According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary happiness can be defined as ‘A state of well being and contentment’. We all want to be happy but is it something we can actively pursue? For years I struggled with depression and so I began questioning whether I could reduce the possibility of further bouts by proactively seeking happiness. I was fortunate that I began my research into happiness at a time when the area of positive psychology had exploded and was grateful to discover that there was extensive information and findings surrounding the field of happiness. In fact there are many things we can all do if we want to increase our happiness and live more contented lives. These changes may be small and manageable, like keeping a daily gratitude journal, or could be fundamental changes like integrating meditation into our daily lives.
Step One: Live by your values
One of the key aspects to living a happy life is to live in alignment with our values. This may not be immediately obvious when we first set out to boost happiness however living in harmony with our values is critical if we are to develop high levels of self-respect and self-esteem. Before reading Stephen R Covey’s book 7 Habits of Highly Effective People I had never really contemplated what my values were in concrete terms. Encouraged by Stephen to write down my values in what he termed a Mission Statement, I began to evaluate the qualities I wanted to have as a person.
There were many unexpected benefits to having my very own Mission Statement. I could now refer to it when faced with a difficult situation or conflict to help guide me as to how to handle it in accordance with what individual qualities were important to me. I also used it to ensure my goals and changes I wanted to apply to my life brought me closer to my values, thereby increasing my motivation and desire to achieve them whilst also enabling me to become the person I wanted to be. What values do you want to live by? Do you value honesty, kindness, the ability to forgive others? Take this time to reflect on what qualities you want to embody as a person and write it down in your very own Mission Statement. I have kept mine at the back of my diary so I can access it easily wherever I am and this has proven to be very useful.
For guidance I have given you a copy of my own Mission Statement below:
My Mission Statement
Listen to people as if my life depended on it
Respect others and treat them well
Demand respect and good treatment from others
Tell those closest to me what they mean to me
Laugh at the absurdity and keep a sense of humour
Immerse myself in the task at hand
Always have faith in God
Trust in Gods perfect timing
Listen to parents
Pray, pray, pray
Invest time into friendships and romance
Write with a view to move others
Always seek to improve myself
Plan ahead and be SMART with goals
Step Two: Increase your growth and contribution
The bestselling author, renowned life coach and motivational speaker Tony Robbins lists our personal growth and contribution as one of the main factors when improving our quality of life and happiness. When we work towards our goals we experience growth that vastly improves our sense of advancement and well being. For more of an in-depth look at discovering and creating meaningful goals in your life please see Augusts series ‘How to turn your dreams into reality’.
Equally important is having a feeling of contribution by helping others and there are many ways to achieve this. For example, we could donate money to charity, volunteer or even sign petitions and share them on social media sites to encourage our friends to sign. When we contribute and help others it promotes a feeling of gratitude which significantly increases our happiness. To emphasise your feeling of gratitude consider keeping a gratitude journal and writing down one thing you are grateful for each day. Gretchen Rubin, bestselling author of The Happiness Project has made a five year gratitude journal which is perfect to chronicle your very own journey into gratitude. It has a quote and a space to write what you are most grateful for each day and is available from Amazon.
Learn steps three, four and five next week!
What are your values? Do you feel you are growing? Which S.M.A.R.T. goal did you feel would help both your personal growth and contribute to others? Please comment to gain support, encouragement and insight from our community!
- Values: Write your very own Mission Statement, using my Mission Statement, featured above, as an example.
- Growth and contribution: Read September’s issue ‘How to turn your dreams into reality’ and write a S.M.A.R.T. goal that is both meaningful to you and you feel would contribute to others.
‘The Happiness Project’ by Gretchen Rubin, available on Amazon
‘The Happiness Project One Sentence Journal: A Five Year Record’ by Gretchen Rubin, available on Amazon
‘GUIDED Mindfulness CD Series’ by Jon Kabat-Zinn, available on Amazon
www.tasterlab.com – A full directory of taster classes for various hobbies
www.sleepio.com – An online course which has been clinically proven to improve sleep