If you are looking for ways to be happy and find contentment in life then look no further. I’m sure if I asked many of you readers, “What do you want in life?” the responses would be overwhelming that you simply want to be happy and live a good life. It’s something most of us strive for, yet have no idea where to start looking. We all have down days where we feel lonely or angry or tired. Sometimes I like to imagine what would I do if I won the lottery? That would solve my problems, right? A big house, a dream holiday… and I could quit my lousy job? But you know what’s coming; money can’t buy our happiness! So what are the secret ways to be happy and content?
It is hardwired into our brains to enjoy social contact and interaction with others. Research shows that we are happier spending time with other people! So just by spending time with the people you love, you will become happier. I mean, put like that it seems pretty easy, right? But in this modern world sometimes we build barriers that stop us socialising with others. Remember that when you're feeling low, that spending time with friends is a natural drug boosting our confidence and self esteem. Laughter is truly the best medicine, so if you are looking for ways to be happy, get social.
In the same way that friends and family make us happier, embracing community life works in a similar way. Taking part in community activities helps you feel part of something bigger than yourself and can bring meaning and purpose to your world. This could be your religious community, local community, gardening community or work community. Ultimately we are stronger together!
“But how?” I hear you say. “How can I get involved with new communities – it's hard out there!” The answer could be volunteering or giving back. Helping other people is proven to be rewarding and to boost happiness levels. Don’t worry, you don’t have to join the peace corps – unless you want to! Start small, perhaps doing the grocery shop for an elderly neighbour, offering to wash up after dinner, leaving a big tip to a waitress that looks tired and run off her feet. The smallest act of holding the door open for a stranger and smiling at them will make you both feel happier.
Contentment can also be found in being proud of yourself and your achievements. Forget trying to make lots of money and own a big car. Happiness comes from hobbies that appreciate commitment and slow rewards. Activities such as learning to play music, gardening, writing, cooking a great meal, learning to sew your own dresses. These gentle hobbies encourage steady improvement over time – the reward will come when you learn to play a new song that would have seemed impossible last month.
I hate to say it but a healthy body really does lead to a healthy mind. Exercise releases a happy hormone that is proven to lift spirits and shake away the cobwebs of depression. Exercise increases the blood flow round the whole body, including the brain – so it helps shake up your mental thoughts and enables you to see things in a different light. Exercise is often a gateway to finding FLOW, the perfect state of mind where you are completely absorbed in the joy of an activity. Often when I’m swimming I am 100% absorbed in the rhythm and stroke and forget all other problems. Whilst you can find FLOW in other activities stated in point 4, for me exercise is the easiest way.
Mindfulness is a new form of meditation that is proven to help us relax and find calmness and contentment. If, like me, the idea of medication does not appeal to you, try to interpret mindfulness in your own way. Take ten minutes each day to find your own sense of calm. I suggest gentle yoga, listening to relaxing music or writing a daily list of things you are thankful for or that make you happy. Essentially you are trying to relax and tune out the outside noise of the world and be exactly in the moment where you are supposed to be. To learn more about the art of mindfulness to conquer stress, visit bemindful.co.uk.
It feels good to be productive and achieve something meaningful to yourself. Hard work can often be enriching and good for the soul. By trying your best in all the activities you do, you will feel better about yourself – even in mundane tasks or a boring job. Take pride and care in your work. You can also find happiness through achieving personal pursuits, such as a goal to write a book or run a marathon. If this appeals to you, check out the bestselling book The Happiness of Pursuit, which I talk about here: 7 Life Lessons from Chris Guillebeau.
Every single person in the world has problems or setbacks – what sets apart happy people is their ability to bounce back from a negative situation. Happy people deal with their emotions and are able to recover quickly by looking forward to the future rather than dwelling on the past. Sometimes there is simply a choice to be happy. So next time a scowl appears on your face, shake it off and replace it with a smile.
In this busy world we often fall into the trap of chasing success, power and money. The irony is that the happier we are, the more likely we are to achieve these things. After all, happy, good people attract success and acts of kindness. So if you are looking for ways to be happy in this life, stop searching for a cure and instead take joy in all the great things you already have. Enjoy your friends, help your neighbour and find meaning in hard work – and when you find your FLOW, you will know true happiness. The ideas for this article were formed from watching the documentary entitled Happy (thehappymovie.com). What makes you happy? Or should I say, who makes you happy?
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