Tuesday, 13 December 2011


Happiness — the often elusive, but always desired state of being. The reason why we’re not always happy is simply because we aren’t always present to the miracle of life. Millions of years after the creation of the Universe, and then the earth, after Homo sapien evolved out of monkeys, our sperm had to jump through hoops in order to be the one out of millions. That’s one reason to always be happy.

I know, I know, thinking about our creation isn’t always the most practical way for us to get happy. I’m all about being practical as well, and besides learning the ability to switch happiness on whenever I want, there are other things I do that put me into a much happier state.

“Happiness is being the creator of your experience, choosing to take pleasure in what you have, right now, regardless of the circumstances, while being the best you that you can be.”
~Alex Shalman

1. Keep a gratitude journal

Write down everything you are grateful for at least once a week. According to research by Professor Robert A. Emmons, University of California, those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercise more regularly, report fewer physical symptoms, feel better about their lives as a whole, and are more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who record hassles or neutral life events. They are also more likely to make progress toward important personal goals.

2. Count your blessings

Before you fall asleep, reflect on the day and identify 5 things you are grateful for.
According to Prof. Emmons, a group of young adults who did a daily gratitude exercise, such as the one above, showed higher levels of positive states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy compared to those participants who focussed on hassles or negative comparisons.

3. Tell your friends and others that you are grateful to them

In his book ‘Authentic Happiness’, Prof. Martin Seligman suggests a powerful way of practising gratitude:

* Choose an important person in your past to whom you have never fully expressed your thanks.

* Write a testimonial of 1 page and laminate it.

* Meet with the person face to face and read out the testimonial.

When reflecting on this exercise it occurred to me that some people to whom I am grateful to are dead. So, what I did was to write the testimonial page, go to a secluded bend in the river, read the page aloud and then offer it to the waters. That was very powerful for me!

4. See adversity as an opportunity to learn and grow

We knew all about this when we were toddlers! We would fall and get up, fall and get up – and it was all part of learning to walk. It’s important to remind ourselves that failing is and integral part of learning.

5. Change from negative to positive thoughts

I saw an interesting suggestion by Aynsley Smith, director of the sports-medicine research center at the Mayo Clinic. She has a very simple method of training her sports students to dwell on positive thoughts, instead of on negative issues. She asks her students to carry a clicker pen around with them. Whenever they notice they are dwelling on negative issues, they are asked to click the pen. This acts as a trigger to change one’s ‘thought channel’.

I tried it and it works! For sure it’s a great skill to be able to change our thoughts. At the same time, I sometimes wonder whether the relentless emphasis on ‘positive’ thoughts impoverishes our life. After all, to yearn, to grieve, or to doubt – that too means to be human. What do you think?

6. Appreciate Now.

Whenever I’m in the moment, and I’m really present to what I’m feeling, seeing, hearing, or doing, I experience a sense of euphoria. It isn’t often that in our fast paced society we are able to stop ourselves from thinking about the future, or dwelling over the past, so a nice dose of now is a refreshing change.

7. Improve Yourself.

Did you know that a shark must constantly be moving forward to circulate water through it’s gills in order to stay alive? They even move forward while they’re sleeping. Metaphorically speaking, we humans have a similar problem. If we don’t move forward physically, mentally, and spiritually, we become weak, stupid, or broken. Our obligation to ourselves is to improve.

8. Become Accountable.

“I don’t have to answer to no one.” — Have you ever heard someone proudly state that phrase? It may be true, you might only have to be accountable to yourself and no one else, but it may not be the best way to live, not necessarily. When you make yourself accountable to someone else, by telling them your goals and desires, they can keep on top of you and make sure you get things done. This will enable you to get to your goals more efficiently, raise your self-esteem, and create joy in your accomplishments.

9. Don’t Become, Just Be.

If your constantly thinking into some future where you can be happy, you’ll be in the habit of trying to be happy. If you are trying to do something, you are doing it, you’re trying to do it. Instead, if you just become happy with your current situation, you can be happy any time and place.

“When you’re working on being happy, you are the type of person that created the possibility that you are not currently happy.”
~Roger Smith (Landmark Education)