Well, in a way yes, but it is not always what we think it is and because we humans are really complex creatures, I don’t think there is a way for everyone to be happy all of the time or even some of the time. Happiness requires a paradigm switch and hard work. Not only that, it requires skills that not all of us have or have ever acquired.
So what is happiness?
Happiness is many things; It is a fleeting moment, that moment when we are in the flow, when we are sitting in the sun with a good friend or a good book or favourite pet, with no external stresses calling upon you, no deadlines, no angry shouting in the distance (or close by) no building works next door, no unwanted family complaining all the time, no boss or colleagues leaving messages asking questions, setting impossible deadlines. It could be listening to the rain when you are inside in the warm, it could be sharing a bottle of wine with a friend, it could be knowing that you have people who love you and are there for you.
Happiness is down to so many things and is different for each of us.
But, there is hope, there are things we can all of us do to make our lives that little bit better.
Mostly it is about relationships. Nearly every single study that has ever been done, shows that people who have friends and or family relationships live longer, happier lives.
But have you ever just tried to make new friends? It is not easy, if you are at all introverted or in a place where you know no-one. It is not just a matter of taking up pottery or learning a language. It can help of course, and personally I actually have made really good long term friends through joining groups, but maybe I was lucky, it certainly doesn’t help everyone.
Loneliness is a killer, you can do your bit by making sure others are included, if you see someone being quiet or not joining in, try to gently bring them into the fold.
You can’t force anyone, but you can make it easier for them to join in. Some schools are introducing friendship benches so if you are lonely you can sit on the bench and that signals to others that you want to be included. So look out for people who
are on their own lonely bench. It is a win-win situation, you feel good for being a good person and the person you help feels better. Maybe not forever, but they get a glimpse of goodness. Sometimes that is all it takes.
We can all be victims of our own minds and believe that nobody loves us, and make up all kinds of stories and assume so much. We need to turn that around and include people and make sure they know they are included.
People also need to feel acknowledged, seen, heard, believed. So, do that for people. Show them that someone cares for them. Smile at people (not like a maniac 😉 ), let people in front of you, ask if you can help, ask if everything is OK. Say ‘Thank you’ more often.
I think most of us realise that money doesn’t really make you happy, nor does having ‘things’ not in the long run. So what can we do to be at least a little happier?
Well, here is my list of things that I have seen work and do myself on a regular basis to make sure I don’t get down and maintain a level of happiness that works for me:
1) Nurture something; A plant, a pet, a friendship, a garden, yourself even, just help something grow. The rewards are self evident. (Beautiful flowers, devotion from the pet, stronger ties with people)
2) Nature: Get out into nature, even if it is a 10 minute walk in a local park, really. Look at the leaves on the trees and plants, look for signs of little animals in the grass and at the roots of the bushes. Pick up a conker or acorn and put it in your pocket, when you feel it later it will remind you that you were outside and things are growing. Notice where weeds or plants are growing through cracks and think of the determination that they have.
3) Use Your Voice: Tell people you appreciate them and why. Say thank you, say hello, ask people how they are and mean it.
4) Listen to people, really listen: Show that you are listening and are interested, ask questions, paraphrase what has been said, don’t judge or wait for a gap to tell your story, make it about the other person only.
5) Touch more: Touching people can actually make you live longer – Hugs are so good, they release Oxytocin in both people.
We are becoming a touch deprived culture, sadly. A pat on the back can make all the difference, a hand on the arm, a comforting arm around the shoulder, all help (used wisely).
Sick people get better quicker when touched more, sad people perk up.
5) Meditate: Slow down. Today’s culture is obsessed with being busy. Slow down, breathe, reflect. don’t feel guilty when doing nothing, in fact book time in your diary to do nothing, absolutely nothing, except breathe.
6) Do a Frozen: let things go, don’t hold grudges, forgive more, be more open. Try different things. If you hear yourself say, Oh I always do such and such, stop, take a deep breath and say Yes to new experiences, tastes, flavours, ideas, people.
7) Declutter: The economists have us believing that we all have to be consumers for the economy to work, the trouble is now we all have far too much stuff and not enough connections with people. We don’t need the latest phone, nor all the fridge magnets from our holidays, nor all those time saving gadgets in the kitchen, nor matching shoes, handbags, belts, sunglasses, hats, etc. For goodness sake stop. Just stop that.
Get rid of all that you don’t use or need or like anymore.
8) Practice gratitude: Stop wanting more. Instead of thinking something extra will make you happier, be happy with what you already have.
9) Stop comparing yourself with others: Social comparison and competition is a killer. Having a Hugo Boss suit or a Rolex watch, or the latest Smartphone, doesn’t make you a better person. Kindness does. Sharing does. Cook for others, share what you have.
Final word: be kind, always, for everyone is going through their own struggle in some way.