04 May 2017
74. HOW TO BE HAPPIER
As we get more successful we should get happier, but often we just get more stressed and tired, shifting the bar higher and higher. How can we keep sight of the ultimate goal, to be happy?
A FORCE FOR GOOD
Ambition can be a positive driver, but it also often gets in the way of our enjoyment of a job or activity, loading it with undue pressure and even fear. It’s important that we each question where our ambition comes from and try to find positive internal motivating forces rather than be driven by external ones. Wanting to beat a personal best or challenge a life-long fear, for example, is better in the happiness stakes than aiming for a marker set arbitrarily by someone else.
Research has found that some of the psychological traits associated with striving for happiness actually tend to make us more miserable – the desire to control, to feel important, needed and wanted. These things may help us to achieve attainment in the traditional sense, but in the process we lose sight of our original goals. Learn to prioritise what makes you happy, even the small things such as reading a book or seeing friends, and avoid sacrificing those things too often.
It’s easy to blame other people and external factors for your unhappiness, but while they might influence you, only you are responsible for your thoughts and feelings. Realising that you have control over your happiness and have it in your power to not allow certain stressors to bring you down is liberating and more likely to result in happiness. Next time you feel your mood deteriorating because of something relatively minor give yourself a good talking to.
Personal goals can be either incredibly motivating or massively demoralising depending on how you set them. Harbouring a burning desire to conquer a single incredible feat is likely to result in setbacks, failure, disappointment and self-inflicted stress. Instead the journey there should be marked by a series of stepping stones, each with its own tough challenges and rewards. You’re less likely to give up and will feel greater and more prolonged satisfaction and confidence.
SPREAD THE LOAD
You know the saying about putting all your eggs in one basket? Well, the same is true with your identity. Basing it around one central role or achievement puts your happiness and wellbeing on a shaky platform. Give some thought to who you are and why you are valued at home and work, as a father, a friend, a volunteer or a role model. Take satisfaction and support from each.
Regular exercise has been found to reduce your risk of depression, help you to relax and improve how you view your body, even before any actual weight changes. A run or walk outside could improve your mood even more, as research shows that just 20 minutes outside in the fresh air is enough to improve mood.
The adage ‘it’s better to give than to receive’ is true not only in terms of tangible gifts but also time, affection, advice and support. Countless studies have found that getting involved with volunteering or CSR activities can do wonders for self-esteem and happiness. The quickest way to get smiling is to make someone else smile first.