Written by: Nancy Sawyer, Executive Contributor
Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.
It’s a fact, people who feel happy are healthier and live longer. Happy people also attract other happy people, and great opportunities, into their lives.
So how do we create happiness?
Current marketing trends and western society pushes that money, cars, fancy clothes and large homes will make us happy. Social media pushes that having a perfect body will make us happy. Although working out does oftentimes help to create feelings of happiness, none of these things actually make us happy long term. Read on for why.
Happiness is a feeling, one that comes and goes. The pressure to be happy all the time is a concerning trend, and it’s easy to see how it’s affecting people. We think something is wrong with us if we are not happy 24/7, yet let’s be honest – that level of happy is not sustainable.
While happiness is not something that we can have every minute of the day, we can add more happiness to our life by making certain choices and understanding a few things.
Before I tell you how to hack your happiness, I want you to know that we’re new at this pursuit of happiness, relatively speaking. The thought of living happy lives began taking center stage during The Enlightenment of the 18th Century.
Since then, society and marketing campaigns have become more and more influential, encouraging the pursuit of more, bigger and better everything. High-end products and unhealthy choices that offer us immediate gratification are dangled in front of our faces. Brands continuously attempt to convince us that the next purchase is the one that will finally fulfill all of our dreams. I know you’re smarter than to fall for that, yet many of us still get drawn in and find ourselves surrounded by stuff, wondering what’s missing in our lives.
Why is this? Well, first off, material things don’t make us happy. The science of happiness shows that our mood is elevated when dopamine and serotonin, the so-called happiness chemicals, are released. There are many activities that release these chemicals, such as buying something new, getting likes on social media, and receiving a hug. In the interest of hacking happiness that is sustainable and healthy for our budget and brain…this is what you can do: Identify for yourself what makes you happy. Note that you are a unique individual with your own unique makeup. Many people love playing with puppies, but if that’s not your jam, it’s perfectly ok. There are many ways to hack into your happiness. We do have the ability to create happy! Let’s go!
Here are 5 ways that you can hack your happiness and elevate your mood.
1. Identify the things that make you feel good (then make time to do them!)
Ok sit for a bit and put on your thinking cap. When was the last time you felt super happy? Think of a time when you were absolutely thrilled to be alive. What were you doing? What happened just before that feeling? For me, one of the things that makes me absolutely thrilled to be alive is attending an outdoor music festival, in the daytime.
There is nothing better to me than listening to live music, outside in the sun, with a bunch of other people who love to do that too. The other thing I love to do is explore nature, especially seaside areas. I love discovering a little cove or saltwater inlet, and walking along the shoreline to wander and wonder. Think about it. What is it for you? Is it trying out a new recipe with your partner? Is it dancing in the living room with your kiddos? Is it skiing down a black diamond trail? What makes you feel like you are thrilled to be alive?
Once you’ve identified that…here’s what’s important: make time to do it. Make the plans, keep the plans, and make it happen. Time block these activities into your calendar. It doesn’t have to be every day or every weekend or even every month. Experiment with it. What is the ideal timeframe for you? How often do you need to do these activities to keep your mood elevated? Pay attention and know thyself. Also, if your ideal activities are not solo activities, reach out to others that you want to do these things with, so you have some accountability.
2. Ask yourself – “What is ONE thing that I know I need to do that would change my life for the better?”
Identify one thing that you know will help you live your best life. Do you want to get into a regular exercise routine? Eat healthier? Are you ready to start that business you’ve been dreaming of? Quit drinking alcohol for 30 days? Run a couch to 5K? Is it time to end a stale relationship? Get clear about what is holding you back from being your best self or living your best life, and then commit to doing something about it.
Committing to ourselves, and achieving personal goals, whether big or small, leads to feeling more confident and having more trust in ourselves. This leads to a feeling of control over our lives which leads to…you guessed it, feeling happier.
3. Ask yourself – “How do I want to feel every day?”
Ask yourself this question and write down your answers. Once you identify how you want to feel, you can then reverse engineer it, and become the architect of your life.
What are the feelings you want to feel? Accomplished? Eager? Well rested? Excited? Loved? Calm? Relaxed? After you write down your long list, identify which of these you can CREATE yourself. Then put steps in place to create them.
Yes, you can create feelings. If you want to feel calm, think about what makes you feel calm. For me, I feel calm when I am in a clean, organized environment, and have a calendar with time blocks and an organized “Action Items” list that I update daily. So in order for me to feel calm, I spend time organizing my tasks, scheduling my day, and cleaning my surroundings. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? If you often feel overwhelmed and out of control, take a look at your surroundings. You might identify chaos around you, in the form of piles of paper, clutter or other things out of place. If this is you, it may be time for some spring cleaning (but only if you want to feel happier).
For me, I also want to feel accomplished, and I know that I feel like a ROCK STAR after I work out or finish a 5-mile run. So guess what? I get out there. It starts my day off great and puts me in a rock-star mood. And since I’m being honest, when I get up in the morning, I rarely want to take that run or go to class. However, I know that I am chasing the feeling I get when I’m done, and it will be worth it. Reverse engineering is cool, and if that makes me a nerd, I’m fine with that.
4. Ask yourself – “What is in my life right now that is not serving me?”
Time for another self-check-in. What can you let go of, stop doing, or delegate to someone else? We all have things in our lives that we don’t like doing or that we don’t enjoy. If you dislike cleaning your home, maybe it’s worth it to hire a house cleaner so you can spend your time doing something else. If you think it costs too much, have you explored how much it costs? Is there something else you are paying for now (that cable bill, dinners out 2x a week, a fancy car, etc.) that you could cut back on to cover the thing that would make you happier? Life is about choices. We can’t necessarily have it all, but we do have choices. Is there a different choice you could make in your current circumstances that would make you happier? What can you change up? (Side note: It doesn’t have to be a lifetime commitment…try something new and see how it feels. If you feel happier, keep doing it. If you don’t feel happier, try something else.)
5. Release yourself from the pressure to be perfect.
Striving for perfection is a losing game. Here’s an interesting fact: in almost all cases, perfection is subjective. Your perception of what is perfect is unique to you, and the person next to you has a different view of what perfection looks like. Of course, if we are talking brain surgery or the space shuttle, it had better be spot on. But for most things in life, perfect isn’t necessary, nor is it agreed upon. Try this for a happiness hack: Instead of aiming for perfect, aim for doing your best. Regarding your best, know that a) your best is different from someone else’s best, and b) that your best is different every day. At the end of the day, ask yourself “Did I do my best today?” When the answer is “Yes,” that gives a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction, feelings that lead to feeling happy. As I always do, I’m going to turn this around to self-care. Caring for yourself allows you to show up to all the roles in your life as a great version of you. And when you show up as a great version of you over and over again, this leads to confidence, which leads to feeling pretty darn good about yourself (also known as happiness). Let go of the need for perfect, and strive to be the best version of you.
Nancy Sawyer, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine
Nancy Sawyer is a Self Care Advocate, Professional Pauser and a specialist in creating spaces for people to rediscover themselves. After experiencing a midlife emotional breakdown, and unable to find a therapist, she brought herself back from depression through her unique journaling and meditation practices. Survival mode ended, trauma healing began, and soon after she became a certified coach, with the goal of helping others to rediscover and rebuild themselves during and after life’s challenges. Ms. Sawyer has dedicated her life to studying how our upbringing and conditioning affect us as adults, and to creating life hacks that work with our own unique wiring. Helping people to shed their conditioning, step into authenticity, and take control of their lives is her passion. Her Permission To Pause Workshops offer a space for busy people to slow down, breathe and begin the process of reclaiming their power. A focus on mindful and intentional living practices is at the core of her life and work. Nancy lives in Falmouth, Massachusetts, with her two teens and is also a nature lover and a half marathon runner.