In my early adulthood, I’ve been intrigued by questions like what specialisation I should take at university, which career path I should pursue, which friendships I should cultivate, what kind of activities, hobbies I should dedicate my time to, etc. These questions ultimately came down to which life choices will bring me happiness. But...
What is in fact happiness?
Sonja Lyubomirsky, positive psychology researcher, describes happiness as the experience of joy, contentment or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.
The more important question is:
How can we pursue happiness?
According to Martin Seligman, the founder of positive psychology, in order to pursue happiness we require:
- the experience of positive emotions
- engagement with the world around us
- authentic and satisfying relationships
- a deeper sense of meaning or purpose
- feelings of accomplishment or success
Let’s see how we can expand on all 5 domains:
1. Positive emotions
Happiness starts with positive emotions emerging from our day-to-day activities. Stop for a second during the day and remind yourself of the things around you that make you feel happy. E.g. the nice lunch you had or the sun finally warming you up on your morning bike ride, a good song, a friendly face… Let these feelings charge you up.
Another great daily exercise you can do to keep spirits up is a gratitude journal. Pick a time of the day when you can reflect and relax for a while and ponder on the 3 things for which you are grateful, no matter how small or big they are. Gratitude is a great buffer against negative emotions. It involves a focus on the present moment and appreciating what is instead of focusing on what could be. Keeping a gratitude journal will make you feel more energetic, hopeful, happy and positive.
Have you ever had a time when you were enjoying what you were doing so much that you were completely absorbed by it? It is like buying a new LEGO set and just building for hours and hours long. This is called ‘flow’ and it means that you found something that truly engages you and ultimately makes you happy. Try this for a week: at the end of each day sit down and think about the things you did during the day. Look for the following patterns:
● the feeling of enjoying something so much that you simply lose track of time
● an activity or task that is difficult enough to challenge you, however you are skilled enough to cope with it
● setting a clear goal for yourself, easy to divide it to subtasks and you get this good feeling of checking the mark when completing each part
These are the typical patterns of a flow experience, so once identified you just need to keep doing these activities as much as you can. They will certainly make you feel engaged and happy.
3. Positive relationships
Humans are social beings. We need connection, physical and emotional contact and intimacy to feel good. Due to the pandemic, we are now forced to change our way of connecting to each other, therefore it is even more important not to neglect this aspect.
Every now and then it is useful to make an inventory of your relationships.
● Which ones do you feel are destructive, draining, one-sided? Do you feel isolated in any way?
● Which relationships make you feel supported, included, understood and cared for?
Focus on the latter ones, build and cultivate them further, while setting boundaries with the first ones.
Having a purpose to your life brings satisfaction. The happiness in this respect comes from taking your strengths and using them in service of something bigger than yourself - something that gives purpose and meaning to your life. This might be religious faith, a political agenda, community work, green initiatives or perhaps charity work.
Take a moment to reflect first on your strengths - the best things about you. What are you good at? What are your natural talents?
Now ask yourself this: Can you think of a cause that is truly worth serving? Developing your skills, talents and strengths, and then using these in service of bringing about a better world in the way that matters most to you, is what will lead to a life filled with meaning.
Gaining mastery over something will lead to feeling accomplished and happy. Have you ever wondered why you keep pushing for reaching the next level in Candy Crush Saga? It’s important for us to do something well, that we can set a goal and reach, and enjoy that feeling of success.
A great way to stir yourself towards accomplishment is to write about your preferred future. While you write your future journal, you will get clear about your true goals and how you can reach them:
● What types of things do you see yourself doing? Which of your strengths supported you to do those things?
● How would other people respond to you in the future?
● How would your days look like, feel like and sound like?
● Where would you be living?
● How does your life transform?
As a next step, you can set goals for yourself how you could get to that future step by step. Below there’s a simple template for it.
Happiness is closer than you think. Pursuing happiness is an exciting quest with lots of learning, experience, connection, contribution and positivity. The above exercises will help you start your journey, and the rest will emerge as you go. However, if you feel the need for further assistance on discussing these topics feel free to reach out to one of the TINT life coaches.