As I write this I’m in one of my happy places; on the beautiful beach on the soouth coast of England that's at the end of my garden. I moved here last year after realising my dream to live by the sea. Now every day I actually ‘hear’ the waves compared to back then when the closest I got was listening to wave meditation music on my iPod!
I didn't always live by the sea and, although I'm in my 'happy place' now, there are still times when I don’t feel my chirpy self. So what do I do when I’m feeling a little low? Well, apart from eat chocolate and drink wine (kidding/not kidding), I’ve come to learn and accept that the lows come from the same place as the highs – they come from our experiences. They come bringing lessons to heighten our experiences. We simply cannot have one without the other. So when we put down our proverbial weapons and allow these episodes to flow through us, knowing that ‘this too shall pass’, to me, is always so comforting and sure enough, my happy levels creep back up.
But what exactly is happiness? Researchers have identified happiness as a ‘satisfied life with feelings of fulfilment from pleasure, meaning and engagement’. For me, this means experiencing joy from the simple things like laughing with friends, watching dogs play on the beach or being close to loved ones. It’s when I have a reason to get up in the morning; a reason that’s bigger than just myself. It’s when I feel connected to more than just what I see. It creates a lightness in my head and a warm, fuzzy feeling in my heart.
There are so many things I do to improve my happiness but here are five of them so that you can improve your 'happyness' too.
1 Get more Zzzzzzzz
Did you know that sleep-deprived people generally remember more negative words than positive? I used to spend countless sleeping hours awake and stimulated until slowly I started to see that this wasn’t doing me any good. Worse still, it was starting to ruin my life. As soon I started to go to bed earlier I kid you not, it felt like a light had been turned on! As one of the most researched topics in the area of happiness, sleep is the perfect place to start and I promise you, one of the most rewarding.
1. Commit to switching your phone off 1-2 hours before you go to bed. The light from your phone, or any electronic device, suppresses your production of the sleep hormone, melatonin, which tells your body to be awake instead of asleep.
2. Charge your phone in another room so you’re not tempted in the night to check it.
3. Instead of watching TV before you go to bed, try picking up a book instead and read it under your cosy duvet. Or listen to an audiobook or some relaxing music.
4. Keep your bedroom dark and try to avoid turning the light on if you get up in the middle of the night (I look like I'm doing an impression of Michael Jackson in Thriller when I do my midnight toilet trips, but not turning on the light works when you want to get back to sleep!)
2 Go outside
Whether it’s our own backyard, local park or a trip to the seaside, being in nature does something to us. It has been proven to lower stress levels and increase our general happiness. In fact, research has show that just 20 minutes outside every day can boost your mood, expand your thinking and even improve your memory, so what are you waiting for?!
1. When you’re on your way somewhere, park your car further away than you need to or get off public transport a stop early and walk the rest. Use this time to truly appreciate the world you live in. Notice the flowers, listen to the birds, marvel at the colours around you. In no time at all, you’ll be smiling all the way.
2. Invest in a good waterproof jacket and make going outside a daily occurrence, rain or shine.
3. If you truly, honestly, no-way-josé wouldn’t have the chance to go outside every day, then listen to some nature sounds when you’re working, studying or relaxing, although unless you lived in a locked tower like Rapunzel, then you really have no excuse!
4. Depending on where you’re at right now, you can either hug a tree or if that’s a bit too much, go ahead and lean on one. You’ll still connect to its nurturing energy, but you’ll miss out on your ego getting involved and disrupting the happiness party!
3 Be kind to others
Have you ever done something lovely for someone and not felt great about it afterwards? That just doesn't happen! When we give other people gifts, not just things we've spent money on but our time and love, we actually experience the same pleasure we feel when we make love and eat cake! Investing just two hours a week into our community has been shown to improve our happiness levels enormously.
1. Help one of your elderly neighbours with their garden, shopping or pop in for a cup of tea and a chat.
2. Give your time to a local charity or soup kitchen.
3. Practise random acts of kindness – help someone struggling with a buggy on public transport, send a card to a friend you haven't seen for a while, smile at a stranger in the street, offer your parking space to someone else
4 You decide
Many people think happiness is something you’re born with, but a lot of it is down to the fact that we simply choose to be that way. If an outcome is unknown, happy people will choose a positive result to focus on with hope, instead of succumbing to their fear and opting for the worst-case scenario.
1. Say yes to things and people that you want more of in your life.
2. Say no to things and people that you want less of in your life.
3. If you want a situation to change, then change it. Don’t moan about something, then sit on your bottom and do nothing.
4. Write a list of all the things you’re not happy with in your life. Then, next to each point, write down how you would explain this, in a positive way, to a young child. For example: “I don’t enjoy my job” = “I don’t enjoy my current job which means I’m becoming really clear on what I’d love for my next job” or “My current job is helping me grow and I’m beginning to see I have some things I need to improve on”.
5 Appreciate more
When we appreciate things and people it’s the closest feeling, along with compassion, that we have to love and for that reason alone it deserves to be on this list! Simply feeling thanks in our hearts releases so many feel-good hormones that they actually suppress the stress response in our bodies. What's not to love about that?! Not only that, but this feeling is contagious and when you’re in this space, the people around you will feel in this space too.Pretty cool if you ask me!
1. When you wake up in the morning think about or write down all the wonderful things you appreciate in your world. If you’re feeling pretty low, then start with the easy stuff like you’re alive; you have a bed to sleep in and the sun rises every day. Then if you’re already up there in the happy stakes go a little deeper – appreciate your friends and family for who they are and what they do for you; appreciate your mistakes for what you’ve learned from them; appreciate yourself for all your goodness.
2. Show your appreciation for the people in your life by giving them treats: buy them some flowers, help out with household chores like taking the rubbish out, clear the table if you go round for dinner or send them a postcard just to tell them that you appreciate them.
3. Surprise them with a visit; there’s nothing more valuable than giving people your time.
4. It doesn’t get much simpler than saying ‘thank you’ that little bit more.
Emma Fairclough is a Happyness Coach and Mindfulness Mentor; Inspirational Speaker & Trainer (Creator of The Spiritual Stand-Up Show); Intuitive Card Reader, Hypnotist and Communications Specialist. Emma combines coaching, mentoring, mindfulness, NLP and intuition to move clients forward in their business, relationships, health and life as a whole.
Pop over to Emma’s website to read her story, find out how you can work with her directly and sign up for her FREE upcoming webinar “The Importance of being selfish and how to do it” on 20th April at 7pm GMT. Visit www.emergise.com/psychologies