I don’t think humans are supposed to be happy all the time. I would never advocate pushing down a bad feeling, trying to bury it or pretend it doesn’t exist. My personal experience has been anything I try to push down and ignore, just tends to sit in the background until its brought up on stage, examined, experienced and allowed to exit stage-right naturally. A better tact is in holding an open space for every feeling that comes up, fully feel and recognize its existence and source (when possible), in order to let it pass through, rather than fester in a corner (if negative). For me it is a quicker route to authentic happiness in any given instance.
But, that said, in trying to live aligned with authentic self, I know I would much rather live on the joyous end of the spectrum of emotions and there’s nothing at all inauthentic about striding toward the person you want to be and the life you want to live, not forgetting all the cherries on top, of course. So, I do have practices to help me cultivate the feel-good chemical dumps in my body. This is important in my book, because our bodies become addicted to the chemicals we dump the most and our minds reach for the thoughts and memories needed in order to produce those chemicals that the body craves. So why not train it to crave the feel-good chemicals. Thus today’s post!
Here’s three happiness hacks that really work:
1.) Below, you’ll find a great Ted Talk on how our body language influences our chemistry. In essence, our body postures are tied through eons of evolution to our emotions. In other words, body postures that make us look smaller and closed into oneself tend to make us feel less empowered, which is on the helpless and sad spectrum of emotions. Whereas the more open and large postures, truly make us feel more empowered, self confident, courageous and content.
I hope you watch the whole video, because then you will see the posture I do most every day when I get out of bed. It’s the photo of the runner crossing first over a finish line. Time after time we see it, arms thrown up in a V and face tilted skyward. I believe it is a universal signal to our bodies and the world that says two things. One the V says, “I’m victorious,” “I have won this race,” “I challenged myself. I came. I conquered.” The second, the face tilted skyward always has a look of elated gratitude. It says “Thank you,” “I’m so grateful for this experience.” I do this getting out of bed each morning for the self confident, courageous, empowered and grateful feelings it generates, as well as the big and open postures throughout the day.
2.) The second happiness hack has to deal with cultivating gratitude. Gratitude is a feeling of authentic happiness for the way things are in the present moment. I got this one from happiness expert Shawn Achor who says one should write down three things for which they feel grateful each night. A study by Emmons & McCullough published in 2003 showed that people who keep a list of gratitudes from throughout the day feel better about their lives and more optimistic about the coming days. Basically, it creates a more positive mind, with fewer negative emotions, possibly because it trains the brain to look for things to be grateful about. This is a nice reprogramming technique that is so very needed given the amygdala is always on duty scanning for negative stuff.
3.) The third happiness hack is to give first thing in the morning. “Give what?” you may ask. Well, let’s first look at the research. Neuroscientist Jordan Grafman, with the National Institute of Health, did a brain-imaging study that showed brain “pleasures centers” are equally active when we observe someone giving money to a charity as when we receive it ourselves. Also there was a great experiment by a Harvard Business School professor, Michael Norton, that was published in Science magazine which contained surprising results. When two groups were given a sum of money and half the group was instructed to spend the money on themselves and the other half of the group was told to spend the money on someone else, the participants that spent the money on others reported having felt significantly happier than those that had spent money on themselves. The same sort of results came back during a study done on infants by Elizabeth Dunn where the children who shared treats had increased happiness over those that just received treats.
So, if you have a spouse or children you can easily get this going before they get out the door for work or school. Since I’m single, here’s how I work this one. When I open my computer up first thing each morning, I give likes on Facebook to anything that really resonates with me. It makes me feel good because I know people like to be liked on Facebook. In fact, I saw a recent article that Facebook rejection is seen as equally bad as rejection in real life. Also, I like to send off a positive email or text to someone I know to let them know I appreciate them. Starting the day with giving really raises the happiness meter, however you can work it in. Happiness and Blessings!
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Sandra M Bell
Author of “Lunchtime Joy Magnet” & personal coach