What’s the problem with happiness?

http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-images-happiness-concept-image25376084Seriously, I wonder sometimes, what the problem with happiness is.

If you were stopped in the street and asked what you wanted most out of life for yourself and those you love, it’s very likely you would choose health and happiness. It’s possible you might include wealth or success, but most of us know intrinsically that the vital things for us as human beings are those two fundamental things which boil down to physical and emotional well being. If we have those two things that the rest is icing on the cake.

I totally agree. And so does the UN as in 2102 they introduced the UN International Day of Happiness on March 20th. This acknowledges that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal, something which everyone deserves to be able to aspire to, and the importance of which governments should recognise through public policy.

Brilliant. It’s vital that the importance of happiness is recognised at government level. It is, in my opinion, even more important that it is also recognised by individuals.

It seems to me that there is a distinct reluctance to talk about happiness, to learn and understand more about it, and to take positive steps to develop it. I get the impression from talking to people about happiness, which I do a lot as it’s my job, that it can be seen as self indulgent, like some kind of luxury. Although we all know we want it, we feel inhibited from focussing on it.

We also fall into the trap of thinking we know what makes us happy, but often we are barking up the wrong tree. We can spend a lot of time chasing status, possessions, or partners, with the expectations that acquiring these will bring that elusive happiness.

In reality, it’s much more about the way we are as human beings which makes the difference. Practicing certain ways of being, habits or behaviours can contribute much more to our sense of well-being that relying on external factors. A major benefit of these ways of being, habits and behaviours is that they don’t require any training, you can start immediately, they don’t have to cost money, and more often than not they create a ripple effect. It can be something as simple as a smile. Producing one for someone, usually creates another one. Smiling is infectious, so chances are the one you have inspired may be passed on to another, and then another and so on.

Likewise with kindness, it’s also infectious. We were discussing this yesterday at my Happiness Workshop and people felt that the more they showed kindness, the more they felt they received it. Kindness benefits the receiver of course, but it also benefits the giver. We feel more connected to other people when we show kindness. It can enhance our self perception and improve our self esteem by helping us to think better of ourselves. It can also, interestingly, lead us to think more positively of others.

To celebrate UN International Day of Happiness this week, I’d like you to understand that you have the power to enhance your happiness. My question to you is, what’s the problem with doing that? If the answer is ‘nothing’, then I encourage you to learn more about it, and to start practicing those ways of being, habits and behaviours which will make a positive difference.

If you’re fortunate to live near Bedford then you can also join The Happiness Workshop, a 6 month group programme which will get you into happiness action.

Take your happiness seriously, and get into happiness action today.


Smiling helps….

We all know that smiling is usually a result of feeling happy or good. What you might not know is that it can also work the other way round. Check out this item I found from the BBC:

It reminded me of the practice of ‘acting as if’. Rather than waiting to feel a particular way as a result of some future outcome, and it then affect our thoughts and thus our behaviour, we reverse the process. We can choose to act as if we feel that way already. We start with our behaviour which will affect our thoughts and our feelings.

You see this happening in the video – you smile, you think and feel you are happy. Simples.

This technique can be used for other emotions too. It may well be possible to affect your feeling of calmness by slowing down your actions, breathing and speech to act as if you are calm. Alternatively if you have to do something which you are not all that excited about, you could try getting physically excited about it and seeing how that change your feelings about it – jump around in an excited fashion like a small child, cheer, or do whatever you might do if you really were excited.

Sometimes I do this before a long run if I feel a bit sluggish – I do a few loud whoops while jumping around and punching the air in a Rocky style. Of course many people choose the Rocky theme tune as a backing track to their work out. It has very strong associations for anyone who knows the track and the film with energy, competitiveness, drive, passion, and commitment to success. When people hear that music it will often bring up those kinds of emotions and would likely make it a lot easier to ‘act as if’ they really want to do that 20 mile run in the snow (harsh personal experience talking there).

So if you can do something as simple as making yourself smile for a few minutes in a fake fashion (with or without a pencil in your mouth) to activate those all important facial muscles and give yourself a happiness boost, then why wouldn’t you?