Whatever we may believe we want; a new car, a beautiful home, a luxury holiday or a loving partner, what we really want and what we believe these things will give us is…Happiness. But what if Happiness was already your way of being in the world? What if you were just happy, without a reason?
Studies have shown that we all have a set level of happiness and acquiring the things we think will make us happy, will actually only raise our level of happiness temporarily. We soon adapt to these new good things and our happiness level reverts to the previous level. In fact, once the basic needs are met, it doesn’t seem to make much difference to your overall happiness whether you are poorer or wealthier.
You might now be thinking that there is no hope of becoming happier, but recent brain research has provided a key that can help unlock your potential for greater happiness – neuroplasticity. The previously long held ‘truth’ that your mind is a construct of your brain and past experiences has been turned upside-down because they have discovered that your mind creates your brain structure and by thinking differently, you can actually change your brain.
The process of increasing your happiness is actually quite simple, even though the practice is not so easy. First you need to look at your past and future; if you hold on to negative emotions about the past such as anger or sorrow, that part of your life will continue to affect you into the future. If you feel emotions like fear or worry about the future those feeling will colour everything you do in the present.
The first step then is to let go of the past (easier said than done?) which requires looking at it from a different point of view; in NLP we call this ‘reframing’. Consider, for instance; ‘Because this happened in my past I am now a more ………… person’ or ‘… I learnt to do/be………….’ The more positives you are able to find in a situation the more you can feel gratitude for even the worst experiences.
Negative feelings about the future exist completely in your imagination. The only foundation you can have for those ideas come from past experiences. Clearly there are certain things that are highly likely to happen – if you get to work late for the tenth time you are reasonably likely to lose your job but perhaps you would be better finding a job that you like enough to get there on time!
And the Present? The first secret here is to actually be present. When we are happiest we are not thinking about what we look like, what others think of us or what we are going to do later; we are engrossed in the activity of now, whether that is work or play.
Another secret to happiness is Contribution. Helping other people makes us feel good about ourselves, more empathic and more useful and less self-absorbed. Studies with sufferers of Depression found that when they got them helping other people their depression lifted quicker.
Being happy makes you more creative, more productive and more successful with relationships so bring the Joy into your life.