5 Gentle Happiness Reminders

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Child coloring

His Holiness the Dalai Lama said that “the purpose of our lives is to be happy.”

Martin Seligman, considered the father of positive psychology, theorizes that 40% of happiness is really up to us – 60% is determined by genetics and our environment.

So what do we do with our 40%? How do we live in state of more purposeful happiness?

Here are five gentle reminders, happiness tips drawn from research and life…

Get your Zzzzzs

Earlier this week on a work call, I heard my colleague’s 3-year old daughter saying, “Don’t be talking on the phone, Mommy, you need to be coloring.” Funnily, within a couple of minutes I could no longer hear her fevered “let’s color” pleas. She’d fallen asleep. Her Mom explained that typically, her daughter gets pretty loud and wound-up just before crashing. I had to admit—sometimes so do I!

The director of sleep medicine at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, Dr. Raymonde Jean, says that a good night’s sleep can really help a moody person decrease their anxiety. That’s not just true for 3-year olds, it is definitely true for me too. Let’s allow ourselves more pillow time so that in our waking hours, the choice is be happy is an easy one.

Use your gifts

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Find out what your real strengths are, your gifts, and then use them as often as possible. Are there things you love doing and don’t make time for? What makes you lose all sense of time passing when you do it?

In particular, researchers call out the “helper’s high,” the feeling one gets when of service to others, when giving. Dr. Christine Carter describes helper’s high as a euphoric state experienced by those engaged in charitable acts, similar to a drug-induced high. Go on, get giver-high!

Unplug

Technology is not going to go away but happier people take digital downtime. The “father of sociology,” Emile Durkheim referred to “sacred time,” an unplugging ritual that brings moments of reflection and calm. Have you tracked how much digital time you spend per day?

Imagine that your email is down, you’ve lost your smartphone. Get up and walk to talk with someone, or pick up the phone. Amazing how this created some precious moments of “unplugged-ness.” Make some sacred time for yourself, even if it is just taking 3 minutes to breathe outside the presence of any technological influence.

Music’s power

In one three-month study, researchers found that patients who simply listened to music had the same reduced anxiety symptoms as others who got 10 hour-long massages. Now, I’m not saying let’s all forgo massages, but choosing uplifting tunes boosts one’s mood—there’s proof. The Group Health Research Institute studied the faces of participants and observed how faces matched the “mood” of the music.

Try this. Take 5 minutes and flip the dial on your radio. Which tunes immediately boost your spirits? We need more of that music-boost in our lives so if you don’t have an old-or-new-fashioned happiness mix-tape, make one this week!

Celebrate the small stuff

For a split second, I just thought about what I need to do next, just as soon as this post is written. Yikes! When we take ourselves out of the present without pausing to celebrate the simplest of “good”—mundane things included—we are making a choice to not be mindful, to give up time we can be purposefully happy. Go ahead my friends, stop and relish that small victory right now!

Excuse me. Time to pat myself on the back and do a little happy dance for writing these reflections to share with you today.

Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.—Gandhi

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