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10 steps to make Happiness a habit

By SURUCHI SHAH
October 09, 2020 09:31 IST
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Remember that everything originates from a thought.
Everything is just a thought, until you act on it, and thoughts can be changed, says life coach Suruchi Shah.

Kindly note the image has only been posted for representational purposes. Photograph: Kind courtesy Pexels.com

As a life coach, most people come to me with one common goal -- I want to be HAPPY. 

Happiness seems to be like the pretty, colourful butterfly which is resting on a flower but as soon as we get too close, it flutters away only to settle on another flower.

It is right there but we can never get too close to it. Does happiness feel like that to you?

I want you to reflect on the times you felt happy, were they a result of an outer experience or object like a new car, new house, promotion, someone expressing their love first time to you, getting your first salary, getting good grades, going on a holiday etc.

We feel so happy but how long does this happiness last? 1 day or 1 week or maximum 10 days?

How amazing it would be, if we can learn to have that happy state of mind, if not all the time, at least most of the times.

Most of us feel happy as a result of an external trigger and that is the CATCH.

When our happiness is dependent on things beyond us then it is difficult to tap into it anytime we want. As long as we feel that our happiness is dependent only on external factors we are giving away our power of choice. How much can we control external situations ?

When a client tell me, 'I want to be happy!' My question to them is ,'What makes you happy?'

Believe it or not, most of us do not know what makes us happy.

What is happiness to you ? Is it having financial security, meaningful relationships, comfortable lifestyle, good health, successful career, feeling safe, peace of mind, absence of sadness or ALL of the above.

Most of us suffer from the 'WHEN Syndrome':

  • When I will get good grades, I will be happy,
  • When I will find the right partner, I will be happy,
  • When I get married I will be happy,
  • When I get my dream job, I will be happy,
  • When I have bought my own house, I will be happy,
  • When my children get married, I will be happy,
  • When my children have their own children, I will be happy...

We keep postponing our happiness to some future event and this can go on until the last stage of life, when we realise 'Life has just gone by, I did not make time to be happy.'

Happiness is in the NOW, while drinking that hot cup of coffee in the evening, looking at the kids play in the park, smiling at your reflection in the mirror, enjoying the rains, watching the sunset, catching up with an old friend, watching the flowers bloom in the balcony, a smile from your neighbor, hearing your favorite song on the radio, do you think these things can give you happiness?

Happiness certainly is not the absence of sadness or pain either, rather it is the ability to experience a wide range of emotions at the same time, and be able to look beyond your challenging emotions and focus on what is working in your life.

Most of us believe that happiness should come naturally to us but that rarely happens and like any good habit like getting up early in the morning, exercising, eating healthy, reading books etc, it needs to be worked upon and practiced consistently until it becomes a natural behavior.

Do you want to make that choice?

Do you want to make happiness a habit? Do you want to be happy while working towards your goals?

If yes, the below 10 steps can help you increase your happiness index.

1. Practice gratitude

Gratitude is the like the magic potion which can change your life.

Whenever you are feeling angry or sad, say one thing you are grateful for and see how your state of mind changes.

It is not possible to feel grateful and unpleasant at the same time.

When practiced daily, it can help you remain in a calm state of mind without any external triggers of happiness.

Every night before going to bed write about 5 things you are grateful for and see the magic unfold.

2. Take responsibility

If you get a promotion then it is because of your hard work and dedication but if your marriage is not working then it is because your partner is not understanding.

We need to take full responsibility of everything in our life, things that our working and not working for us.

With responsibility comes power and accountability which will never let you feel helpless like a victim.

3. Focus on progress not perfection

Many of us can become obsessed with being perfect and we miss out the happiness along the journey.

Perfectionism is a myth and there is no real way of measuring it.

Perfection focuses on what's not working and the flaws while progress looks at what is working, the improvements and the discoveries.

Focus and appreciate your progress and see your happiness index rise.

4. Practice journaling

Each day before going to bed spend 5 minutes to write about your day -- your thoughts and feelings.

This will ensure that you have emptied your mind and heart and you will sleep better.

Journaling will increase your self-awareness, help take better decisions and understand your emotional triggers. This is a must!

5. Accept yourself, unconditionally 

This is THE MOST important key to be happy -- learn to accept yourself for who you are without any conditions.

Ask yourself these questions: What do you I think of myself? Do I like myself? Can I accept myself just as I am?

Learn to love yourself. It may sound cliché, but if you can do this, nothing can make you unhappy because you will value yourself above everything else.

6. See the BIG picture

When we are struggling with some difficult thoughts or feelings, we tend to focus only on that and ignore everything else that could be going good.

We can get so fixated with our problems that we start generalizing -- 'This ALWAYS happens with me,' 'NOBODY understands me,' 'ALL men are insensitive.'

These are generalisations which can distort our thinking and stop us from seeing the bigger real picture.

Is it that 'nobody' has ever understood you or is ONLY THIS partner not understanding ?

Maybe your relationship is not working but your career could be going well, you have fantastic friends, you do not have to worry about your next meal etc, focus on the bigger picture.

7. Practice kindness

There is a misconception that we give others because they need it.

The fact is that we give because it makes us happy.

The happiness you feel when you give without a reason is much more compared to when you receive it. Try it to know it.

Appreciate people, smile at strangers, give genuine compliments, say hello to your colleagues, these simple acts of kindness can impact your happiness.

Take some time to volunteer and teach the skills you have to someone who may need it.

Each day spare a minute to send good wishes to anyone in the world and make that a habit.

8. Spend some time in silence

Spend at least 10 minutes every day in silence to be with yourself without any devices and distractions.

This can help you connect with your own self and go inward.

9. Stop taking yourself so seriously

Our DNA is 96% chimpanzee and we have complicated our lives by applying our mind to the remaining 4%.

Most of us are way too serious, too often, turning everyday situations into problems, constantly on the lookout to complain and worry about a bunch of things that simply do not matter.

Remember that everything originates from a thought, everything is just a thought, until you act on it, and thoughts can be changed.

Do not take your thoughts too seriously, if it does not serve you, just laugh it off.

10. Be creative 

Creativity fosters happiness. Have you seen children are constantly creating something from blocks, boxes, colours, clay, paper etc.

They can create something out of nothing and they sure know how to be happy.

Spend some time fostering your creativity -- cook something, draw, dance do anything that pushes you to be imaginative.

Suruchi Shah is life coach, psychology counsellor, NLP practioner, art-based therapist, life-skills trainer and mindfulness practioner.

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