There is no point in pursuing happiness. That is, there's no point in doing stuff that you think will one day lead to being happy. I can almost hear you thinking, "wow, this one's going to be a downer. No thanks!" Before you stop reading, stay with me for a minute or two. You'll be, um, happy you did.
I am a huge fan of Shawn Achor, positivity psychologist and author of The Happiness Advantage. His Ted Talk is among the most watched of all time too. Here is a link to it.
In both his book and Ted Talk, Achor draws on research in his field (who knew, by the way, that studying happiness was a thing?) to teach us that there are things we can do daily to increase our levels of happiness. Increasing our happiness, in turn, improves our relationships with others, our productivity at work, and so on. In other words, happiness isn't a thing one acquires after achieving certain goals or reaching certain milestones. e.g. "I'll be happy once I make enough to buy a house" or "I'll be happy once I get that promotion." Nope. Achor says we've got it wrong. It's the other way around. We don't become happy once we are successful. We become successful when we are happy.
So, how do we create happiness?
According to Achor, there are five concrete, simple steps that we can do to increase our levels of happiness. When we do these steps, we increase the likelihood that we'll achieve our goals, which we once thought would make us happy. Instead, being happy helps us achieve our goals. We had it backwards! Those five things are so easy to do that it almost seems too simple, but the research is tried and true.
The Five Steps to Happiness
For 21 days, which is roughly the amount of time it takes to form a habit, doing the following things each day produces the effects Achor discusses.
- Identify three things for which you're grateful. Again, write these down or tell them to someone.
- Exercise--just move. You don't have to become an ironman triathlete.
- Meditate for a couple of minutes. You don't have to be Deepak Chopra. Just get still and let your mind be. Prayer is fine too.
- Perform a random or conscious act of kindness or send a positive email or text to a colleague or friend.
- Journal about something positive that happened during the day.