Top 10 Tips – Winter Happiness
Most of us want to become and stay happy. Scientists have been studying happiness and wellbeing for over 20 years and have some suggestions about how can live lives which ‘feel’ good and which go well. Here are 10 suggestions for happiness this Winter:
– Know what matters
Knowing what matters to you in life, your values, can help you design and live a life in harmony with what’s important to you. For some people this may be family, making a difference and learning, for others it might be fame, money, sex and travel. Our values change over time, and it can be worthwhile to get a better understanding of them.
– Refresh your goals
Some people’s goals are past their sell-by date. They are not going to happen. Failure to give up on unachievable goals can be a source of unhappiness. Tips for having a good personal ‘goal structure’ include: Having goals in more than one area of life (sport, health, relationships, business, hobbies, etc), having approach goals (what you are moving towards, not away from), having goals in line with your values (see 1 above) and having a mixture of short, medium and long term goals. Because positive emotions seem to flow from making progress towards goals and not necessarily achieving them, this can help you experience a nice flow of positive emotions over time.
– Have plans and meaningful projects
You are much more likely to make progress towards your goals if you have plans and projects. You know from your paying career that progress rarely happens spontaneously – you need to take action, to make things happen. So too in life. You need to invest the time and effort, schedule activities, get stuff done and reflect on your progress.
– Make and deepen connections with other people
Humans are social animals in their very nature. Loneliness and feeling excluded is painful because in our evolutionary past, being kick out of the group or tribe inevitable led to death. Friendship, intimacy, feeling connected, feeling accepted – these things all seem part of the good life. But they can take work. So put your phone down, be interested in the people around you, and develop your listening skills. This will pay massive dividends over time.
– Help others
Humans are very co-operative beings too. We don’t have sharp teeth, claws or thick fur – and yet we can feed ourselves and survive in so many different climates. And that is because we are super-co-operators. So find a way – or multiple ways – to be helpful and valuable to others. These bonds of trust and ‘reciprocity’ not only feel good but will form networks that will help you live your best possible life over time.
– Cultivate self-acceptance, not self-esteem
Self-esteem can be based on ranking and status. It can be quite fragile and need defending. Rather than cultivate self-esteem, a better strategy may be to cultivate self-acceptance. Recognising that – like everyone else on the planet – you are not perfect, you are very fallible, to have made and will continue to make mistakes, and many people won’t like you – and that’s OK. That’s normal. Just keen doing the things on this list, make progress in important life areas, live in harmony with your values, and try to stop rating and labelling your ‘self’ in terms of it’s ‘worth’ or ranking against other people.
– Get into flow
Flow is the pleasant psychological state we experience when we get lost in a project or task, when we become less self-conscious and lose track of time. Different people experience state doing different things – gardening, cooking, repairing a car, decorating, playing sport, paying a video game, making art, etc. The conditions for getting into flow include: having an uninterrupted chunk of time; having a challenge which requires skill and getting some feedback on progress. So create the conditions for spending time in flow – but try to ensure this isn’t spending give hours a day playing video games. (There are better activities for your happiness and wellbeing than that!)
– Spend time in contact with nature
Several studies have shown that spending time in contact with nature is good for us. The kind of environments in which we now live in commonly very different from those we evolve in – which would have included big open skies, hills and meadows, trees and forests, lakes and rivers. So give yourself a detox and go walk in the woods, go kayaking, swim in a lake, climb a mountain. Even small doses each day can make a difference – go read a book in the park.
– Seek help
We all run into problems from time to time, and experience problems and difficulties we can’t solve on our own. This is normal and natural. Don’t get held back by unhelpful belief’s like ‘I need to be strong’ or ‘asking for help is a weakness’ or ‘I should be able to figure this out own my own’. Talk with someone. Get their opinion. Let another mind with a different set of experience and skills help you get this aspect of your life back on track – whether its finance, health, relationships, legal difficulty, or painful feelings of depression or anxiety or loneliness. Reach out to someone.
– Develop some psychological skills
Some skills which can help you experience good wellbeing include the ability to bring yourself back to the here and now when your mind is wandering, the ability to notice your thoughts as things which come and go – rather like sounds – and gain some separation from them, rather than constantly being lost in your thought and pushed around by them, and the ability to allow yourself to have unwanted feelings and emotions rather than trying to block them out or deny them. These skills are sometimes collectively known as mindfulness skills.
A reminder all RPA members can access 24/7 support via the Cognacity confidential helpline on: 01373 858 080.