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  • Writer's pictureAndréa Lussing

19 Ways to Build your Happiness


Last week I attended a talk about the science of happiness. The speaker had taken two courses, one from Yale and one from UC Berkley specifically on the subject and had much to share.

I want to take a moment to highlight a few findings that are worth mentioning...

starting with the reason why happiness is often elusive and that is due to our natural, and obviously extremely important, ability to adapt.

We adapt to anything new that comes our way, and have evolved to who we are today because of this skill of adapting. But when it comes to happiness, it is our ability to adapt that keeps us searching. After defining what we think would make us happy (think weight loss, a peaceful relationship with food, finding a partner, starting a business, buying a house) and getting it, our happiness level increases temporarily, but soon the natural flow of adaptation comes and we no longer see the thing we now have as contributing to our happiness- we're onto the next thing. In this way it's important to recognize that our belief that accomplishing this, or changing that will bring us happiness is actually not the reality. We're always adapting, and so the target is always moving further and further ahead.

Knowing this, there are some deeper (and some not so deep) experiences and structures and practices that have actually been proven to offer most people a benefit of increased happiness. After reading through this list, pick a few to consider for the next week and see how you feel after implementing them. But as with anything, true change comes from creating habits and developing the skill so that it's automatic. Nothing worth doing is easy. But here goes:

1. Sleep enough, or sleeping more. (Enough sleep is foundational in giving us a chance to experience positivity and peace.) 2. Practice mindfulness, or meditation. 3. Experience more 'flow' or being 'in the zone' in your activities- think being creative, doing a sport, reading, etc. 4. Practice positive recollection- think back in detail to what you enjoyed about certain experiences 5. Gratitude- consider what you're grateful for, can be done as a habit or throughout the day 6. Savour moments and experiences- noticing what you're enjoying and taking in the big picture brings awareness and presence and more joy to moments that we may otherwise not see 7. Take an "awe" walk- around your neighbourhood or in nature, notice all the amazing beauty of the little things, take time to gaze at a flower, or listen to the sound of a bee, or wonder about all the hair on those fuzzy caterpillars 8. Exercise- 30min or heart pumping exercise 3-4 times a week 9. Play- be silly, hop through a hop scotch on the street, play tag or dress up. Do some unstructured spontaneous play. 10. Laugh more. :) 11. Build your social connections (but quality is better than quantity) 12. Do random acts of kindness, connect with your compassionate self for helping others 13. Have self-compassion. Practice being kinder and more understanding to the struggles you have or the challenges inherent in being human 14. Think positively about your future self- what are you capable of becoming? 15. Refine your life narrative (story) for perspective and meaning. Instead of going over the same stories, re-create them to remind yourself of the positive impact they've had on you and creating you to be who you are. 16. Practice empathic and active listening- don't give answers, simply ask more questions 17. Cooperation- experiencing cooperation with others is good for your wellbeing 18. Forgive or be forgiven- let go of what you're holding on to 19. Use your signature strengths- contribute to your community by doing what you're best at and what you enjoy

I personally find the act of savouring and recalling experiences with detail to be very fulfilling, along with sleeping enough (for sure), random acts of kindness, using my strengths and taking "awe" walks.

What speaks to you from this list? I'd be curious to know!


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