Ah, happiness. A globally-shared human emotion that draws lips into smiles, puts an extra spring in one’s step, and creates a warm glow in the core of one’s being like a good cup of tea.
March 20 marks International Happiness Day, a day to celebrate and recognise the most joyous emotion of all time.
These days, most of us are prepared to pay to achieve happiness and more of that ‘feel good’ stuff, with the wellness industry now worth 3.7 trillion dollars globally and growing.
“The people I know that are truly happy don’t judge themselves and they don’t judge others." Dr Dain Heer.
But as it turns out, we may be getting richer and spending more on happiness, but we’re not actually getting any happier. The latest World Happiness Report shows that the levels of happiness for well-off countries - including Australia – are either stagnant or declining – which aligns with the 2010 Princeton University study that shows that we reach our ‘happiness peak’ when we hit an annual income of $75,000.
So does that mean we should all just sell our possessions and become lonely goat herders in a determined bid to become ‘happy’?
It’s one option, but happiness experts recommend focusing on these four things before heading for the hills.
1. Stop comparing yourself to others, judging others and judging yourself
“People tend to get unhappier because they continuously compare themselves to others that they believe have more than them,” Dr Dain Heer, international happiness author and speaker tells SBS.
Even if your best-mate has a better job/sex life/is a superior Candy Crush player, so what?
“The people I know that are truly happy don’t judge themselves and they don’t judge others. If you could ponder the possibility of what it might be like to have a day without judgment of you or anyone else, there would be a constant supply of happiness and nothing would be able to take you from it,” Dr Heer says.
2. Live more mindfully and be grateful for the simple things
Eating and squelching through a juicy piece of fruit. Warm socks. A houseplant that’s stayed alive.
Does practicing living in the moment and enjoying small wins make you happier? Positive psychologist Dr Timothy Sharp (also known as “Dr Happy”) thinks so,
“Living simply is well worth pursuing, and it involves fighting against the myriad messages with which we’re constantly bombarded (from marketing and advertising) that tell us we ‘need’ lots of ‘stuff’ to be happy in life,” says Dr Sharp.
“A more minimalist approach to life is almost certainly a healthier one and can be achieved by asking, with regards to everything we have or think about having, ‘Is this adding value to my life?’”
3. Nurturing relationships are important but not just with friends and family, but also yourself
Countless studies show that having human connections and having friends is part of increasing one’s happiness.
But what is often overlooked is the relationship with oneself (yucky words like ‘self-love’ come to mind), yet being best-friends with ourselves should be a key priority says Dr Heer.
“We keep looking to people and things outside of us to provide happiness. We think our connection with them is going to provide happiness, but it often doesn’t because it also comes with projections, expectations and judgments and rejection.”
But if you’re your own best mate it makes thing easier, he says: “We would have far more happiness because we would no longer be dependent on something or someone outside of us that would take it away if we did not meet their expectations”.
4. Building resilience and changing the way you think about sadness and stress
We can’t be happy all the time, even happiness experts recognise that the not-so-good-feeling stuff is a part of living and can even make life more meaningful.
“As much as we might want happiness, we need to be realistic and acknowledge that we won’t be happy all the time,” says Dr Happy, “coping with and working through these is just as important as enjoying the good times.”
Find out more about International Happiness Day and the latest research on how to boost your happiness by clicking here.