Ever wonder why the new boat, job, car, relationship, trip, or activity only provides a temporary sense of happiness? That's because only 10% of your sense of day-to-day happiness derives from your circumstances and environment.
Happiness BEFORE success
Part of the challenge to feeling happy is that our culture implies that happiness comes when you're successful. "When I finally get the promotion, money, car, dream job, etc....THEN I'll feel settled and happy." I know I've had that internal conversation before. We hear the old sayings "money doesn't buy happiness" and "happiness comes from within," but in reality our culture continues to promote this simple equation:
MONEY + STUFF = HAPPINESS
(of course, with a subtle emphasis on the money and stuff components of the equation)
The problem is that once you achieve the higher pay and accumulate more stuff, you'll only feel short spikes of elation when the bonus at work or new toy arrives. The standard for feeling that spike of happiness only increases to "more stuff, more money, more happiness."
It's been well documented that workplaces thrive when they have employees that feel purposeful and happy...not BECAUSE of their jobs, but because they have learned how to feel happy despite their circumstances.
3 Techniques to Generate Lasting Happiness:
1. Journal 3 moments of gratitude every day.
Both journal keeping and the identification of moments to feel gratitude are scientifically proven to help you reframe your day. Reframing problems into possibilities can help you generate moments of gratitude in your day. Maybe the person who cut you off on the highway is heading to the hospital; maybe your daughter's disrespectful outburst is a moment to provide healthy parental teaching. Try to reframe the frustrating moments of your day into possible opportunities.
One key point here is that you need to avoid the comparison trap. Trying to feel better about your life by comparing yourself to those who "might have it worse" does not last long. Sure, you can mentally think about all the people with illnesses, unemployment, or even severe issues like disease and starvation that have worse situations than you. The reason this will not last is that when you train your brain to compare to feel better, your brain will develop the habit of comparison. So, your brain will be quicker to notice the nicer car that your colleague is driving or your neighbors whose kids look so well behaved or the couple on TV that seem so happy in their marriage. Comparison just simply will not last.
It is important to write down your moments of gratitude. This is why I recommend using a journal. It's helpful to look back over things that you can be thankful for each day. Here are some questions to ask yourself when processing your daily gratitude challenge:
- What moments in my day brought a sense of joy within me?
- Who do I look forward to seeing everyday?
- What are the simple things that put a smile on my face today?
2. Exercise regularly
ATTENTION: THIS IS NOT A GUILT TRIP!
I know this recommendation sounds a bit overused, but regular exercise is a vital part of your brain receiving extra oxygen and blood flow. This additional oxygen assists with increasing brain elasticity and development of new neural connections. In essence, exercise increases your energy, drive, and creativity.
It is not essential to go overboard with exercise. Carve out 30 minutes each day to walk, ride a bike, etc. I personally dislike exercise on its own. So, I put in ear buds and watch my favorite TV shows while I'm walking on our elliptical every morning. I can tell an ENORMOUS difference when I am unable to get my 45 minute work out in. I feel sluggish, have diminished creativity, and sense a lower drive to accomplish projects.
3. Do something kind everyday.
Yes, random acts of kindness truly work! It's scientifically proven to boost your dopamine levels and generate a feeling of joy.
Some ideas to try:
- Give away something for free everyday
- Bring in a candy bar to a coworker
- Take out a friend or colleague for coffee
- Offer to help your child's teacher with additional school supplies
- Mentor someone else: share your experience and knowledge with a young adult or teen
- Bring donuts to work with you
An important key to feeling a sense of joy from these acts of kindness: you must learn how to feel good about your action than the reaction of the recipient. In other words, focus on how you feel as you're putting the candy bar on your friend's desk or texting an encouraging word to a family member rather than in how the person responds to your offer of kindness.