The BS-free Happiness System – Part 2

Welcome to part 2 of my Happiness System! If you didn’t catch it, click here for part 1.

Part 2 focuses on inner beliefs relating to happiness. I’m going to dive right in to 4 things that need to change in your head before you can be happy.

1. If you’re waiting for a single big event to make you happy…you’ll die waiting. Instead, let yourself have little positive experiences frequently.

Because we have so many little negative things happening to us on a day to day basis, we need little positive things to counteract them. One big event in the distant future, especially if we’re not sure whether or not it’ll happen, does not effectively counteract our daily negative experiences.

I’ve watched this play out in the lives of close friends. As the daily negatives wear them down, the hope for future positives gets dimmer and dimmer until they are full of bitterness and entirely hopeless. It’s absolutely awful!

So, rather than putting loads of work into something that might make you happy eventually, give yourself permission to do little nice things starting today:

“One researcher…interviewed people of all income levels in the United Kingdom and found that those who frequently treated themselves to low-cost indulgences— picnics, extravagant cups of coffee, and treasured DVDs— were more satisfied with their lives. Other scientists have found that no-cost or low-cost activities can yield small boosts to happiness in the short term that cumulate, one step at a time, to produce a large impact on happiness in the long term.”
(from The Myths of Happiness: What should make you happy, but doesn’t, what shouldn’t make you happy, but does)

I have been at the point where a cup of coffee was something I seriously couldn’t afford. I felt incredibly guilty at the thought of buying a fancy cup of coffee. But somewhere in me I felt like I should get it, and when I finally did I was amazed at the boost it gave me! I started to do this every few weeks, maybe once a month, and I looked forward to it with great anticipation. I would also use it as a way to hang out with a friend, thereby giving myself another boost of happiness – good conversation with someone I enjoyed.

Even more interesting was the more I allowed myself to do this on occasion without feeling guilty, the more I noticed that these “happiness boosters” actually enabled me to do better in school and at work, and gave me more energy to invest in my relationships. As a result, I was able to make more money, and was then able to afford future cups of coffee! =)

I think what it was really doing was taking the edge off of the rush, the deadlines, the pressure of everyone’s expectations of me. I was letting myself just sit down and relax and actually enjoy something in the moment, whereas everything else I was doing was an investment in my future, meaning that for the moment I wasn’t getting any joy from it.

The key to this one is giving yourself permission to do it. And if that’s not enough for you, I give you permission to do nice things for yourself. Bam! There you go. You’re welcome. 😉

(Quote from: “To be happier, should you increase the good things in your life or reduce the bad things?“)

2. Play More.

Your need to play isn’t reduced by the slightest smidge when you grow up!

“Regularly having fun is one of the five central factors in leading a satisfied life. Individuals who spend time just having fun are 20 percent more likely to feel happy on a daily basis and 36 percent more likely to feel comfortable with their age and stage in life.” – Lepper 1996

If your concern for what other people think of you keeps you from being silly, you’ve got your priorities backwards. In fact, I’ve found that the more I play and do what makes me happy, somehow the more interesting people seem to think I am.

Again, this is an inner belief that needs to shift before you will act on it. Give yourself permission to have fun, to goof off, to be silly. If people give you funny looks, just grin back at them all the more! At least they’ll be entertained. 😉

(Quote from: “The Way To Happiness: Remember The 4 P’s“)

3. Intentionally savor everything good, delightful and wonderful – no matter how small it is.

“Just do one thing at a time that you like, and don’t hurry through it. Slow down and appreciate it. Just doing that — that alone — caused significant decreases in depression and increases in happiness.

Via The How of Happiness: A New Approach to Getting the Life You Want:
“In one set of studies, depressed participants were invited to take a few minutes once a day to relish something that they usually hurry through (e.g., eating a meal, taking a shower, finishing the workday, or walking to the subway). When it was over, they were instructed to write down in what ways they had experienced the event differently as well as how that felt compared with the times when they rushed through it. In another study, healthy students and community members were instructed to savor two pleasurable experiences per day, by reflecting on each for two or three minutes and trying to make the pleasure last as long and as intensely as possible. In all these studies those participants prompted to practice savoring regularly showed significant increases in happiness and reductions in depression.”

My favourite way to do this is when I make coffee. I hand grind the beans to a particular size, boil the water to a certain temperature, time my pouring perfectly… All the little steps help me to appreciate and think about the taste and the experience of coffee in a way that ordering it at a cafe just doesn’t do for me. At a cafe I’m far more likely to absently sip at my drink until I look down and realize it’s nearly gone. The ritual makes it impossible to take the coffee for granted.

This might seem more like another practical step, but I think the ability to savour things comes from inside. It can be really hard because it requires you to slow down.

I have a theory… I think that a lot of people don’t want to turn off the noise because they’re afraid of silence. They’re afraid of what they’ll find if they shut off the TV, the radio, stop checking Facebook, texts, messages, emails… I heard someone say recently that everyone has a box in their mind which contains their dreams. For a lot of people, it’s in a dark, dank corner. The interesting thing is that the same box that holds your dreams for your family, your career, your business if you have one, your dreams for yourself…also holds your beliefs about yourself. So when you go to pull it out to see whether you’d like to buy your first house, or ask for a promotion at work, or have another baby, you can’t look at those things without also getting a glimpse of your beliefs about yourself.

What I see a lot of people do is run into that dark corner with their eyes closed, feel around, grab the box, shove their arm inside to get only the most necessary information, and then shove it back into the corner and run off!

If you’re afraid of the silence, if you’re unable to sit, and be, and savour something for just a few minutes, then perhaps it’s time to take out that box and have a proper look at those beliefs about yourself so you can take care of the fear once and for all.

What happens when you’re not afraid of silence? Loads. One big thing I’ve noticed is that it’s much easier to be creative because I can pull out that box any time without fear, take a good look inside, get some fresh ideas for new projects, or next steps to take on old ones. It’s wonderfully freeing!

(Quotes from “The Happiest People in the World“)

4. Don’t let bad circumstances define you: 

“Happy people see negative things as isolated incidents. Unhappy people see bad times as part of who they are.

Via The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People:
In a study of adult self-esteem, researchers found that people who are happy with themselves take defeat and explain it away, treating it as an isolated incident that indicates nothing about their ability. People who are unhappy take defeat and enlarge it, making it stand for who they are and using it to predict the outcome of future life events.” – Brown and Dutton – 1995

Happy people and unhappy people’s lives, objectively, are not all that different. Waiting for your circumstances to improve is really just choosing to put off your happiness. Take ownership for that choice to see your circumstances as part of your identity. You are the only one who has the power to change your perspective, so the sooner you take ownership of your choices, the sooner you can start to see things differently.

The key to changing your mindset here is to spend more time thinking about the good things that are happening in your life:

Via The 100 Simple Secrets of Happy People:
Happy people do not experience one success after another and unhappy people, one failure after another. Instead, surveys show that happy and unhappy people tend to have had very similar life experiences. The difference is that the average unhappy person spends more than twice as much time thinking about unpleasant events in their lives, while happy people tend to seek and rely upon information that brightens their personal outlook.” – Lyubomirsky 1994

I understand that some people will object here. If you have basic needs which are currently not being met, it’s hard to have the energy to do anything but survive. And at the same time, it’s hard to have the energy to change your circumstances if you’re drowning in misery. If this is the spot you’re in, you probably need a more personalized look at your circumstances to see if there’s anything you do have the energy to change.

(Quotes from “The Way To Happiness: Remember The 4 P’s“)