Does happiness just fall into one's lap, or is it something we can create and actively pursue? Are only lucky/rich/beautiful/successful/young people happy or have we all got access to this state of being?
Today, psychologists who study happiness tell us that some effort is needed, both inward and outward. So let's look at some of their suggestions...
1. Choose to be happy
Tom Stevens, PhD says in his book You Can Choose to be Happy, to make happiness a top priority or goal, to take advantage of opportunities in life that can teach us about happiness, and to choose to be in environments and around people that increase your probability of happiness.
2. Cultivate Gratitude
Martin Seligman in his book Authentic Happiness, encourages readers to perform daily "gratitude exercises" - ie keeping a gratitude diary of things that make you feel grateful, cherished, special, unique. It may be the smell of a neighbours rose garden, the smell of freshly baked bread, a cuddle from a friend, the sensation of chocolate melting in the mouth (mine doesn't get the chance to melt!).
3. Foster Forgiveness
Summarised beautifully in the theme song from the movie Frozen...LET IT GO. Bitterness and resentment do not foster happiness - they fester and ferment and leave you feeling empty.
4. Improve your Mental Hygiene
Meditation, rhythmic, slow breathing, yoga, Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), counselling, kinesiology can help quell anxiety and promote serenity. Its about retraining the brain to recognise negative, unhelpful thoughts and challenging yourself to change your belief systems.
5. Foster Friendships
David Myers in his book The Pursuit of Happiness, says the "social ties that bind us also provide support in difficult times".
6. Engage in Meaningful Activities and Experiences
Researchers have found that one of the most common leisure time activities - watching TV - produces some of the lowest levels of happiness. To find your "flow", it's important for the mind to become thoroughly absorbed in a meaningful task that challenges your abilities eg art, volunteer work, study/learning.
I'm not a psychologist but over the last 20 years as a Naturopath, I have seen the use of herbs, diet and nutrient therapy help people manage their anxiety, improve depression, restore sleep, replenish exhausted adrenals (from chronic stress), and rebalance brain neurotransmitter function. While my initial aim is to prevent my patient from "falling apart" the big picture often means they end up happier, more content, less anxious/depressed, more joyful, and connected to their world in a meaningful way.