Wednesday 20th marks International Happiness Day so it’s my mission to show you exactly how to be happy! Sometimes it’s not the easiest, and too often life feels hard. But you know you’re tough, right? And you know that you’re worthy of feeling happy? Remind yourself of that, because that’s the biggest truth you need to be aware of to start the shift. Learning how to be happy is both fun and challenging, but ultimately, it’s an incredibly transformative process everyone should have the pleasure of experiencing.
Happiness isn’t linear
First things first, it’s important to know that happiness isn’t linear. You’ve probably heard it before, but remember – just because you’re not feeling happy today, that doesn’t mean you won’t tomorrow or ever again. And likewise, just because your happiness has begun increasing, that doesn’t mean your happiness is going to consistently grow until you’re elated (how great would that be though I know!?). Understanding that happiness isn’t linear is something we have to be consistently conscious of, and it’s something we must nurture in order to experience more happiness.
I also want to make it clear that happiness in itself encapsulates so many different emotions. Whilst most of us affiliate joy with happiness, happiness can also be calm, peace, excitement, anticipation, comfort and gratitude. It’s a beautiful rainbow, as long as we allow ourselves the opportunity to see it. Learning how to be happy is just as much about discovering what makes us happy as it is about exploring what it means to be happy.
Being unhappy taught me how to be happy
Happiness can show itself in the oddest of times. For me, my father had just died, my puppy had just died, and I was on the other side of the world. I was away from everything I knew and my world had crashed down. Everything had been going so well up until that point. And whilst there is no other way to describe such immense sadness as, well, immense sadness, I also experienced a level of happiness I’d never experienced before.
It wasn’t until a few months after the immediate shock that I started to see and feel the beauty of happiness. It was in the small things. My partners smile or my friend sending a text. The clear road to turn on to or the fact I’d made a perfect cup of tea… before the change in my life I would have taken these for granted, but through the sadness I was able to recognise how to be happy.
Seeing happiness around you
Have you ever noticed that when you bring your attention to a yellow car, you begin to notice a hundred yellow cars around you? Or the moment you focus on wanting something, the world tends to show it to you everywhere? What we bring our attention to, we notice more and therefore begin to feel more. If you decide to focus on happiness and see it around you, you’ll learn very quickly how to be happy. Tell yourself ‘today, I will notice happiness all around me’ and you’ll be surprised by what comes up. Or ramp it up a notch and say to yourself ‘today, I will create happiness all around me’.
Whatever words you choose, you’re giving yourself permission to feel the good stuff, and let the bad stuff fall away.
Mantra, acceptance and awareness are the biggest game-changers in happiness, but take a little while to practice. If you’re after long-term practices on how to be happy then check them out, but for now here are 3 simple practices you can adopt for quick transformation.
3 simple steps for learning how to be happy
1. Invite lots of little pleasures
Have you heard of Hygge? I recently read all about it and it’s made a significant change in my life. Hygge is all about comfort and enjoying the little things. The warm cup of tea and woolly socks. The chat with your friends over wine on a chilly night. The crackling of a fire when it’s raining outside. And whilst it might be more focused on comfort, it has significant implications for our every day happiness. The Danes are known to be the happiest group of people in the world, and they put it down to Hygge. You can apply it to your life in so many ways. Enjoying the walk to your car with the sun on your skin. Enjoying the feeling of cleaning and refreshing your teeth. Feeling the softness of the cushion on your sofa. The little pleasures make a massive difference to happiness, and done often can result in happiness being the go-to emotion over negativity.
Book something and look forward to it! Happiness comes with the anticipation – knowing how to be happy comes from enjoying the little bits on the way. Whatever it is that brings you joy, book it in for sometime in the future (this weekend, next month, next year) and allow yourself to feel the happiness in the meantime. I used to plan something every evening in the worst times so that I could enjoy looking forward to it. Cook your favourite meal. Watch a new TV show. Read a chapter of my book. Or simply take some alone time in nature or doing something you love. Book yourself into lots of little pleasures and learn how to be happy through anticipation.
c. The best things really do come in small packages
Happiness comes from enjoying lots of little things. Spend your time and money on lots of small pleasures, over a few big ones. Now, I’m not talking about quantity over quality – please don’t go out and buy 10 new cheaper tops over one better quality one that you’ll wear more. I’m talking about allowing yourself to have that chocolate here and there rather than the big cake once a month. I’m talking about allowing yourself to have a lie in every weekend rather than ever-so-often. Heck, have more date or movie nights than just the one a year! Enjoy the little pleasures, and have plenty of them – then knowing how to be happy will become second nature.
2. Practice some yoga
This one is nice and straightforward. Yoga makes you happy. Period. The nature of practicing presence, the awareness of breath, the focus on you and on cultivating calm – these are all such powerful ways to becoming happy. You don’t have to head to a class for 60 minutes three times a week. You don’t even necessarily have to move much! But creating the intention to love and look after yourself will initiate and encourage those happy feelings. There are so many ways you can incorporate yoga into your life – Live Yoga, online yoga, free community classes, studio classes. You can even do it at your desk!
Give it a go for a few weeks or months and see how you feel after it – and take a moment to try remember the last unhappy yogi or guru you came across 😉
3. Thank you thank you thank you!
Are you feeling unhappy and know that you don’t want to be anymore? Say thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you! Frequently throughout the day I’ll notice I’m being harsh on myself, or I’m comparing myself to someone else and putting myself down. As soon as I recognise these mean thought patterns, I stop. Take a breath. And say thank you. It’s that simple. We need to learn to forgive ourselves for the misunderstandings and say thank you for the awareness. Thank you for your ability to see where you’re not happy. And thank you for the incredibly beautiful things you have in your life.
Learning how to be happy is a lot like learning how to love yourself. Become aware of what’s not bringing you happiness, use one of these tools to bring in more of how you want to feel so you can go ahead and rule your world.
Above all, please do remember that lightness comes from dark, and we only recognise the beauty when we’ve experienced or overcome something less happy. Allow yourself to feel and see happiness in a whole range of things and know that if you’re not happy right now, it doesn’t have to be this way forever. Give yourself the permission to be happy and work towards it one step at a time.