Some people would define happiness as pleasure; but pleasure is fleeting. We want to redefine happiness. We can go back to the ancient Greek definition of happiness: The joy that you feel when you are striving toward your potential.
How to be an optimist
People often focus on the negative as a default, such as, “I’ll be happy when work is over today.” If you do that, you are relegating the rest of your time at work to negativity.
The top 10% of happy people are not happy all the time. This morning you have a choice: you can look at the emails in your inbox and see it as a drudgery or as a way to connect with other people. If people choose to focus on the positive, you are better at dealing with that inbox and feel better after. If you choose to see washing dishes as an act of love toward your family, you might feel rejuvenated afterward. First you make the choice to be happy, then you will improve your day, improve your life.
When negative things happen, they trick your brain, making you think that things will always be this way. A pessimist looks at something negative and says, “this is always happening, this is going to ruin my entire day.” An optimist sees it as, “this too will pass.” Their brain is fueled by gratitude and positivity.
What are some easy steps we can take to make ourselves happier?
Some things you can do starting now to make yourself and others happier:
- Train your brain for 21 days in a row to think of three new things you are grateful for. When you do this, your brain releases dopamine that floods your system, turning the learning centers on. Energy rises, every single educational and business outcome improves when you start out your morning on a positive note.
- Other habits: take two minutes to think of one meaningful experience you had the day before. Your brain thinks it experienced that great moment again. That’s the fastest intervention we’ve found.
- 15 minutes of exercise is the equivalent of taking an antidepressant.
- 2 minutes of meditation is also incredibly helpful.
- Write a 2-minute praising or thanking someone else.
- Social connection is as predictive of longevity as smoking, blood pressure, etc.
Improving our social relationships
The breadth, depth, and meaning in your relationships are all important. In terms of breadth, expand the number of people you smile at in the street and the supermarket; this creates a feedback loop of positivity. For depth: really be present with your children, your spouse.
What can we do today to make massive ripples and impacts to improve other people’s happiness?
- Write a two-minute text or email messages praising someone you know.
- Take the idea that happiness is a choice and share the knowledge that you are learning from Live Happy to someone else you know. Share some positive research with someone you know.
- Be the first to say good morning, hello—give a smile.