Blog - Finding Happiness Now!

By Jem Friar: 15 Mar 2017

In our modern society, one of our primary goals is the pursuit of happiness but it seems that the way that most of us are attempting to do so is fundamentally flawed. In fact, the pursuit of happiness can actually fuel our discontent in this present moment because we think that happiness is something that we can only experience in the future after we have achieved or obtained something from outside of ourselves. There is, however, a much more fulfilling approach which I will call finding happiness that I hope to give you some clues to in this article.

Did you know that there is an International Day of Happiness on March 20th that was created by the United Nations? In 2011, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which recognized happiness as a “fundamental human goal” and called for “a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes the happiness and well-being of all peoples.” So, on an international level we are recognising how important it is to support everyone to be happier but how easy is it for people to realise that goal? The challenge is that we have been conditioned to believe that we will find happiness if we accumulate money, buy certain things, or achieve fame, power and success.

However, this experiment in pursuing happiness through materialistic gain has not proven itself to be effective or long lasting at all. In the last 50 years, even though our standard of living has increased by 3x, our happiness levels (as ascertained by subjective questionnaires over the same period) have actually decreased! So why do we still blindly attempt to find fulfilment through things and attainments? As I see it, the main reason that we are still trying to become happier in this way is because we are facing a constant barrage of advertising that is telling us in very convincing ways, that this fallacy is true. It has become a cultural belief – “more is better and will make us happier” that few people have stopped to question.

Having this belief is, in fact, really destructive both on the individual and planetary level. On the individual level, it encourages us to believe that we are not good enough and to be constantly attempting to become enough by this fruitless pursuit. On the planetary level, our consumerism based society is constantly attempting to manufacture more products to meet the ever increasing demands but at massive environmental and social cost, (especially in many poorer parts of the world.) Plus the desire to always increase our GDP by producing more on the national level makes no sense when you consider the fact that we live on a planet with finite resources.

There are, of course, other reasons that we are not finding happiness including the lessening of our social connections, the amount of fear based and negative media that we are subjected to, reduced levels of good health due to poor diet and lack of exercise and the unfortunate way that our brains are wired to pay more attention to the negative or dangerous things in our environments than the positive. Sometimes we struggle to be happy just because we don’t know how to become happier or we believe that we cannot become happier because of our past experiences or our genetics.

So let me state for the record – pretty much anyone can become happier if they practice certain happiness habits and if they learn new ways of perceiving and relating to their reality! I am not making that statement glibly either or just by referring to my own experience from supporting lots of clients to live in better balance. There is in fact a lot of new scientific proof and research in positive psychology and neuro science to confirm this. There is also more great news about happiness that has been uncovered by these new sciences. Happiness is an enabler. Happier people have better health, longevity, relationships and energy levels. They are also more productive, successful, creative, resilient in the face of challenges and of course, more fun to be around. Being happier isn’t just about smiling more. If you become happier it will have numerous valuable and positive effects on your life, as well as on those around you.

So, before I give you an amazing key that will enable you to increase your happiness levels, there are 3 things that you need to understand about happiness:

  1. Happiness is a choice.
  2. Happiness is a skill and a practice that can be learned.
  3. It is solely up to you to make choosing and being happy a major priority in your life – no one else will or can do it for you!

There are several remarkably effective practices that can increase your daily levels of happiness and positivity that I go into in more depth in my Choosing Happier book but for this article, I would really like to extol the value of perhaps my favourite one and that is gratitude. The “Gratitude Attitude” Consciously practicing gratitude was found to be one of the most effective ways to increase happiness levels in numerous positive psychology experiments. In fact, simple daily gratitude exercises were often found to be even more effective than anti-depressants for people suffering from depression (plus these exercises have no side effects!) Gratitude is particularly potent because it reverses the conditioned sense of lack that comes from believing in the more is better paradigm.

When we believe that we need to have more to be happy we continually focus on what we do not have or have enough of. By contrast, if we consciously practice gratitude every day, our focus is turned to the abundance of things and people that we already have in our lives that are so easily overlooked and forgotten. The impact of such a daily practice is a natural increase in happiness and contentment with who we are and what we have. The following exercise is a very simple but powerful way to increase your capacity to be grateful and thereby experience more abundance and contentment in your life.

The 3 Gratitudes Exercise

Keep a journal next to your bed and as soon as you wake up, think about and write down at least three things that you are really grateful for in your life. Make this the first priority of where you turn your attention to and put off thinking about anything else until after you have written down these three gratitudes. These may be small and simple things such as being grateful for the good nights sleep that you have just had, or they could be big things such as a holiday that you went on. Think of different things to write down each day. I challenge you to try this exercise for the next 30 days and to see what happens. You may be surprised how much such a simple activity can change your experience of life. Committing to trying this exercise could even be a great way to celebrate the International day of Happiness. If you have any great ideas about how you would like to celebrate the day, then tell us about it on the Ashburton Haven’s Facebook page.