How to Hack Happiness
What is happiness? Generally, when people say they are happy, they mean they are satisfied with their life and are experiencing an overall feeling of pleasant emotions. However, in my opinion, happiness goes far beyond that surface level of happiness. I think happiness is independent of what is happening in your life. Real happiness is this deep sense of well being, peace, and aliveness that is with you most of the time. Yet, a nine-year Dutch study into the elderly, found that those who were happy, optimistic, or generally satisfied with life had around 50% less risk of dying over the period of the study that those were unhappy or pessimistic. Sadly, despite many advances in overall standards of living and income, there has been no sufficient improvement in people’s life satisfaction and happiness in the US and many other countries in the last fifty years. One poll showed people saying they were happy had fallen from 52% in 1957 to just 36% in 2005. The World Health Organization reports that worldwide 121 million have depression. What is getting in our way from achieving pure happiness? Often, the answers are stress, information overload, perfectionism, negative thinking, poor diet, time pressure, etc. People, we need to wake up. Happiness is at your fingertips if you choose it. I believe what’s preventing most of us from achieving real happiness is this lack of awareness, and resistance to accept the present moment. Allow me to explain.
Thoughts are Not Reality
Your thoughts are just things, they are not reality. The vast majority of us are a victim of our thoughts, as if they have control over us. Most of our thoughts originate from past experiences and therefore are a mere distortion of the present moment. When we give our thoughts attention and attach ourselves to these ideas, they become our present reality, and we enter what is called the unhappiness cycle.
The Unhappiness Cycle
The event or incident that causes you to give attention to your thoughts.
This event is then cross-referenced against similar past event for comparison. Our brain scans for a previous experience or memory so that it can make sense of this current situation. Usually embedded in these past experiences are self-limiting beliefs such as “I am not good enough.”
Based on your these limiting beliefs from the past, you generate some type of emotional charge from the event. Emotions arise from the body, and many experience this as some form of tension in the body. If your emotional response is disproportionately strong to the situation, you can usually guarantee the emotion has more to do with the past than the present.
This is your immediate response to your feelings, in order to change what you are actually feeling. When a negative thought is triggered, you respond by either arguing back or shutting down emotionally, or reaching for alcohol, etc. The new thought acts like a trigger and the cycle starts all over again.
Exit the Unhappiness Cycle
In order to get out of this unhappiness cycle, you need to develop some type of awareness around all four levels of the cycle. The easiest way to do this is to begin some type of mindfulness practice. Once you develop this practice and realize your thoughts are not you, you will find it much easier to defuse your negative thoughts.
Eight Traits of Happy People
1. Happy People Are Infectious
Surround yourself with other happy people, because happy people create other happy people.
Be giving. I have found this hack to be extremely powerful. By giving to others you change the focus about you, and turn your focus towards others. Not only are you changing your focus, which tricks your mind from ruminating on the pain or negative self chatter, but you’re feeling good about helping and doing for others.
3. Savor Something
This coincides with generosity, in that you are changing the focus from you to something else. By savoring something, you are turning on the rewards center in your brain, and building pleasure around it. Spend 12-15 seconds paying attention to something great.
Bring joy to the lives of others. Do acts of kindness. This will give you an immediate state change and help reverse many of those negative emotions.
5. Learn to be an Optimist
We are constantly living in a state of lack and insufficiency. Our mind is always saying, “What’s wrong with this? What’s missing?” There is never enough. Instead, embrace gratitude. Develop an optimist mindset.
6. Have a Life Goal
Having a life goal gives us purpose in life. Without something to strive for, we are meandering through life aimlessly in no real direction. A goal gives our mind something to push beyond. With growth and progress comes happiness.
7. Learn to Let Go
Dwelling on the past breeds emotions such as fear and anger. Happy people move with a sense of ease and calmness. They have learned to not attach their emotions to the past or future, but remain aware to what’s unfolding in the present moment.
8. Strong Meaningful Connections
Happy people have been shown to have stronger connections. We are intrinsically social creatures and need to feel that we are part of something beyond our immediate family group. Having a wider social network and enjoying the company of other people with similar or common interests is crucial in the total scheme of happiness and overall health.