I have researched a lot around the topic of self-development this year and I have found some extremely useful strategies for refilling my happiness tank, daily. Solve for Happy, by Mo Gawdat is one of those books that encourage you to view an old topic through a new lens. Solve for Happy is an extremely refreshing approach to implementing and maintaining unshakable happiness behaviours that will get you through even the toughest life events. I have reviewed key areas of this book in depth in my blog “That little voice in your head is not you!”, but for the purpose of this post – I will touch upon one simple exercise that I hope will add value to your day.
I think it’s important at this stage to share with you what happiness means to me. Over the years I have chased happiness – I have moved countries in search of happiness, changed jobs, changed boyfriends and I have even tried to change myself – all in the hope of finding that elusive permanent state of happiness. Have you heard how many people say: “When I get that wage increase, I’ll be happy” … “When I start travelling, I’ll be happy” … when, when, when…
Have you noticed how many people are waiting for future events to finally become happy?
What I have learnt, however, is that happiness is not a permanent state or a final destination. One moment your heart can be flooded with an overwhelming feeling of happiness and you think – finally, I’m happy. Then the next moment, your world can come crashing down around you, or somebody can hurt you and suddenly, that happiness is gone. Does that mean you were never happy? No, it means that happiness is fleeting; it’s a collection of moments that come and go. Happiness is when you’re standing at the beach, breathing in the fresh air with the sound of the waves clearing your mind. It is that moment in the morning when you’re buried under the duvet, warm and snug, and then you realise it’s the weekend. Happiness is a moment and a moment is impermanent – as all feelings are. Therefore, the key to happiness should be identifying your happiness triggers so that you can incorporate more moments of happiness into your life.
One of Mo’s suggestions for promoting happiness is exactly that – identifying those activities that invite happiness into your day. He encourages readers to complete a simple exercise called “I feel happy when…” The idea is to list all the activities that make you happy and then prioritise them in order of importance. This has multiple benefits. Firstly, it forces you to actually acknowledge those activities, people and areas of your life that bring you happiness. From there, it then encourages you to reflect on those activities etc. that you need to prioritise.
From a vast amount of reflection over the previous months, I already had a good grasp on the factors driving my happiness, however, what I found most useful was how it helped me to categorise them to encourage me to incorporate them all into my life. Do you find that your career is blossoming but your relationships are lacking? Do you find you whole-heartedly invest in your relationships but to the detriment of your career or hobbies? By writing down what makes you happy, you can begin to reflect upon how much time you commit to each activity. What items in your list are missing from your day on a regular basis? This list will help you to re-prioritise your life around what makes you happy – thereby, filling up your happiness bucket.
The beauty of this list is that no one needs to know what you’re writing. It could be absolutely anything, but you must be honest with yourself – what makes you happy?
Mo explains that he works on this list every week: adding things in, reprioritising activities. Even just the act of completing this activity makes you feel better, he says. By acknowledging what makes you happy, you are showing gratitude for all that is good in your life and there is an overwhelming amount of research that identifies gratitude as a key factor in cultivating happiness.
Mo recommends writing your happiness list on an index card and carrying this around with you. If you have moments of sadness, stress or anxiety, take out the card and reframe your mind set with thoughts of those activities or people. You don’t even have to wait until you feel sad to reflect upon your list – do this daily and you will find you will automatically recall the list in your mind when you begin to feel low.
Another way I have adapted this method to improve my mood has been by writing a list of achievements. Every time I feel anxious about where I am in life, what I have achieved and what I am doing, I write down what I have achieved so far this year. I list things I am proud of and by the end of it, I already feel reassured that actually, life isn’t so bad after all.
Write your list and be honest with yourself. How much do you prioritise each item on your list? Grade them by importance and ask yourself if you are focusing on the things that make you most happy. If you’re not, make some life changes – today.
Remember, happiness is felt in moments. Enjoy each moment and remember that happiness is not designed to last. The joy of life can be found in the adventures you take that welcome those moments of happiness.