Who doesn’t want to be happier right? If you’ve been cruising through life in the last few years (or more) and you just feel like there must be more to it than this, then there’s a good chance you aren’t as happy as you could be.
There’s a super new field of psychology called “positive psychology” that focuses on increasing happiness rather than treating psychological disorders.
So these aren’t just my ideas, many of them have been supported in scientific studies.
1. Just choose to be happy
Human being are unique in that we have free will and this isn’t just limited to making decisions about concrete things such as “what should I have for dinner tonight”. But you can also make decisions on more conceptual things like happiness.
In a study with two sets of participants that listened to happy music over a two week period, one of the groups was told just to focus on the music, whereas the other group was instructed to focus on trying to be happier.
The results: the group that was told to focus on trying to be happier, did in fact show greater levels of happiness!
So just by choosing to be happier, you can increase your levels of happiness
2. Be optimistic and hopeful
This is a no brainer and one that you’ve heard several times before, and for good reason! Now it doesn’t take a genius to work out that if you are optimistic about your ability to achieve what you want in life and other things that happen in your life and hopeful that good will come in your future, then this will lead to being happier.
The notion of optimism is very vague and some people have trouble grasping the concept. The following is what are the major facets of optimism:
- Being hopeful about your future (eg., that you are looking forward to what happens next in your life)
- Negative events are temporary and manageable (eg., when a relationship ends you know the pain will subside and it’s not the end of the world)
- Failure is because of an external cause, not internal. (eg., I failed that test because the examiner made it too hard, as opposed to “I failed that test because I’m stupid”)
- Optimistic about your ability to be good at your job or whatever it is you do
This doesn’t mean you have to lie to yourself about a certain situation being positive. For example, just say someone close to you has passed away. It doesn’t make sense to put a positive spin on such a tragic event. In this case, being optimistic is knowing that the pain you’re feeling will pass with time and that dwelling on the pain will not help anyone.
You should never attempt to suppress emotions, especially in a situation like this. They have a way of coming back with a vengeance eventually! Instead, acknowledge the pain and let yourself feel the emotions fully and be sure not to numb the feelings with alcohol, drugs or other avoidance behaviour.
3. Get control
Having a feeling of control in your life is possibly one of the greatest things you can ever do for your happiness. If you’ve ever felt that no matter what you do,nothing really ever turns out great for you, then you don’t have a high level of perceived control in your life.
It is not as important that you are in control, but that you feel like you are in control of various parts of your life. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who was incredibly unhappy at work, but never did anything about it, like get a new job?
I know several people like this, and none of them seem like happy people. The reason? They’ve got a problem in their life and they aren’t doing anything about it….AKA they feel like they’ve lost control of that part of their lives. Often people in abusive relationships and drug addicts experience something similar.
How do you get control back in your life?
Identify all the things in your life that you want to change….your body fat percentage, your job, your role at work, your relationship, your health. Then take steps to change those things in your life and get your control back!
4. Eat better
You probably saw this one coming! As long as this isn’t your first time on this blog, you’ll know that I am a massive proponent of eating fresh whole foods not just for losing weight but for your health in general. It is very difficult for you to have positive emotions if you are feeding your body with garbage.
This relates back to control…you know you need to be eating more fruits and vegetables and less processed foods and sugars, but you just can’t help yourself. By eating foods that you know you should be eating gives you back a bit of that control.
However, certain foods have been shown to make you happier. Here is a list of the key nutrients and foods to get them from:
- Calcium (collard greens, yogurt, milk, ricotta cheese)
- Chromium (broccoli, potatoes, turkey breast)
- Folate (spinach, asparagus, brussel sprouts, avacado)
- Iron (soybeans, lentils, beef)
- Magnesium (almonds, spinach, peanuts)
- Omega 3’s (chia seeds, salmon, spinach)
- Vitamin B6 (chickpeas, salmon, chicken breast)
- Vitamin B12 (swiss cheese, mozzarella cheese, tuna)
- Vitamin D (egg, salmon, swordfish)
- Zinc (cashews, pork loin, swiss cheese)
So try consuming some of these foods on a daily basis and avoid processed foods and sugary foods and you’ll notice how much easier it is to be positive!
There are several scientifically backed benefits to meditating and increased happiness is one of them! Or more especially reducing things like stress and anxiety which get in the way of happiness.
If you don’t currently meditate, I strongly suggest you trying it out. If you’re just getting started I recommend the following meditation:
Set some time, in the morning before you start your day is best, or whenever you get some time. You don’t need to do this for 20 minutes, you can start with just a 5 minute meditaiton. Don’t feel like you need to go all out on day one.
The most important thing is to get into the habit of meditating. When you get better at it you can spend more time each day doing it.
This meditation is just where you sit (you don’t have to sit in a special way, you can do this in a chair if you like), and focus on your breathing.
Don’t try to control your breath, just feel the air going into through your nose and then out through your mouth. Just observe what your body does when you breath. Which parts of your body expand or contract when you breath in and what do those body parts do when you breath out?
Don’t try to control the breath, just observe.
Your mind will wander, and when it does, just come back to focus on your breathing.
Do this for a specific amount of time, like I said above, start with 5 minutes if you’re new and extend that time by 5 minutes every week or so.
You will find that it will get easier to focus on the breathing as you get better at it.
I hope you’ve gotten some great ideas on how to increase your levels of happiness! Until next time….