What happiness is, like success or desire is different for different people. Feeling fabulous in a sexy dress, a blast on a motorbike, an egg with a runny yolk….. These particular options are not always possible but there are numerous ways to find a bit more 'happy' on a daily basis especially when the rewards can be brilliant at many levels. Pharrell Williams was definitely onto something.
The benefits to finding your own moments of happiness are immense, even if the happy moment is a tiny, tiny one in a hectic day. Whilst neuroscience has yet to discover exactly what happens when we are happy, what it does know is that the level of neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) in the brain play a big role in mood. Endorphins are released along with raised levels of serotonin and dopamine (happy hormones) when we feel happiness, which is generally good for us and also those around us and everyone wins. Health is known to improve, and productivity too.
When we talk about happy, it is of course all about 'being' happy as opposed to 'doing' happy, so whilst our professional and personal daily activities are often an endless 'to do' list, to find a little more happy in your day, you'll need to work on your 'to be' list too.
Finding happiness on the inside will fuel what you are doing on the outside.
Simples? 'A smile begets a smile' - not always, but mostly.
Interestingly, kids smile on average about 400 times a day and a 'happy' grown up about 40 to 50 times a day, whereas the average person smiles about 20 times per day. This means that quite a lot of us aren't smiling nearly enough, which is a sad fact particularly when smiling has such a positive, nurturing effect on our health, happiness and productivity.
Remind yourself; what makes you happy?
Write down six little things that make you happy that you can do actively put into your day; e.g. the perfect cappuccino, a creative discussion with a colleague, a cup of tea and a chat, a beautiful view, meeting someone new, a big hug …..
Then think about when you can factor them into your day.
Go outside !
Making time to go outside delivers a huge and perhaps unexpected advantage to improved happiness. Spending just 20 minutes outside every day, not only boosts our mood but broadens thinking and working memory.
Studies have shown that being outside reduces stress too. Our senses are indulged; what we can see, hear, feel, smell and taste and this in turn impacts our bodies by giving our nervous, endocrine, and immune systems a boost.
As you'll no doubt be aware sleep helps our bodies to recover and repair from our daily activities. Sleep boosts our immune system, our ability to focus but also it is important for our happiness.
Negative experience gets processed by the amygdala, the 'fight/ flight' part of the brain, positive and negative memories get processed by the hippocampus. A lack of sleep hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdala, meaning that sleep-deprived people typically fail to recall the positive happy memories and yet recall the gloomy ones with ease. Hence, if we're suffering from a lack of sleep we're much more likely to focus upon the negative activity rather than the positive!
Pause, just be and take a little time for yourself.
Being happy means just that and 'just being' is a form of mindfulness, becoming more present and in the here and now.
Find a nice space that works for you and focus on your breathing, the in and out of your breath, your mind will wander, let it, and then bring it back to the present and the in and out of your breath. Just 120 seconds will make a difference - have a go. It will give you sharpened focus and enable you to make better decisions.
Abraham Lincoln said, 'most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be'.
I think he's right.
And one of my favourites " success is not the key to happiness . Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful" Hurrah to that!
Have a happy and productive day!
Kate Tojeiro is a leading Executive Coach and author of The Art of Possible; new habits, neuroscience and the power of deliberate action, out now.
Kate Tojeiro, is a leading executive coach and facilitator to senior executives in some of the world's largest and most prestigious organizations. She is the founder of leadership development firm, X fusion and has built an impressive list of FTSE 100 and Fortune 100 clients over the last 15 years. She has formed a reputation for developing some of the world's most successful leaders, as well as the next generation of rising stars. She is a regular fixture on BBC radio and a voice in the media. She is also the author of The Art of Possible, new habits, neuroscience and the power of deliberate action.