Aristotle once said that when you reach happiness, there’s nothing else you’ll want but to be happy. His explanation was that once achieved, the feeling will allow you to begin living as your true self and expressing yourself without regard to how others may perceive you.
While I believe that happiness is an innate state, I’m not saying that we must be happy all the time and smiling until our cheeks ache. However, by committing to a practice of some powerful habits on regular basis, we can ensure that the state of happiness is something we can experience most of the time.
In our societies, the majority have a tendency to attach happiness to externalities and outcomes that are very often outside of their control, something that typically takes the form of “I’ll be happy when I get/have …” statements.
The truth, however, is that happiness is a feeling that it ultimately experienced from the inside out.
Having surrounded myself with high achievers who exhibit happiness in all that they do, I drew inspiration from this to experiment with different habits that I found common amongst them.
As a result, I want to share with you a selection of these that have contributed to the extraordinary shifts in my mindset and levels of happiness in the present:
At the end of each day, my wife and I like to make time discussing what we’re most grateful for, no matter how small. Recent examples include gratitude for the beautiful property we live in, for whatever force that brought us together as a couple and for the opportunities that we’ve had to positively impact the lives of others.
We also like to reflect on who we can be grateful for and have often sent letters/emails of gratitude to them. A couple of years ago for example, I sent a long email of appreciation to my father on Father’s Day, explaining some of the many reasons why I appreciate him so much and the role he has played in my life.
For me personally, happiness really begins with gratitude because until we fully appreciate what we currently have, more will never make our life better. Abundance replaces fear, possibility replaces limitation and resourcefulness replaces a focus on a lack of resources, when we come from a place of gratitude.
If you’ve ever experienced an intense workout session, you’ll know how amazing it feels after! The first wealth is really our health, and by regularly pushing our bodies through vigorous exercise, we don’t just become stronger; we become more productive, more energetic and stronger mentally to handle whatever the day may throw our way.
It’s also a well-known fact that lifelong exercise can lead to improved brain function as we get older.
The key is to start small and work towards increasing your intensity. My wife and I began working out a couple times a week and have since progressed to beginning everyday with some form of exercise (from being in the gym to swimming and from yoga to walks in the park).
It’s not what we do once in a while that makes the difference, but what we do daily and since making fitness an integral part of my life, I’m now the healthiest I’ve ever been with energy levels that make me feel younger than my actual age!
3. Acts of Kindness
Carrying out kind deeds and expressing appreciation of others provides us with perspective and an ability to empathize with what people other than ourselves are going through.
Put a smile on someone’s face, make their life easier by recognising what they’re going through (we all live in different ‘realities’) and helping out accordingly, and delivering genuine praise if you’re impressed by a level of service or achievement. Not only could you make their day, you’ll also experience the ‘feel good’ hormones that fill up our nervous system when we positively impact the lives of others.
I tend to write a note of appreciation to a restaurant or hotel whenever the service is exceptional and regularly look for ways to inspire and help others – from volunteer work to speaking at universities to give students the tools they need to get into their desired career.
4. Environment Optimisation
A key driving force behind an individual’s success and happiness can be found in the company they keep. You may not be consciously aware of it, but the people you hang around with can have a massive influence on your life.
A large reason as to where I am today is because of the support I’ve had, the people I’ve met and the circles I’ve had the privilege to be a part of. So make sure to surround yourself with people who push you, challenge you, inspire you, encourage you and make you happy.
Put that smartphone/iPad/laptop aside and instead, begin each day by meditating for as little as 15 minutes. Meditation is a key habit of happiness as it helps you gain clarity and be more present by connecting to your inner self. It allows you to reflect on the day ahead, what’s most important to accomplish and acts as a reminder that you, and you alone, have the ability to choose how great your day will be. We therefore need to recharge our minds as much as we do our smartphones.
If you’re able to practice this on a regular basis, studies have shown that you will literally be rewiring the structure of your brain to allow for the experience of more positive emotions.
6. Living in the Now
When asked what surprised him the most, the Dalai Lama responded with the following: “Man, because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.”
Find joy in the present, for your life is made up of moments. Moments that if you fail to appreciate, will simply pass you by. You’ll miss the beauty of living in the here and now, and once gone, you can’t live them again.
You can’t go back and change what’s already happened, but you begin today to positively change your future by focusing on what you can do in this moment. Not next month, not next week, not tomorrow, but right now. What you do today will determine how far you’ll go.
7. Be Passionately Curious
The world is one gigantic classroom, yet many of us fail to explore it for all its wonder! One of the key characteristics of nearly all success stories is always remaining a student. Willing to learn, experiment and follow your curiosities with purpose.
Rather than spending your hard-earned cash on material things, it’s far more productive to reflect on what new experiences you want to have and how you want to grow as a person. What you feed your mind is just as important as what you feed your body, and following up on things you are passionate about and have a curiosity for, can open up possibilities beyond your current imagination. As Jim Rohn said, “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.”
There’s probably other common habits that I’ve failed to mention but what I wanted to do here, is to share with you the habits that have helped me the most and which I believe will be of greatest benefit to you, wherever you are in your life at this moment.
My challenge to you? Commit yourself to doing some of the above over the next few weeks and notice what you notice. Perhaps start small by choosing just one?
Get into the habit of practicing the art of happiness. Life’s far too short not to!