotional stress. Likewise, it affects your ability to make rational decisions, to think, or to focus for even a short amount of time.