Finding Happiness, One Change at a Time by Cindy Shove
Updated: Nov 14, 2019
Do you know what makes you happy? Truly happy? Not just laugh-out-loud happy but genuine, serene happiness—the kind that gives you a content spirit and a heart full of joy?
According to research from the Pursuit of Happiness Organization, you will most likely be happier if you do just ONE of the following:Express your heartCultivate kindnessKeep moving and eat wellFind your flowDiscover meaningDiscover and use your strengthsTreasure gratitude, mindfulness, and hopeJust committing to ONE of these makes a difference. Take a moment to think about that—their research shows that the majority of survey participants are happier if they do just ONE of the items above.
Assuming you’re doing at least one of them already, how about adding ONE more? But which one? Pursuing all seven sources of happiness is probably going to be overwhelming. So, choose just one, and see how it goes. How to choose? Keep in mind the following:
“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” –The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
In other words, trust yourself. Try this. Take one minute to do the following exercise: Place your feet firmly on the ground, close your eyes and breathe deeply for five to six breaths. Then re-read the list of seven items and notice which one you are drawn to. Which one inspires you to take action?
If nothing stands out clearly, consider the following list, which is the same seven items flipped into questions and suggested actions. Again, choose the one that inspires you the most, and follow through with the action.
1. Connect Do you yearn to be connected? Think about how to connect to one person. Is there a friend you’ve lost touch with or a parent or child you wish you could spend more time with? Don’t try to connect to everyone all at once. Pick one person whom you wish you were more connected to, then reach out with an invitation. You might suggest an activity or event, or connect by video or phone (something more than email or text). Ease into this and don’t worry if you get some resistance at first; he or she might take a little time to appreciate this genuine extension of the hand, particularly if you haven’t connected recently.
2. Be kind Do you feel guilty about not doing enough for others? Practice a few simple acts of kindness. The Random Act of Kindness Foundation believes that “kindness starts with one: one compliment, one smile, one kind act, one person.” You can find their collection of kindness ideas here.
3. Care for your body Do you wallow in inactivity or indulge in foods that give you short-term gratification? Keep moving and eat well. There is lots of information out there on health and wellness so you’ll have no trouble finding detailed advice. But at the root of the best advice are two simple guidelines: move more and eat to support your body. If you’re not active, start small and support yourself with a buddy (meet a friend at the local Y or get out for a walk together).
If you’re not eating well, consider making sure each plate of food is half full of vegetables and fruit and consuming a little less refined sugar. Small steps over a long period of time can make a big difference.
4. Try new things Are you stuck in a rut? Try something new. Think about what activity brings you joy. This could be anything that gets you creating something or moving your body—and stay away from the computer, if possible. Also, consider doing more of something that already gives you joy—even making it into a side hustle or taking a class. If you keep trying, you will always be moving closer to your flow. My writing and teaching careers started because I took a poetry class at a local university.
5. Be useful Does your life have enough meaning to you? If not, perhaps you could change the way you interact with people. There’s a phrase that I like to recommend everyone use more often, whether it’s walking into a meeting, arriving home to see dinner preparations underway or getting a call from your friend who is struggling: “How can I help?” Try it. You might be really surprised what an honest answer you get from people, and then you know how to be useful and do something meaningful. It’s an easy place to start—and then you can move onto bigger things.
6. Celebrate your uniqueness Do you know what your strengths are, and do you use them? If not, consider taking the free VIA character strengths finder; it will help you understand your strengths, and then you can find new ways to apply those strengths to your life.
7. Be grateful Do you feel a little hopeless and unable to see the good in your life? Start a gratitude practice by making a conscious effort to notice good things. Even simple things like a clear sky or a flower in bloom. Start making a list that you keep throughout the day or, if that’s too difficult, then take a few moments at the end of each day to write a list of what you noticed. The simple task of writing each night will heighten your awareness over time.
Speaking of writing in a notebook or journal—all of these practices will benefit from a daily reflection, at the end or beginning of the day. Take a few minutes to write down what you did to pursue your new happiness activity, whether it’s signing up for a new dance class, eating five vegetables, or remembering to ask how your neighbor’s elderly mother is doing. Keeping a journal will help you assess if it’s helping and might even motivate you to do more of the same.
If you want to learn more about the Happiness Organization, you can take the “Skills-based Happiness Quiz” yourself.
There is also a wonderful Coursera class (free without a certificate) called The Science of Well-Being taught by Laurie Santos, a professor in psychology and cognitive science at Yale University. Dr. Santos taught this class at Yale, and it was the most popular class ever taught there. The Coursera class will take you on a journey, introducing you to the science and the practice of well-being.
Stay well, and I hope you find something today that makes you a little happier.
The Pursuit of Happiness Organization: pursuit-of-happiness.org/science-of-happiness/Random Acts of Kindness Ideas: randomactsofkindness.org/kindness-ideasVia Institute on Character, Character Strengths Test: viacharacter.org/survey/account/registerThe Pursuit of Happiness Organization Happiness Quiz: pursuit-of-happiness.org/science-of-happiness/happiness-quiz/
Cindy Shove is a writer and an integral life coach, helping people get more out of their lives at work, in their personal lives and in their communities. Before becoming a coach, she had several careers in start-ups, non-profits and as a writing professor. In all of them, she was guided by her passion for helping people be their best, her ability to communicate and her expertise in business. More about her coaching and some of her writing can be found at www.cindyshove.com. On a personal note, she blogs about food at The Baker and the Chef. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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