Building your happiness muscle
By Tricia Scott
Happiness is not something 'out there' If you make it so then you'll quickly find yourself with rather uncomfortable itch you can never quite scratch. Happiness is not reserved for the lucky ones either, it's your universal right and it's attained through practise and choice. It's a mistake to think you need to have your ducks in a row (I mean come on, who really does?) or perfect order in your life.
It's not complicated, it just takes repetition.
The great news is if you want to make happiness a priority and a basis for your life there are certain things you can do to help cultivate it. Remember to play with this, happiness by its very nature is meant to be fun and enjoyable! Here are a few tips I've picked up along the way on my journey and no, I definitely do not have all of my shit together all of the time. I sometimes feel like that quote 'I do not have ducks in a row, I have squirrels and they're at a rave' but just like most of us, I strive to be better, to learn more and to progress beyond my current state so here I happily share with you what I've learned along the way.
Tip number one:
Get your mental game on. This may sound like a simple one but happiness really is a personal choice. It starts with a decision to allow ourselves to be open to the possibility of inner joy. In order to do this, we really need to quieten down the negative brain chatter, you know that annoying little constant nag in your head? The one who complains about queuing for coffee, the rude person in the street, the workload your boss expects you to get through and the traffic on your commute. You need to learn to shut her up or at least mute her now and again. Start looking for the positives in the same instances, it's easier than you think when you're conscious of it. For example rather than listening to your negative chatter about the awful traffic, look at it as the perfect time to catch up on a personal development audio book or your favourite music before work. The traffic will move at the same pace and time will pass the same whether you complain or enjoy so you might as well choose to make it productive or fun. Get to reframing your mental chatter and up your game girl!
Tip number two:
Get social. By our very nature, we humans are designed to be social animals. We crave interaction and community and this is a great place to start building out happiness muscles. Pick up the telephone, connect with friends, family or local organisations. When we contribute to each other we not only cultivate our own happiness, we spread it to others too and in return get back a sense of wellbeing. This is not to be underestimated. The law of attraction states the what we give out we get back in abundance and I for one am a firm believer so why not try it. Engage, contribute and get social, you never know who you might meet! I do have a small caveat to this one, getting social does not mean just on social media. We have to learn to unplug from our screens once in a while. Stop, Breathe. Look around you and appreciate the real life relationships surrounding you. Take a break, the media can be unrealistic and in some cases damaging (young girls following impossible accounts on Instagram anyone?) so while social media is an awesome tool, it's not always real life. Take yourself away from the smartphone, screen or TV once in a while and discover the beauty of a real life hug and a coffee with a great friend. You'll be glad you did.
Tip number three:
Default to gratitude. I love my simple daily practise of gratitude but it wasn't always so. I talk a lot more about this over on the 'What are you grateful for' blog and you can read more here about how I personally overcame my gratitude hurdles and designed a habit that fit around my lifestyle. I used to find gratitude stressful and chaotic. I could never seem to find the time or get into a rhythm for it. The key, of course, is to simplify. Remember an 'attitude of gratitude' has now been proven to reduce stress, improve self-esteem and social connections (see tip number two) and actually improve physical health. It really is the underpinning of happiness itself. However you choose to do it, I promise you its worth it.
Whatever you do, however, you approach happiness do not put it off for another day believing that when you reach a certain outcome you will be happy. It never works like that. Find your happiness, get social and grateful and the things you want will come to you. Waiting to be happy 'when' is backward thinking.
None of us can be ecstatic all of the time, it's not realistic to believe that we can go around in a constant state of joy and awe every minute of every day but we certainly can appreciate the highs when we've experienced the lows and the trick is to establish a base line. A marker in the sand, and these tips are all about recognising and cultivating joy and whatever that means to you. It's as individual as you are, there are no wrong answers only self discovery. You've got this.
Remember, happiness looks just gorgeous on you