You have probably heard the adage ‘Happiness is a choice’. Whilst, I believe this to be true (and I’d add, we are also solely responsibility for that happiness) I think it can mislead people into thinking that as long as they choose to be happy, then happiness will occur naturally and spontaneously. This is a belief and attitude that we (Positive Psychology Learning) have come frequently come across when delivering our Positive Psychology courses and during our consultation work within organisations.
Positive Thinking vs Positive Action
Positive Psychology is an evidence based, scientific approach to what makes people flourish and be at their best, but many people confuse Positive Psychology with ‘positive thinking’. Despite the advice given in books written by self-help gurus, simply thinking positive thoughts is not enough to create positive results. If you want to create positive change in your life then you will need to take positive action, as without it the desire just becomes wishful thinking. Worryingly, there is evidence that positive affirmations can actually do harm to people with low self-esteem when the affirmation is not congruent with how they truly feel. In other words, an unhappy person who adopts the habit of repeating ‘I am happy, I am happy!’ may end up feeling even less happy despite their positive intention. If you want to be happy, then do the things that actually make you happy.
This is a very simple exercise that will help you discover what will really help you to feel happier. Get a piece of paper and pen and set a timer for 10 minutes. Without overthinking this (try to write constantly) write a list of all the things that bring you joy. Don’t worry how insignificant they may seem, for instance if you enjoy a cup of coffee, playing with you pet or doing the crossword, write it down. After 10 minutes take a look at the list and put a circle around all the things that you can do without going to much trouble. Then do at least one of them immediately. You see, happiness is not about being euphoric, it’s about doing small acts everyday that bring you joy and pleasure.
What Is Most Common
There may be things on your list that are difficult to achieve and/or cost a lot of money but most commonly people come up with a number of things that are easy to fulfil each day. The problem is that many people overlook them and don’t make the effort to do them. Rectify this by purposefully choosing to do things that you have identified as ways to feel good and savour them. If you like listening to a particular radio show, having a bubble bath, talking to your friend, having fresh flowers in the house, then make them a priority in your day, everyday and you will start to feel much happier. It is the accumulation of these tiny, sometimes imperceptible acts that make the difference between life feeling average and life feeling great.
Capturing Moments of Joy
I try to capture a moment of joy most days by using the camera on my phone and I upload the images to Pinterest. This offers me several advantages – when I want to feel happy in the moment I can flip through my photos and enjoy and savour past experiences, I can remind myself of what makes me feel happy and at the end of the year I will be able to put them together in 1-2 minute video of my ‘best bits’. The process has taught me and others who have joined me (*details below) of what really matters in my life and the things that constantly bring me joy.