For many people, the idea of a happy life seems elusive and far-fetched; a fleeting moment that passes all too quickly amid the mundane of an ordinary life. But it doesn’t have to be that way. New studies and old philosophies are quickly proving that happiness as a state of mind can be achieved on a daily basis. Here are 10 simple ideas that will help you achieve contentment in your everyday life. By Tamsyn Cornelius
It seems a cliché to think that a positive attitude can have a fundamental impact on your wellbeing. However, academics at the Harvard Graduate School of Education have researched how negative emotions can cause physical harm to the body. Studies suggest that destructive thoughts have a direct impact on increased stress hormones, which in turn has an adverse effect on organs like the heart. However, optimistic thoughts and actions were linked to good heart health and overall wellbeing.
Have meaningful relationships
There is merit in the philosophy that a faithful friend is the medicine of life. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals and you may never need to pay a stranger for the role of counsellor. Friends often fulfil this role for free. Unburdening your heart is also a therapeutic act that helps to release endorphins, the body’s feel-good chemical.
Enjoy the present
Unlike most communities, a small Amazonian tribe known as the Piraha use a language that does not have words for abstract ideas such as time. Interestingly, they do not speak about yesterday, today or tomorrow. Their culture is thus free from worry about the future as their focus is to enjoy each moment to the full. Scientists are calling their language the ‘grammar of happiness’. Like the Piraha, we need to live in the moment and choose happiness every day. If we are unable to experience happiness today, who says tomorrow will be any different? Read more about this fascinating tribe here.
Follow your heart, not money
Happy people do what they enjoy, regardless of money or recognition. This is the philosophy of author Leo Bormans in his ‘World Book of Happiness’ where he explains that it is pointless for people to work at jobs that they hate just for the remuneration. He explains that many people spend the best years of their lives trying to make money while sacrificing their health and family lives. Later, they spend the same money trying to recover their lost health and estranged family.
Re-assess your self-image
In a sociological survey done in the late 90’s, over 80% of women who were asked to look into a mirror were unhappy with what they saw, even if what they described seemed distorted from the truth. Why? We are often our own biggest critics. Learning to appreciate our unique features will help to cultivate everyday contentment.
Experts suggest that the spaces in which we live have a direct impact on our holistic wellbeing. If we operate from a place of chaos and clutter, we may unwillingly become overwhelmed by our environment. Serene, organised environments promote productivity and help us think more rationally – something to consider when you feel unproductive in your office space.
Change your pace
The Greek island of Ikaria has gained much media attention as “the island that forgot to die”. Here, one in three residents will live well into their 90’s. What is the secret to their long, happy lives? The pace of island life is relatively slow; people are busy but do not feel rushed. Residents also enjoy wholesome, natural foods and many swear that the traditional Greek coffee enjoyed by the locals is the real reason behind their longevity; great news for coffee lovers.
Embrace the outdoors
Research suggests that a daily dose of the outdoors has a number of health benefits and can significantly raise our levels of happiness. This was proven in a recent Australian study that looked at teens involved in moderate-to-vigorous outdoor activities. They had better health and social functioning than their peers who spent long periods of time indoors with technological gadgets.
People often find the most gratification through helping others in need. In a social survey conducted with professionals at work, it was found that firemen, the clergy and those with professions in helping or serving people were happier with their work than those in other careers. Investing in the lives of others is often a self-rewarding act.
In a Canadian institute called Living with Hope, researchers have developed a programme to help the elderly choose hope despite their discouraging circumstances. With hope, people who were dying experienced less pain and caregivers reported being happier in their work at the facility. Hope, which involves having goals and a plan to achieve these objectives, is also now being used as a treatment for depression.