I’M choosing this topic today because many of my clients are telling me that they have a hard time feeling happy during this time in Guyana.
That they wish there was some kind of happy pill they could take; that they are just going through their daily routines feeling “blah.”
Sadly, I have a feeling that many of you feel this way. I hope this piece brings you hope and the motivation to do what may be necessary to feel happier.
Personally, being happy is not effortless for me; it takes some work- even though I had/have everything I could ever want. I was always jealous of the people who looked naturally happy. However, over time I realised that I was allowed to actually achieve happiness and therefore, the intended outcome would feel even better.
So, first of all, what is happiness?
It is traditionally defined as a state of contentment or a state of well-being. A ‘happy’ person will frequently feel joy, excitement and a whole other range of positive emotions
Notice here, which I mentioned to my clients, that what causes happiness is completely open to interpretation. That everyone has a different definition of happiness. What makes one person happy may not work for someone else and what the world shows us should make us happy doesn’t have to. For example, the latest iPhone may make someone’s day, while a simple phone call from a friend might make another’s.
It is important to remember that no one is happy all of the time. No one is immune to life’s stressors but there are definitely people who can handle them better. You probably see them often and are jealous, wishing you too could find joy in the simple things. Well, you have to find your own level and definition of happiness and here’s the best part –- it’s completely possible.
It is more difficult than ever because our modern lifestyle almost promotes unhappiness while we are surrounded by the concept of happiness. The most common thing in our generation is social media which undoubtedly causes people to be dissatisfied with their own lives. It causes everything from envy to eating disorders. On the other side, our days are filled with constant reasons to ‘be happy’ –- from holidays to music to TV shows. We rarely see our favourite artist or actor talking about having bad days.
I did some research about what makes people happy. In the last few days, I have applied some to my own life. While it is too soon to tell, I have a feeling that my days will brighten more. I will also share what specifically worked for me.
There are many factors which promote happiness. These include gratitude, forgiveness, humility, a strong support circle and overall life satisfaction. There are also lots we can do to promote our own happiness.
The first thing, of course, would be self-love. I don’t believe anyone can be happy unless they like who they are. They must like the way they look, think and behave — for most of the time anyway (no one will all the time.)
Compliment yourself every day- find three new things you like about yourself every morning and tell yourself in the mirror. Believe me, eventually, some days you’ll find more than three.
Start with the basics. Eat, sleep and exercise well. We know by now what all three of these things do for our overall mental health.
Consume more milk or anything dairy for that matter as it contains tryptophan which helps create serotonin (the happy hormone) in the brain. A memorisation and sleep study done on sleep-deprived university students in the United States found that of the words asked to memorise, sleep-deprived students would remember 81 percent of negative words such as cancer and only 31 percent of positive words such as sunshine. Research shows that the effects of exercise continue to stimulate our brains up to 12 hours after the work-out. Remember this can mean any physical activity that appeals to you.
Do not treat bad feelings with external ‘treats.’ This means treating sadness with food, alcohol, cigarettes etc. It may feel better for a minute but the feelings of guilt and loss of control will last for weeks.
Do other things that promote your self-esteem (you know what works for you.) Base your self-esteem on your levels of kindness and motivation rather than your looks or how many possessions you have.
Have a healthy level of self-esteem and pride. Unhealthy levels of both lead to hyper-focusing on what people think of you- a huge source of unhappiness.
Practise the mindfulness meditation (that I keep talking about) which was invented to promote personal and situational acceptance.
Make a list of realistic short and long-term goals for yourself as these add a sense of purpose and meaning to your lives. Watch your abilities and potential at work and celebrate any little victory.
Try and change your thinking to positive thinking. This is possible and necessary as negative thinking can change your entire mood and behaviour in any situation. Everyone thinks that we simply feel and behave how we do — that that’s who we are. However, it’s a process that happens so fast that we cannot see there is a pattern– one that we can actually change.
For example, if you meet someone at a party and they seem (to you) to be showing little interest. Your thinking comes into play. Your first thought (if it’s negative) would be thinking this person does not like you and is being super rude about it. This thinking will automatically trigger a mood which will then be anger or embarrassment (based on your initial thinking). This mood will then trigger behaviour which in this case will most likely be to walk away or to be rude to them. Then, you will automatically rate it as a bad experience. However, did it have to end that way? If your first thought gave the person (and yourself) the benefit of the doubt, your first thought could have been – ‘maybe they are shy’ which would have triggered a different mood such as empathy and a different behaviour such as trying harder to make them feel more comfortable. The exact situation just a different outcome that came from more positive thinking.
Engage in some acts of kindness. Research shows that making someone else happy also makes you happy.
Make a good support system and when I say a good support system, I don’t mean the people who will drink with you when you’ve had a bad day. Here in Guyana, almost anyone would take a drink with you. I mean those you support and encourage you when you are down; those that are a positive influence on your life. Be more social with these people; there is a reason why solitary confinement is a punishment. I believe the people in your life should be about quality rather than quantity (I have like three real friends). You do not need a large number of people for your social support to be efficient.
Plan things– sometimes the anticipation of something is just as good as the event itself. Travel if you can! People always say that happiness comes from experiences and not possessions.
Go into nature. This was a surprise to me (because I hate insects) but I recently realised that my brain associates nature with peace of mind. Also, live performances significantly lift my mood. Seeing anyone reach their potential and sharing their gift seems to make me incredibly happy. This should give hope that it is never too late to discover something new about yourself.
Listen to beneficial music- this is vague because music can make or break our moods and the type completely depends on the person. You will know what benefits you.
Pray to whatever higher power you believe in. Research shows that religion and spirituality increase happiness and feelings of well-being.
Take a selfie! The next someone tries to judge you for it, you tell them that a 2016 study determined that people who take selfies are more happy and confident. Actions don’t have to only follow feelings, feelings can follow actions.
Go beyond small talk. Anyone who knows me well knows that I dislike small talk. Like please don’t come around me if you’re going to talk about the weather or the recent sports game/match. Instead, when someone tells me their fears or teaches me something and allows me to teach them something, it makes me so happy. Try it.
Go through old photo albums if you have good memories. Good memories bring just as much happiness as current situations- sometimes even more as we do not always appreciate things at the time they are happening.
Start a new activity and develop skill in it This could be anything from arts and craft to a sport. “Excellence in anything increases your potential in everything” is one of my favourite quotes.
We’ve heard of ‘Fake it till you make it’. The Facial feedback hypothesis and findings support this popular statement. They found that when you fake a smile, you will soon after feel better and start naturally smiling.
Do not be afraid of ‘negative emotions’ such as anger or sadness. It may sound strange but having a good cry when you need to will improve levels of happiness in the long run.
Finally, as this is the hardest one, it is okay to sleep things off. People always say don’t go to bed angry, which makes sense. However, if you handle every situation on the spot, with anger or any other emotion, how effective is that really? Take some time to cool off.
While genetics do play a part in overall happiness, some studies show as much as 40%, I do believe that one can still pursue happiness. View happiness as a commitment, a new lifestyle; A habit based on relentless pursuit and determination. Do you want to start small? Just go outside- Vitamin D alone increases sleep while decreases feelings of sadness.
Remember that it is okay to not feel happy all the time. This is normal and actually beneficial. If you felt happy all the time, those special happy moments won’t feel special anymore. We won’t have anything to strive towards.
Thank you for reading and please send in any topics to email@example.com. If you would like to book a personal counselling session with me, please whatsapp +592 623 0433