Admittedly, every day should be International Day of Happiness. Or, maybe it shouldn’t be on a Monday. Whatever your opinion on the annual celebration is, it’s been marked by the United Nations since 2013 as a global way to recognise the importance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations.
No matter which part of the world you’re from, how old you are, or where you live, chances are you aspire to lead a happy, fulfilling life. But it’s all too easy to lose track of true contentment in the hustle and bustle of modern life, where consumption is key and having a jam-packed diary is a sign of success.
Here are some of our favourite ways to make your life a little more joyful – for the long term!
6 top tips for leading a happier life
1. Accept that happiness is temporary
Happiness is marketed as a one-time, permanent thing. Once you have it (because you’ve purchased that colouring book/ new car/ holiday to Cancun), you have it for life. And if you don’t? You’re clearly doing happiness wrong and need to buy something else to feel complete. It’s all wrong, and it’s all to keep you buying and buying.
There’s no shame in admitting that true happiness, comes and goes. Besides, if you spend all your time chasing happiness and feeling inadequate because you’re not permanently glowing with glee at all the latest and greatest ‘happy-making’ things, contentment will always evade you.
As Fran Lebowitz says in her documentary, Public Speaking: “We live in a world where people think happiness is a condition, but it’s not. It’s a sensation. It’s momentary. So do I have little moments of happiness? Yes. Is that my general condition? No.”
2. Remember to take a proper break
Do you ever feel truly refreshed after taking a break? Most of us don’t, and it’s making us stressy and miserable.
Jelena Goranovic, who organises Hove Stressbusters, reckons social media is the culprit. While you may see scrolling through your Facebook timeline as a leisurely passtime, your smartphone session is sending your stress levels skyrocketing. Jelena says: “We never have breaks in the way that we are constantly processing information and that’s where technology comes in. Scrolling through Facebook is particularly stressful, especially as people keep posting about politics in the past couple of years. It’s not allowing your brain to rest, it’s bringing in more information. It’s not allowing the body and mind to rest.”
In order to solve your break-based woes, Jelena recommends scheduling in regular me-time and sticking to it like it’s a business meeting. Finding what relaxes you, be it running or reading, is key. But so is making sure you actually find time for your relaxation; it’s all too easy to say you enjoy a hot bath or a yoga session, but you won’t de-stress unless you practice relaxation regularly.
So, if you are frequently eating your lunch at your desk, working for hours without checking the clock, or even deliberately avoiding taking some downtime, now is the day to rethink your breaks. Taking a break isn’t a sign of weakness – it’s a move to put yourself first.
3. Check if you’re feeling present
With so much going on around us all the time and to-do lists never fully ticked off, it’s easy to get caught up with living in the future, dwelling in the past, or only ever truly being ‘there’ online.
Ask yourself when the last time you truly savoured the present moment was. When did you last notice your breathing, or pay attention to what your body was telling you? How long has it been since you talked to someone without glancing at your phone?
Make time to appreciate the little things that are happening right here, and right now. Take in as much of the day as you possibly can – the sights, the smells, the sounds, the sensations – because you’ll only get one chance to experience it.
4. Overcome your fears
In cult-classic Donnie Darko, Donnie is asked to rank how he is feeling on a scale of fear to love. Though over-simplified, it is true that a life filled with fear is a life devoid of love and full of judgements and ‘what-ifs’.
Expert Tess Marshall says the only difference between you and those you see as more successful is that they are prepared to constantly work their way through their fears. She stresses that fear is only temporary, and the more we delve into our fears, the easier they are to overcome.
5. Ditch your complaining habit
Repeated actions become part of your daily mindset, so if you’re constantly complaining, it’s going to bring you down – not to mention others around you. As Steven Hawking once said: “People don’t have time for you if you’re angry or always complaining.”
We may not be able to change the world in an instant, but changing our reaction can be just as powerful.
Placing your happiness in external factors, and blaming everything but yourself when things go wrong, is a sure-fire way to destroy your confidence. When you quit complaining, you take charge of your own life and become the leader of your own feelings.
This isn’t to say you should never call the customer service department when you’ve been let down, but rather to get you to think about why you’re REALLY constantly moaning about the weather.
6. Consume less, create more
Creating more and consuming less is the key to minimalism. As per tip number one, consuming yet never feeling satisfied is a happiness killer. But you can’t want for more if you’re satisfied with what you have, and there’s no better way to connect with what you have than by creating it yourself.
If you don’t let marketers create a void in your happiness, you’ll have no burning desire to fill it with material goods. Moreover, it is likely the ‘void’ was a need to create more all along. So be sure to write as well as read, to make art in addition to enjoying it, and leave a legacy as well as learning from others.
There is someone out there who needs the creativity you have stuck within you!
And if that doesn’t work?
You could always try moving to Hove or Wadhurst, seeing as they’re some of the happiest places to live in the south-east!