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May 2, 2014

7 Secrets to Living a Happy Life.

happiness

I woke up feeling happy today. I woke up feeling happy yesterday, and the day before that, and the day before that.

Lately, I feel happy all the time. There is an overall sense of hope and joy that permeates most moments of my day. But this was not always the case for me. I spent many years feeling depressed and anxious. There were many days when I wondered if I would ever feel alive again. It seemed I was plagued with anxious thoughts and negativity from the moment my eyes opened in the morning til the time my head hit the sheets at night.

I think sometimes we think happiness is some “pie in the sky” idea that we can only “hope” to attain. But as I look at my own life and notice what has shifted my life from anxious depression to hopeful fulfillment, there are some very practical, tangible things that can make your life happy. Here is my list of what components you need in your life to be happy.

1. Family and Friends

I moved to the USA from Canada when I was 19 years old. I didn’t realize what an incredible support system I had with my friends and family until I was away from them. This past year, I came back to my home and native land and I am so happy to be around people that really care deeply about me and vice versa. Having a support system of people you love and trust is a key ingredient to happiness.

2. Financial Stability

I have spent far too many years worrying if I am going to have enough money to pay the bills each month. We don’t want to think that money can buy happiness, but the truth is, it’s really hard to feel joyful when you don’t know if you’re going to have enough money to buy your groceries and pay for your basic needs.

There was a study done that showed a marked increase in happiness between people who had to stress about money and those who had enough money to pay their bills. To be sure, there are two kinds of happiness: the day-to-day kind that focuses on your daily mood vs. what Princeton University economist Angus Deaton and  psychologist Daniel Kahneman call “life assessment.” Life assessment means broader satisfaction with your place in the world.

In their 2010 study, they found that day-to-day happiness rises as people earn more money, but once they hit $75,000 a year, they don’t get any happier. It appears that the stress caused by worrying about your needs being significantly decreases happiness. It’s not about being rich that’s important, it’s about having enough money so that you are not stressing every month about your bills.

It’s essential to have the goal of financial stability in order to achieve optimum happiness.

3. Faith

When you believe there is a superior, greater power than you in control of this world, it brings great peace. I am thankful for my faith that gives me hope in something bigger than myself.

4. Exercise

There is a scene in the movie Legally Blonde where Reese Witherspoon’s character is trying to prove that her aerobics instructor client did not commit a murder. Reese makes a very valid point when she is talking about why her client is innocent. She describes that she exercises a lot, which makes her have increased endorphins, which makes her happy. Reese then says, “Happy people don’t commit crimes.”Her argument may be a bit of a stretch, but she is right in saying that exercise makes people happier.

A study done by Dr. Jeremy Sibold of Vermont University found that, “Moderate intensity aerobic exercise improves mood immediately and those improvements can last up to 12 hours.” During this past year, I have made it a priority to go to the gym three or four times a week. At first it was tough to get there, but now my body craves it and I feel so great after leaving the gym.

5. Purposeful Employment

This is a biggie.

We spend 40+ hours/week doing our job. It is my firm belief that we are all meant to do something we feel is meaningful in this life. I stumbled upon my calling and I am so thankful I did. I have a job as a teacher where I get to make a difference in families’ lives everyday. I need to feel those intrinsic rewards from my employment to give me job satisfaction. Finding a job that gives you internal satisfaction is essential for overall happiness.

6. Interests

I remember when I was younger I would think about what my interests were and would try to pursue them. For some reason, as we grow into adulthood, we stop making time for our interests. Interests make us feel alive! I have discovered lately that I love to dance. I am not a great dancer, but I love listening to the music and moving to the beat. It frees my spirit. It is so important to schedule time in your week, every week to participate in your own unique interests.

7. Acceptance and Acknowledgement of yourself.

I recently finished a series of sessions with my life coach. One of the “wisdom nuggets” she gave me was “Wendy, be gentle on yourself and validate your thoughts.’”

For whatever reason, many of us go through this life putting our own thoughts on the back burner to what others might think. This is really not serving us or others well. When you tell yourself that your feelings and thoughts matter, you will notice an immediate increase in confidence and happiness, because you can then choose to live in a way that honors your feelings. This will naturally bring more peace and happiness to yourself and to those around you.

The average person has 29, 200 days to live on this planet. If we take a little bit of time to contemplate and plan for happiness…we can fill most of those days with joy and contentment.

 

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Apprentice Editor: Sarah Qureshi/Editor: Catherine Monkman

Photo: Merra Marie via flickr

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