We often attribute happiness to things that are external to us. For example:
- things that happen to us – I was so happy because I won my race/got a promotion/ found my long lost item/ saw a dolphin …
- other people – I was happy because she said I looked great in that new outfit/ because he was nice to me/ because my partner was in a good mood…
Sometimes we even have an if only attitude to happiness – if I win the lottery then I’ll be happy/ when I retire then I’ll be happy or when I have a new job/ own a sports car/ have a baby/ write a best seller etc etc THEN I will be happy!
The reality is that happiness is only a state of mind and it really isn’t dependent on anyone or anything else. Events themselves don’t make you happy, it is the way you interpret them and add meaning to them that makes you happy or unhappy.
Take a look around you. There are poor people with nothing who are happy, there are people in poor health that are happy, there are people with difficult or unpleasant jobs who are happy. There are also plenty of people who are blessed with good health, loving friends and family, decent jobs, a good standard of living and yet are unhappy. So although making our lives more comfortable, the stuff we often attribute happiness to, really isn’t what makes us happy.
Happiness is an emotional state and like all emotional states, it has a range of sensations that go with it. As an experiment, try the following exercise:
Start by noticing on a scale of 1-10 how happy you feel right now. Then close your eyes and recall a time when you were really happy. Imagine yourself back there, feel how it felt and notice what sensations you are aware of in your body. Notice what your heart, breathing, stomach, head etc feel like. What does happiness feel like for you? Enjoy the sensations and feelings of happiness. When you are ready, open your eyes.
When you open your eyes notice on a scale of 1-10 how happy you feel now. Is there a shift from before you did that? For most people there will be a shift towards feeling more happy, as the state generated by the memory remains for a while afterwards.
We can influence our emotional state in a number of ways and recalling past happy events is one simple method anyone can use. Smiling also helps, as does laughing as there seems to be a feedback loop between emotion and facial expression. The face you pull affects how you feel just as much as how you feel affects your expression! In fact smiling and laughing have also been shown to give pain relief too as both are reported to release endorphins!
There are other ways to help you feel happier, for example in difficult situations where you feel unhappy, you can try taking an alternative perspective. Seeing things from another point of view can be really helpful in shifting how you feel.
Gratitude and appreciation are also powerful tools in the search for greater happiness! By finding things to be grateful for and things to appreciate in the world you are focusing on the positive and this can lift your mood. You will also tend to notice more of what you focus on.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT or Tapping as it is sometimes called) can also help shift negative emotions and transform them into positive ones. Many of my clients have found this to be an invaluable tool. For more information about this or any of the other techniques mentioned, please give me a call on 07962 896422 – I’d be very happy to explain more and answer any questions you may have.
In the meantime, practice smiling, find things to appreciate and to laugh at, revisit your happy memories and enjoy your day!