We’re all seeking happiness, right? The very first lines of the American Declaration of Independence say “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
And we pursue happiness like a prize to be won, a great destination, a goal. We live in a very goal-driven society. How well we’re doing at any one time is being measured by a set of targets that we must meet to be normal. And failing to achieve those targets is a failure….. but should it be?
Over my year of writing this blog ( a year on Friday, that is) I have been happier than ever before. And I have never been further from having goals to achieve than before. I seem to be ambling through my life on a path that has markers, but no fixed end point. I don’t have targets to achieve for work (you must get so many letters typed today, so many clients in the office, so much filing done by 5pm) nor in my personal life, beyond the desire to write my Christmas book by the end of September, but that could go back to October if needed. I am surprisingly free of all ambition at the moment.
That has its good and bad side. On the plus side, I have very little stress. My physical needs are met by my wages and the Husband’s wages, so we’re not in want (nor are we very rich), my emotional needs are very much fulfilled by family, friends and Facebook through the Hygge Nook. And my intellectual needs enjoy writing, quizzing and decent conversations when I get the chance. On a scale of 1 to 10, where 10 is ecstatic, I’m about an 8.5 or a 9 most days.
From what I’ve seen or read in personal growth books and articles, there are five steps we could all take to increase our environmental happiness. I know I am happier when I pay attention to keeping these in my life.
It only takes one person to smile more and others will follow. I can’t promise that you will ever get anyone to smile on the London Underground, which must be the most dismal place in the world, but walking around the street or in shops, a smile to a customer or to the sales assistant will get a smile back. And, like a Random Act of Kindness, its reverberations will spread out. Go on… put someone else in a good mood and see what happens.
Not happy? Smile anyway. The act of smiling fools your body into creating those feel-good emotions and will make you feel better, even if only for a little while.
2. Find your Frugal Joys.
What do you like doing that is cheap or free? If you can find the good things in life and save money, then that’s a double goody for you. Look for the people who make you happy over the water cooler, the natural wonders that give you a feeling of awe and are there for the taking and the small things in life that make you smile. If you need a lesson in experiencing life in the little things, then watch Amelie. Yes, it’s in French and could do with subtitle, but the little pleasures remain the same.
What are your Little Pleasures? Make a list, and make sure to experience them often.
3. Aim for the Balance that Suits You.
There’s a lot of talk about work/life balance. The Danes are often held up as the paragons of work/life balance, leaving the office at 4 or 5pm, getting quality family time and having active social lives as well. You know your own needs best. If you love your work, and you have the time free to become absorbed by it, then working long hours can be a pleasure and make you happy (see Find your Flow Activity) but if you’re not happy at work, then spending any more time than necessary there can be a torture.
And if you have a young family, then cutting back on hours for the next few years to give them the life they need may be an idea. You can always increase your working hours again when they are old enough to handle it. The balance changes throughout your life, and you need to be willing to adapt as you go along.
You need to keep home-work balanced, but that does mean that when you’re at work you give it the full 110% percent beloved by sportspeople. No slacking! Work hard, break well, play hard.
4. Find your Flow Activity.
Do you ever lose yourself in an activity and find that time has passed without you noticing it, you were fully immersed in the task at hand, and that when you stop doing it, you feel better and happier? Then you’ve found a flow activity. I can spend hours writing, drawing, sewing or crocheting and these are all recognised flow activities. So, too, are many sports. Runners often talk about achieving the flow point, when they don’t have to focus on the style,and can just run. It’s almost like a meditative state, and the benefits it has for you are much the same. Lower blood pressure, less stress, a more positive outlook on life.
If you don’t have a flow activity, then it could be worth finding something that acts like one. Singing, dancing, reading, crafting, walking, running or swimming. Try a few out to find which one gets you feeling best when it’s over. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi writes that “Almost any activity can produce flow provided the relevant elements are present, so it is possible to improve the quality of life by making sure that the conditions of flow are a constant part of everyday life.”
5. Look After Your Relationships.
The happiest people in the world have friends and family to love them and whom they love back.
“If you want to know the measure of a man, you simply count his friends” is quite simplistic, because what you really should seek to know is the depth of his friendships. Friendship and all relationships have to be built using time, openness, acceptance and above all love for each other. Make time for your nearest and dearest, do things with them and forgive them their little foibles.
You’re after healthy relationships with a fair blend of give and take, so don’t ever put up with being used or taken for granted. You are worth more than that.
And there you have it, some recommended ways to find more happiness in your life. They’re not complicated, expensive or require specialised equipment but they will make a difference to life if we let them.
In my year of writing Hygge, the biggest surprise to me has been actually getting two books written. Both my books are available now, 50 Ways to Hygge the British Way is available in Paperback and Kindle version and so is How to Hygge Your Summer, again in Paperback and Kindle form.
I’m currently working on Happy Hygge Christmas, which should be available for pre-order sometime next week and is due to be released on 29th September.
If you purchase any book through the links on this page, I get a couple of pence extra per copy, and if you’ve already read my books and enjoyed them, please leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads. I have a Goodreads Author’s Page!
****How to Hygge the British Way Blog isn’t monetised. I have taken the decision that I want to remain neutral and not to promote things just because. I will only ever review items that I have bought myself, that I would have bought or that I think will help to promote hygge in a busy life. To do this, I need support. Even just the price of a coffee adds up to a book over time, and it means I can stay independent. Would you help? Please consider clicking through to paypal.me/HyggeJem and leaving even a small amount. I’d be very grateful. Thank you.***