This article is written by Trishna Patnaik. Previously a corporate professional, she found her true calling in painting. Trishna is now a full-time professional painter based in Mumbai, as well as an art therapist and healer.
Happiness is something we all want, but it does not just happen, you have to make it happen. Here we suggest 10 habits you can cultivate to build the happiness you desire.
You want to be happy, don’t you? We all want to be happy, so that is the easy question. The more difficult question is: Are you prepared to do what it takes to be happy?
It becomes a bit harder at that point because you need to acknowledge that happiness does not simply happen. Left to its own resources, the human mind latches on to negativity: it is called “negativity bias” and it is a survival strategy.
To achieve happiness, you need to transcend that innate bias and train yourself into a flourishing mindset.
Just as physical training needs to be something you do on a regular basis, so too does mental training. It is a matter of creating habits that nourish your happiness and doing so deliberately.
You do not have to embrace all of these habits all at once, but here are 10 habits you can cultivate to create the happiness that you crave-
1. Embrace the challenge
The best moments in your life are not passive times. Instead, they usually happen when your body or mind is stretched to its limits in an effort to achieve something worthwhile, something that pushes you to respond thoughtfully, to take risks, and to keep faith in yourself.
To experience these best moments, you need to find a project that inspires you, one that will require determination and present a challenge.
While a challenge requires effort to overcome, it also requires creativity. Without creativity, happiness remains elusive, but embracing challenges that foster creativity is a reliable happiness-building habit.
2. Forgive the past
It is natural to reflect on what has brought you to this point in your life. However, it is also important to remind yourself that there is nothing you can do to change the past.
The best you can do is to ask yourself what you would do differently next time and then move on, forgive others, and forgive yourself.
When you find your mind wallowing in the past, make a conscious effort to change the direction of your thoughts and to focus on what is in your control today.
Do not deny your past — it is part of you — but do not dwell on it. Train yourself to look forward to steps you can take in the now and you will find yourself feeling better about life.
3. Focus on your feelings
Focusing helps you attend to your inner emotional landscape, through labeling and exploring your feelings.
Rather than avoiding, suppressing, or attempting to ignore feelings, it takes less energy to calmly acknowledge emotions or inner sensations.
Once you make a habit of observing and accepting your inner sensations, those very sensations will become less intense and you will become more peaceful – a key element of happiness.
4. Be grateful
People who feel more gratitude cope better with a major life change and are less stressed, less depressed, and more satisfied with their relationships.
You can make gratitude a habitual state of being by counting your blessings. It is hard to complain about the little things when you give thanks that you and your loved ones are alive and healthy.
Equally, it is hard to be too stressed over paying bills when you are grateful to have a roof over your head.
Make lists of the good things in your life or make a regular practice of telling people the good things that happened in your day and you will start to feel happier almost immediately.
Psychological testing shows that people suffer more stress in cluttered houses and cluttered offices. In clean spaces, you feel more relaxed and energetic.
Create simplicity in your life by decluttering: throw out clothes, books, and household items that you have not touched in the last three years.
According to Feng Shui, where you collect clutter in the house can also indicate where energy may be blocked in your life. Read this to learn more.
Grow your own food, spend time in the garden and live a life that is within your means and limits.
Living simply decreases your stress, and thinking about what it takes to simplify your life will help you focus and keep your attention on the things that are really important to you. This is the foundation for happiness.
6. Smile when you can
A sense of security is essential to feeling happy. Research has shown that the brain chemical oxytocin disarms the threat response.
Hugging is one way to boost oxytocin levels but in a COVID world, we may not be hugging as much as we used to. However, you can get your brain to secrete oxytocin by smiling more often.
Smiling becomes a habit, so do it whenever you can.
When you are anxious your breathing pattern changes and becomes shorter and harder. If you want to stabilize your emotions and calm your body, then controlled breathing is an effective way to do so.
Train yourself to breathe deeply into your belly and to exhale fully. When you work with your breath you are working to stablize your emotions and clear any barriers to happiness.
8. Love somebody
There is plenty of evidence that the act of committing yourself to loving another individual (or pet) can bring happiness. There is a variety of reasons as to why functional, long-term, committed relationships are thought to make people happier and healthier. Prime among these is the positive impact of having an inbuilt support system so that work and life stresses can be more readily discussed with a caring other, helping to alleviate stress.
People who are happy are people who are connected to the world beyond themselves. Make a habit of finding ways to make this connection because it does not just happen, you have to make it happen.
Connecting with others helps to balance the flow of giving and receiving in your life- both of which can bring feelings of happiness. When you connect with others, it allows you to receive support and in return, offer support to others.
Feeling part of a support system and connected with others reduces loneliness, which is also a common barrier to feeling happy.
In connections with others lies the richness of life, so make it a habit to reach out to someone on a regular basis.
A meditative state of mind arises from practice and discipline. Meditation is a practice that develops your capacity for awareness, patience, compassion, and clarity. The evidence also shows that meditation strongly promotes feelings of happiness and can lower feelings of stress and anxiety.
Through meditation, you can develop a new default mode of the brain that is centered less on the ego and regrets of the past or stresses of the future, and more aligned with the present. The ability to live in the present is central to the experience of happiness. You can read more on how to live in the present here.
Guided meditations are a great way to begin your meditation practice or to stay motivated with it. You can find a collection of guided meditations to try here.