Ever told yourself you’ll be happy when ……?
You’re not alone. Most of us have felt that way at some stage.
Why wait? We can all choose happiness right now, regardless of what is going on around us.
That may sound flippant if you’re feeling depressed right now, but these happiness hacks are proven ways to bring back your smile and help you spread joy.
When we’re feeling sad it often feels like we will never reclaim joy in our lives. We can get stuck in that place where everything looks grey. I know, I’ve been there.
I have been so low that even the flowers and trees that give me so much pleasure were grey shadows – interruptions to the empty space I was searching for so that I could claim it and alleviate my pain.
Reclaiming my joy was a slow process and I had to work at it. The experience gave me the skill to recognise sadness signals and use some or all of the following happiness hacks to ensure I don’t get stuck in sad again.
I had to start with this one as I credit gratitude as the first thing that started to pull me out of my despair. My sadness was pushing away my loved ones and I realised I stood to lose them if I didn’t take some kind of action to feel better.
I started each morning by writing down things to be grateful for. At first, it was difficult to come up with even three reasons because my depression was overshadowing everything. To be honest, I didn’t even feel that grateful when I was writing them initially, but I forced myself to keep going. Soon enough I was feeling what I was writing and three reasons for gratitude easily turned into 10 and then more.
This simple exercise brought with it two other important happiness hacks – action and focus.
If we want things to change, including our feelings, we need to take action. When we continue to do things and see things the same way, we feel the same way.
If you want different results, do not do the same things.
Feeling and expressing gratitude makes us focus on the positive things in our lives. It’s one of the most important happiness hacks because when we are thinking positive thoughts, there is no room for negativity. Our brains can only fully focus on one thing at a time. We can choose to make that one thing a positive thought.
Ignoring sadness will not make it magically disappear. In order to deal with our feelings and really move on we first need to recognise them and acknowledge their existence. In my post, Why I Gave my Granddaughter the Gift of Sadness I spoke about the importance of embracing, even celebrating sadness. The shortest way out of it is through it. Trying to hide from sadness, or circumnavigate it, only prolongs the process.
However, it is possible to have sadness and happiness at the same time. You can be grieving for a loved one and find yourself smiling at a happy memory you shared with them.
Sometimes we are stuck in undesirable situations we can’t change. It could be a job we hate but cannot afford to lose. A relationship that is difficult for us to extricate ourselves from. Or something much worse, like being imprisoned and subjected to unspeakable things. This is what happened to Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl. The Jewish psychiatrist realised the only power left to him was to determine his response to the horrors around him. He chose imagination. Frankl imagined himself teaching students about the lessons he had learned. He spent time imagining his wife and their reunion.
Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
During my tortured teen years I created a ‘happy place’ I could disappear to when life became too challenging. I used to put my mind in that beautiful spot and zone out for long enough to allow my subconscious to shore up my positive emotions.
This is why it is so important to promote imagination in children. It gives them emotional resilience – a place to ‘go’ when the real world becomes too tough.
The healthiest form of projection is art
There have been countless studies that prove the power of creativity to improve health and happiness.
It is one of the reasons art therapy went from being regarded as a wacky alternative to professional counselling to a highly respected form of help for mental illnesses, including depression.
Even the simple act of doodling can be included in happiness hacks, according to research.
Read How to Draw the Line to Happiness for some practical tips on using creativity to produce joy.
Having something to work towards keeps us interested in life and gives us a positive focus.
They don’t have to be world-changing goals. If you share my belief that every thought and action has far-reaching consequences, then they no doubt will be.
It doesn’t even matter if we reach a particular goal as sometimes our interests change. The happiness hack is in planning ahead and staying busy by working towards a certain outcome.
SELF CARE HAPPINESS HACKS
When we get this one right, all the other things come naturally. Liking ourselves for who we are can make all the difference to our happiness. When we can congratulate our successes, even the small ones, and accept our weaknesses while working on them, we can be kind to ourselves.
Self-care involves doing the right thing by our bodies – healthy eating and exercise. It can be as easy as a 10-minute walk towards happiness.
Our brains also need care and we can do this by giving them plenty of exercise by learning new things and plenty of rest through meditation and by being mindful.
Our emotions also need nurturing through positive self-talk, being connected to others and doing good things to make us feel great.
REACHING OUT HAPPINESS HACKS
A wonderful happiness hack is to change the focus from us to someone else by reaching out to others and helping. A simple “I love you” said to the right person can lift someone’s entire day. We can’t help but feel happy when we know we have spread a little joy.
Getting out into nature for as little as 15 minutes can have a positive effect on your happiness, according to research. Spend a little longer around nature and the benefits skyrocket.
We can even use nature to make kids thrive.
SMILE HAPPINESS HACKS
Seems pretty simple, right? Not so easy when you’re feeling sad. However, ‘fake it til you make it’ actually works. We can, in fact, trick our brains because they pay attention to what our bodies are doing. So, we can force a smile and our brains register it and start to produce feel-good hormones.
Want some more inspiration? Download your free copy of Draw for Joy – the ultimate guide to art therapy exercises you can do at home.
Wishing you happiness always and a gleeful week, Tamuria.