March 20, 2020, 14th International day of happiness, 50th day of Coronavirus; in Vienna, 5th day of quarantine. Thanks to nature, destiny, circumstances, good/bad luck, right/wrong decisions, these days we’ve all got a bit of time to slow down. Also, we’ve got some time to rethink our actions, our purposes, and our lives in general. Are you happy? Did you know that you can choose happiness? Did you know that happiness is a decision?
According to Abraham Lincoln,
“Most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.”
Although it seems that in 2020 so far, there is more time to be worried, scared, sad or conscious, still there are plenty more reasons to decide for happiness and plenty of ways to be happy.
First, let’s have a look at what happiness means.
In the article What is happiness and why is it important?, Positive Psychology summed up the definition of happiness. “Happiness is a state characterised by contentment and general satisfaction with one’s current situation”.
Happiness is a state of mind, so we can influence it; it depends on us if we are going to be happy or not.
What can I start doing right now to bring me to a happy state?
Here are the steps that helped me get back on a happy track after a difficult period. Some of them are quite general and already well known, but still, they are worth mentioning.
1. Bring yourself in a positive mindset.
Take a moment or two, breathe in and breathe out, calm down your thoughts and write down everything that you are grateful for at this moment. Focusing on the positive sides will help you to get out of the loop of negative thoughts and to see the situation more clearly.
2. Don’t miss the healthy meal.
Good eating habits are essential for our well-being. We are physical, emotional, and spiritual beings. Each facet influences others, so it is important to stay fit in all of them. Our mental and emotional well-being will always be impacted by the condition of our physical bodies.
3. Get enough sleep.
When I was younger, I used to think that sleep is a waste of time. But soon, I learned the lesson. The right amount of sleep is essential for the well-being of our bodies and our mind. Sleep helps us be less sensitive to negative thoughts and negative emotions. It helps the body to recover from the day and to regain the new needed energy. It makes us more focused and more productive.
Exercise can help you relax and increase your brainpower. It is one of the most effective ways to reach a happy state of mind. Even 7 minutes of exercise per day already helps the brain release endorphins, which makes us happier. Also, a lot of studies (like one mentioned in Shawn Achor’s Book Happiness Advantage) show that exercise is one of the best ways for overcoming depression.
5. Fresh air. Sun. Nature.
“…one of the first conditions of happiness is that the link between man and nature shall not be broken”. (Leo Tolstoy)
Spend your time outdoors as much as you can. Enjoy the sun, fresh air, green surroundings and sounds of nature. Use all of your senses. Observe the water, trees, rocks and stones. “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” Albert Einstein.
6. Social time is essential for happiness (even for us introverts)
In the TED talk What makes a good life? Lessons from the longest study on happiness, Robert Waldinger revealed the results of the longest studies on happiness – “Good relationships keep us happier and healthier”. Hence, surround yourself with loved ones and with people that inspire you. Don’t be afraid of showing your feelings. Enjoy the freedom of sharing emotions. But, at this time, when social distance is necessary for global well-being, show humanity and solidarity. Behave appropriately and don’t put yourself and others in danger. Instead, whenever it is possible, help others. Helping can improve your own life, as it is explained in the book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being by professor Martin Seligman.
7. Be passionate but don’t burn yourself!
This lesson I have learned through my own experience and experiences of other people. Know when to cool down and get into the balance with your mind, emotions and the outside world.
When it hurts the most – breathe! When you feel the fear – breathe! With breathing, you can relieve the negative emotions and set yourself free. Most reasons for fear and pain are not real – they are products of our imagination. So, realise it and change the direction of thoughts. Practising meditation, we can improve breathing techniques and enhance mindfulness.
9. Embrace the changes
These days are all about changes. Even though they don’t seem positive, stay optimistic and make the best out of it. Don’t give up learning. Be open to new experiences, new books, new people, and changes in general. Don’t stop gaining new skills. Be creative, cook, write, paint, play an instrument, learn a new language. Share the knowledge.
Use the time to declutter your space. Maybe now it’s time to see the benefits of minimalism. Time to realise that happiness is not in things but in living beings, and life in general.
10. Whatever happens, happens for the best
‘You win some you learn some’. Some lessons we learn from more, some from less complicated ways. Maybe the coronavirus will help us stop for a second and see life more clearly from a different perspective. Maybe we’ll get some time “to stand and stare” (Leisure, William Henry Davies). Reduced flight traffic, less noise, less pollution, less consumption and less waste. All these ‘less’ will inevitably bring some ‘mores’, at least on ecological and social bases.
Happiness is quite individual, and there is no recipe for it. But sharing personal experiences and thoughts can inspire us and help us find our way to happiness. Share your own experiences, share your thoughts about happiness. These days we do need to hear some positive stories, to get inspired and to get directions by the light of hope.