Life consists of an accumulation of small moments
There are, of course, momentous events that occur in a person’s life that can precipitate a dramatic shift, changing direction, embarking on a new path. Still, everyday life goes on, populated with small, seemingly inconsequential moments. It is in the little things that you can find your joy and boost feelings of happiness. When you allow yourself to be joyful, it’s easier to find joy. While that may sound too good to be true, it works. Feel the deliciousness of descending into cool water in a lake on a hot day. Savor the aroma and taste of a favorite meal and enjoy the presence of loving family. These are the little things that are too often taken for granted, yet they are great contributors to happiness.
Everyone has something in their life to be grateful for. Most of us have many, many blessings. A simple ritual of daily reflection is enough to center in on them and allows us to take a few moments to express personal gratitude for all that we have been given in life. Good health, loving family, satisfying relationships, an enjoyable career – the list is endless and highly personal. There’s also a scientific basis for the statement that gratitude helps increase happiness, demonstrating that it also helps protect you from negativity, stress, depression, and anxiety.
The benefits of getting outside and walking in nature have long been documented as easy, convenient ways to increase happiness. For one thing, the physical act of exercise releases endorphins in your brain that elevate mood and make you feel better. Walking in nature also highlights other aspects of joyful, happy living such as a greater appreciation of natural beauty, thankfulness that you’re alive and healthy enough to be physically active, helping to tone your body and improve cardiovascular, lung and other vital bodily functions.
Practice non-violent communication toward yourself – We’ve known for a long time we’re our own worst critics and the way we talk to ourselves has a major impact on how we feel. Being a little self-critical is okay, but most of us experience it all too regularly. That has to be nipped in the bud as a practice. See if you can label any of that self-judgment and in that moment flip it to actively thinking about things you like about yourself.
Be aware of the good – There’s a lot of “Bad” news out there that dials up our nervous systems and makes us want to keep coming back to hear more, which only feeds a “nervous” system. Instead, create some balance, your brain is less likely to see all the good, so you have to intentionally pay attention to it. When you notice a good moment, notice it, “this is a good moment, in life there are good moments, can I allow myself to linger in this for a few seconds?” Let the neurons fire together and wire together. Of course there are all kinds of other things that can support our happiness including sleep, exercise, time in nature, and play. Although these are all important factors that can contribute to our well-being, the above five ways I’ve shared are all simple habits that take no extra time out of your life.
A shoulder rub or a pat on the hand will stimulate your touch receptors, automatically releasing the feel-good brain chemical oxytocin and at the same time decreasing the stress hormones in your body. Hugging will give you these physical benefits plus the added emotional support that comes from connecting with someone you care about. For best results, try sharing a squeeze for around six seconds, the amount of time some research suggests is necessary to really harness the power of a hug.
Help others to help yourself. That's the message behind heaps of research showing that people who regularly volunteer tend to report higher levels of happiness. But even smaller acts of selflessness can have a positive effect on how you feel. Get started by performing little acts of kindness—random or not—when you feel your good mood start to slip, whether it's buying the office assistant a coffee or holding open a door for a neighbor. To get the biggest happiness boost, aim to cluster several acts of kindness in one day.
Socializing can add a little something special to your day, so be sure to spend at least an hour catching up with friends, coworkers, neighbors, and family. A recent Gallup poll found that the more time people spent interacting with others, the better they felt. If you're spending a lot of time solo, break out of a bad mood by striking up a conversation, even if it's with the postman.