Increasing overall feelings of happiness and joy is important for your physical and mental wellbeing and for what you want to achieve in your life - and is much more simple than you might think.
Our lives are increasingly complicated. There are many different sources grabbing our attention in ways we haven't experienced as a human race ever before. We are bombarded by information, more and more of us are living in busy, cluttered urban environments and via the advertising industry, social media algorithms, the fashion and beauty industries, TV shows and magazines, the bright lights of aspirational living is pouring in to our homes and infiltrating our days through small and large screens wherever we go. Let's not forget that we've also had the recent pandemic and the frightening nature of something we didn't understand affecting all of our lives, and so much difficult rather than positive news from around the globe, bringing our attention to the need to address climate change, global conflicts and other very important issues, but not balancing it out with information on all the good that is possible and do-able and is very often already happening out there.
As we enter an age where more and more information is being directed straight into our minds, often without our explicit permission, so many are seeing a negative effect, both known and that which is not yet fully known, on our state of mind and mental health.
It can get overwhelming can't it? Even when we become so accustomed to it we don't realise what is happening, which on some level we have to. Our minds and bodies can only hold so much - and then we start to numb out.
Drunk on Dissatisfaction.
The result of these changes and an increased negative focus bias is that alongside individual anxieties about the state of the world, job security, food security and political stability, many people are finding a growing unconscious and conscious desire or need to keep up, to do better and to be more shiny and perfect amongst it all. And it is increasingly clear that this is all having a negative effect on our sense of personal happiness as more and more people are becoming intoxicated by a feeling that they're stuck in their experience or there's nothing much that can be done. It is this sense of powerlessness that creates an emotional downward spiral that we are seeing reach increasingly worrying levels. Whatever the our individual beliefs on the correlation between all that is happening, the statistics show a pretty bleak picture around the world of increased anxiety, depression and a decrease in feelings of wellbeing. Pre-pandemic even, the World Happiness Report of 2019 clearly stated that globally, worry, sadness, and anger are on the rise with a 27% increase reported between 2010 - 2018.
Organisations and lobbying groups such as The Center for Human Technology link this to the increasingly sophisticated algorithms used by companies such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat and others designed to capture our attention through using known addictive means and then plying us with information it thinks we want - often subtly selling us an andea that we are not ok, unless we do or buy differently. These are not the only things that cause a sense of unhappiness and dissatisfaction. The breakdown of societies based on community, longer working hours and so many of us living in the built rather than natural environment have well documented effects that are taking their toll.
There Is An Upside
It is not all doom and gloom however. Not at all. In fact often we just need more of what isn't working to enable us to see how we actually want things to be instead.
Clarity is the first step to freedom.
Awareness empowers us.
The sticking point then becomes how to create meaningful difference on an individual and societal level. But despite how it can feel sometimes, it doesn't have to be difficult. It just takes intention and direction and a few tools that really make a difference.
Become a YES For A Greater Sense of Joy and Happiness in Your Life
It really is up to you. Happiness is an inside job that requires good boundaries to say no to what makes you less than happy and a willingness to create more of the life you want. Of course we have outside influences, some of which are far more infiltrating than we might want them to be, but we always get to choose when we focus on. So what differences could you already make to where your attention goes and what feel-good things you want to focus more on now?
Five Ways to Increase Happiness.
Once you have said that full YES to yourself and your wellbeing, there are five simple and proven ways to make a huge consistent difference to how you feel. And as well as personally, if you are a leader of others you might want to introduce some of these to your people or into your workplace. I'm always interested in how these techniques are creatively applied to workspaces. If you have had successes, do send me a note here and let me know how you've gotten on.
1. Dedication to something greater than yourself
Unhappiness lives in an over identification with the importance of our self as an entity. When we are dedicated to something outside of ourselves our happiness levels significantly increase. Finding a deeper connection to purpose is an important step. What is is you are here to do in the world? What is your own personal specific gift to give? You are here for a reason. Remind yourself of what it is, allow yourself to get excited about it and then take positive actions on a regular basis.
We are in an age where a sense of close-knit community is dwindling and on the whole we are spending more and more time alone, or with people through a screen. For many, support networks are not what they were, but as humans we crave real-life connection, so your job is to seek it out or create it where you can. Don't be afraid to ask for what you need. Don't be afraid to express what it going on for you and invite others to do the same. This is not just for you and your wellbeing, this will serve others who would enjoy it too.
Try creating groups of people with shared interests. So many exist online, but what can you also do in person? Either formally in a specific group set-up, or informally through friendships and partnerships, create what you need or just what would be fun and inspiring to you. Get together with like-minded people, create human connections, collaborate and celebrate shared experience. Over time this will make a huge difference.
Seva is a Sanskrit word meaning selfless service. It is the art of giving without any need to receive. It is a concept held as essential my many of the eastern religious as well as Buddhism and the philosophies of Karma yoga. The act of Seva benefits something or someone that is not yourself and is performed without the desire for recognition or any ego-led desire. Seva is not something that is done to 'get' happiness, but just to gift of one's self. This probably makes it a strange one to put on this list, but it made it here because it's such an important concept for living and is essential to personal and spiritual development. Happiness is a wonderful off-shoot but try not to perform seva with the idea of getting something. See how much you can serve just because you can.
4. Connect to a deeper sense of love and kindness in your everyday life.
There is a theory that I love to perpetuate that if you learn to embody what it is you seek, all the feel-goods of freedom will follow. Learn to open your heart with a smile and the world will smile along with you. Happiness is like a little flame that lives on the inside of you. Nurture it by fanning it with as much love and kindness as you know how. To feel greater happiness, be that which you seek. Put that positivity, love and kindness into the world in any way you know how and see what shifts for you.
5. Three Gifts
If you've worked with me before this will not be a new thing for you. But as a little reminder, the Three Gifts exercise has been proven to lift your mood more significantly than if you were to take Prozac, so it's really worth giving it a go. It is so simple and you can find a brief outline here.
It Starts Here
Create your own daily practices that nurture more of that feel-good flame. Those above are a wonderful start and if you would like to go deeper into an exploration of how to let go of difficult or restrictive patterns in your life and increase your own personal happiness and that of those whom you work with, or live with, just get in touch here.