Happiness is not just a random emotion that comes over us when everything is going our way. Happiness can also be cultivated and learned. That’s very good news, because the world isn’t always a happy place. Life can be hard, and we could all use more reasons to smile. So in the spirit of cultivating happiness, here are five ways to become the happiest version of you:
1. Stop People-Pleasing
People-pleasing means trying to guess what someone else will like and giving that to them at the expense of yourself. Nothing can suck away our joy more than trying to please others at the expense of ourselves. It’s hard to know what someone else wants or exactly what will please them most, and even when we do, it most certainly ends with our dissatisfaction if we’re going against our own needs, boundaries, or values.
Learn the value of saying “no.” We cannot truly and wholeheartedly say “yes” if we can’t say “no.” Saying “no” to what doesn’t really serve us gives us options to say “yes” to the people, places, and events we prioritize most. There’s tremendous energy and pleasure in being true to ourselves.
2. Give to Others
This may seem cliché, but giving to others gives us joy and connects us to a sense of community. Research has shown that once we have our basic needs met, more money does not correlate with greater happiness. Spending money in and of itself does not increase happiness, but spending on others significantly increases joy. So giving to others is more important to happiness than money.
When we see ourselves as part of a greater whole, giving to others is simply investing in the larger whole that ultimately serves us as well. We can find greater spiritual fulfillment when we’re part of something bigger than ourselves.
Once your basic needs are taken care of, try giving without expecting anything in return. In religious communities this is known as tithing, but this type of giving does not have to be associated with a church. Tithing can happen with any community you would like to serve and support. Try giving without expecting anything in return and observe how it impacts your level of happiness. Giving to others is priceless.
3. Do the Little Things
We can get caught up in the big goals in life and miss the little things. We think the house, the boat, the car, the vacation destinations are the things that will make us happy — and sure, they might — but if we miss the little things along the way, we are missing the point. When status symbols replace values such as kindness, passion, or fun, then we may want to re-evaluate our priorities.
Do the little things. All of those ideas you have, those things that can make a small but positive difference for someone else, deserve to be acted on. Speak some kind words. Smile at someone. Give a random gift. Uplift a friend. Send an unexpected text. It’s the little things in life that eventually add up to become the big things.
4. Be Grateful
There is much research on gratitude and its effects on happiness. Gratitude increases our confidence, our creativity, and even our immune function. The field of Dynamic Eating Psychology teaches us that gratitude can actually help us stay healthy. It helps us relax and sleep better, knowing that there are things in our lives that matter. Gratitude makes us feel connected to something greater than ourselves. It keeps us resilient and helps balance our mood.
An attitude of gratitude allows us to focus on the bigger picture and infuse events with meaning. When we look through the lens of gratitude, we see what we have, rather than what we lack. We find purpose in our pains. For example, losing a job can feel like a huge stress, but sometimes it turns out that this involuntary life change frees us up to open the business we’ve always wanted or to pursue another dream. Choosing an attitude of gratitude doesn’t mean we cannot feel our sadness, anger or despair. In fact, it is very important to be authentic in our experience. But choosing gratitude over despair as an outlook on life helps us see design instead of chaos, which keeps us in a more regulated state of mind and enables us to see multiple aspects of the challenges that come our way.
5. Own Your Purpose
Here at the Institute for the Psychology of Eating we advocate seeking out your life purpose. If you know you’re on this planet for a purpose, it’s time to own it. If you are still seeking your life purpose – keep up the good work. Eventually you will get there, and you’ll have the chance to experience the joy of knowing what you were meant to do and be in this life.
Why is owning your purpose important? Because when we own our purpose, we speak our greatest truths and practice our gifts. Sometimes we know what our purpose is, but we feel scared because it goes against the grain of what our family, friends, or society may want. If others are conflicted about our purpose, that’s their work to do. Our work is to speak and live the truth of who we are. You may not know the entire plan until you start to follow it, but you can begin by following the clues of your life. They may just lead you to your greatest contentment and fulfillment.
The Institute for the Psychology of Eating
© Institute For The Psychology of Eating, All Rights Reserved, 2014
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