Happiness is a lasting state of mind where you feel that life is generally good and where you experience frequent positive emotions such as joy, delight, enthusiasm, interest, curiosity, vitality, pride and contentment. Happiness does not mean walking around with a big grin all the time – happy people experience a range of positive and negative emotion. We all want to be happy but when asked “What does happiness mean to you?” most of us don’t have a clear answer. There are many things that you can do to improve your happiness immediately and throughout your life.
Define what happiness means to you by asking:
• What does true happiness mean for me? Think about all areas of your life – physical, emotional and mental health, family, friends, relationships, career, recreation, community involvement and finances. (Hint: while it is important to have your basic needs met and to have a sense of security, research shows that the new shoes, the bigger house, the new car or the higher income do not bring long-term happiness).
• How will I know when I get there? (keeping in mind the old saying ‘happiness is a journey, not a destination’). It is important to have an endpoint in mind even if that endpoint changes over time.
• Does my definition depend on someone else (I will be happy when I meet the right partner), something out of my control (I will be happy when I win the lottery), something unlikely (I will be happy when my parents admit they were wrong) or things that are always in the future (I will be happy when I finish school)? If so, it is important to rework your definition so that your happiness is based on things that are within your control. Choose to be happy. Once you recognize that happiness is a choice, and realize that you can choose to react to things positively or negatively, you have taken a big step towards becoming happy.
• Give yourself permission to feel good and enjoy your life.
• Find things that you are grateful for.
• Monitor negative self-talk and change your language to be kind and forgiving to yourself.
• Look for silver linings in negative situations.
Take care of yourself both physically and mentally by exercising, eating regular, nutritious meals and snacks, getting adequate sleep, taking time for relaxation, doing things you enjoy, and having things to look forward to. By prioritizing self-care you are automatically fostering happiness.
Nurture relationships. Too busy to get together with a friend? Then chances are you always will be. Research shows that social relationships have the highest correlation with happiness so schedule in some time for coffee dates with people you have neglected.
Acts of kindness also correlate highly with happiness. Not only will doing nice things for others make you feel better about yourself – you’ll probably get kindness in return.
Take control of your environment. Surround yourself with happy, nurturing people, things you love, and an organized work space. Whenever possible avoid people or situations that cause you to feel stressed and negative. Evaluate whether your routine and lifestyle is working for you and if not, what needs to change. Sometimes small changes can make a big difference.
Laugh. Don’t take yourself too seriously. “Laughter is a marvelous medicine with no side effects. It is the great tranquilizer of life. In all stages of laughter, the brain releases endorphins, those feelgood compounds that increase your sense of peace and serenity. Laughter even stops hyperventilation, regulates digestion, blood pressure, and boosts immunity function.” (from “Be Happy: Tips to Banish Bad Moods” by T. Satiroglu).
Achieve. Find things you are passionate about and engage in them. Working hard and reaching goals creates satisfaction. Procrastination might feel good in the moment but overall it creates stress and guilt. Having long-term goals as well as realistic daily goals enhances satisfaction with life. However make sure your whole life is not about achieving goals. Balance is important.
Take risks. Trying new things, even if it is just doing something differently, makes life seem fresher. Challenge yourself to learn something new every day or to take a new risk every month.
Stay in the present. Worry is focused in the future and guilt is focused in the past. Neither help you to move forward. Ask “What is the best use of my time right now?” and then follow through. Taking action steps towards something you are in control of is a confidence and happiness booster. Staying stuck on things that are out of your control is deflating.
You are OK just the way you are. Perfectionists are usually disappointed in themselves and this leads to self-criticism which then fosters more negativity. Strive to do the best you can under the circumstances and forgive yourself when it isn’t perfect.
Many factors can contribute to happiness. If feeling good is a constant struggle for you, if you often feel depressed or anxious, or if you have other personal concerns it may be helpful to seek help from a professional. Personal counselling is free, confidential and available to all currently registered NAIT students.
If you would like further assistance, book an appointment:
Main Campus, Room W-111PB in the HP Centre: Counsellors are available from 8-4:30 with extended hours for apprentices. Book in person or by phoning 780-378-6133.
Souch Campus: Counsellor available Thursdays from 10-4. Book by calling 780- 378-6133 or in person in Room Z-153.
Patricia Campus: Counsellor available Tuesdays from 10-4. Book by calling 780-378-6133.
– Margaret Marean, NAIT Student Counselling