It’s International Happiness Day today! And I want to share with you why happiness is one of the ideas at the heart of my work. Plus I’m going to give you my top three ways of getting my own happiness levels back on track (and they’re things my clients love too).
In 2011, the UN adopted a resolution that happiness is a ‘fundamental human goal’, and urging its members to prioritise and share work around it. Making 20 March an annual celebration of it is a sign of just how importantly it takes this work.
Happiness isn’t something that just happens, or doesn’t happen. As with positivity, I’ve realised that there’s a lot about happiness which is about a practice, not a fixed state (here’s what I wrote last year about it). It’s about us taking time to reflect on what happiness means, and how we can achieve it.
It’s certainly true that happiness is much harder to achieve in situations of profound human suffering. We need governments, nations and organisations to take real, practical action against wide-scale inequality, poverty, illness and environmental disaster.
But for those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to have more choice about our circumstances, there’s a great deal we can do.
A happiness admission
I’m going to confess here: I can be awful about prioritising my happiness for its own sake. It can feel like a luxury when I’m swamped by to-do lists, work, school memos, the need to keep us all fed and reasonably on time.
Even the things that should fill me with joy – writing, interviewing, coaching, or simply doing Lego with my son – can feel a chore if I approach them in that way.
But I know that when I make time to take my own happiness seriously, things happen.
- I’m more creative, more productive. I get more done, and what I create is simply better.
- I’m more insightful, more curious and more interesting. That makes me a better coach, parent, friend and partner – all things that directly impact other people.
- I sleep better, eat better, take better care of myself… which of course then helps me to be be happier.
It’s pretty clear that being happier makes me a better person in the world. And that’s why I’m such a big fan of making it a deliberate part of my life.
My top 3 happiness short-cuts
Although different things are important to me at different points, here are the top three go-to happiness resources for those days when I realise I’ve been neglecting that side of things.
Now, none of these are ground-breaking! They’re deliberately simple. But they happen only when I make them. They all take a decision, and a few minutes of energy to make happen. But they’re the start of the spiral of becoming more energised and happier.
I’d love to know which of them you use, and which you feel you want to try.
The rational part of my brain loves the fact that practically every piece of research on this confirms that gratitude works. Being deliberately, consciously grateful – and even asking yourself the question, ‘what am I grateful for?’ – helps you feel more positive, more connected to others, and simply happier. One of my favourite tools is a little app called Grid Diary, which keeps me on track with it (or here’s a good alternative if you’re not on iOS).
Social connection is such a huge factor in happiness that relationships were the UN’s theme for the 2015 Day of Happiness. I’m extremely fortunate to have very supportive family, friends and connections. But it’s still easy in the bustle of life to go for several days without a real connection. When I start to feel that sense of isolation, I make a deliberate act of arranging something – getting in touch with someone I haven’t seen for ages to organise a coffee, inviting a family from school over one evening, or even booking a friend for ‘phone dates’ after the kids are in bed. Nothing in the diary? That’s a sure sign I need to put more energy into this area.
3. Making active progress on a creative dream
I’m an unashamed creative dreamer. I love ideas. I love the thrill of what could be. But sometimes I need to force myself to sit down and take action on an idea that’s been hanging around for too long. It can be very simple: scheduling writing time for something that isn’t obviously work, or booking a theatre ticket. It can be mapping out the plot-line that I’ve been carrying around in my head for weeks, or deciding on what colour I want to paint my office. in the end, we want to achieve things, and happiness is harder to achieve if we can’t ever turn our dreams into reality.
Over to you! I always love to know more about what you do.
What you turn to when you feel your own happiness levels dropping? What small thing do you do to help you lift your energy, and perhaps give you the positivity you need to do the big things? How can you make every day your own International Happiness Day?
Leave a comment below, because writing things down is a great way of making your own intentions and practices more real, and we can all share.