20 March 2022 is the UN International day of Happiness. It is coordinated by Action for Happiness, a non-profit movement of people across 160 countries. Everyone deserves to be happy and research suggests that happier people are healthier, live longer and are more productive.
Joy, pleasure and happiness are often used interchangeably, but there is a difference. Joy is an instantaneous feeling of intense happiness or ecstasy. Perhaps when your sports team scores. Pleasure is more about the experience of feeling good – enjoying something – and is the opposite of pain or suffering. The exact definition of happiness is up for debate. But generally, it’s a feeling or emotion to do with pleasure or joy or the emotional state of contentment over time.
Mindfulness can help us to appreciate the joys of life. Noticing and experiencing the beauty of nature, the lives of creatures such as birds or insects and reflecting on what you have rather than what you don’t have or want, can all increase our happiness and contentment. As Denis Waitley (American Motivational Speaker and Writer) said, “Happiness cannot be travelled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude”.
It’s been established that your natural level of happiness does not really change over time. A generally negative or unhappy person who wins the lottery will be joyful and happy in the short term, but will soon return to their normal level of happiness. But fear not, being happy is a skill and it can be learnt and improved upon. As well as Action for Happiness, the Happiness Alliance has some great ideas and advice on how to do this.
One key message is that if you are in a situation that you can’t change, then changing how you feel about it is a route back to happiness. As Martha Washington (Former First Lady of the United States) said, “I am determined to be cheerful and happy in whatever situation I may find myself. For I have learned that the greater part of our misery or unhappiness is determined not by our circumstance but by our disposition”.
Now this is all good advice, but we won’t be happy all the time. If you are struggling, there are some things you can do to help yourself. Firstly, realise it’s OK to not be OK. Remember you are not alone. Tell someone you trust how you feel. Make sure you get the basics right – make time for yourself, eat as healthily as possible, get plenty of sleep, exercise and connect with loved ones. These should help you to feel better. And if necessary, seek professional help.
If you are in need for immediate help, then click here for a list of crisis lines from around the world.
If you or someone you know is struggling with low mood, depression, anxiety or stress then Hypnotherapy can help. Contact me for more information.