Would you believe me if I told you there was an ultimate recipe for happiness? Happiness has been a hot topic and very desirable for many ages. We see happiness impact the quality of living in many civilizations and cultures alike. Happiness plays a huge role in our every day lives as we search for it within our selves, our jobs, hobbies, and relationships. It is such an important experience to us that some people dedicate their entire careers to understanding the psychology and neuroscience behind happiness.
Combining ancient wisdom with new age research, there are many facets in ones live that impacts their level of happiness. Through my own experiences, I have created the ultimate recipe for happiness. Here is what you need to do to become your happiest, best self.
The Ultimate Recipe for Happiness
Step 1. Know that one size does not fit all
Happiness is not a cookie cutter emotion. As you already know, each individual experiences life based on their own combination of genetics, environment,and personalize experiences. No one event is identical, so the recipe for happiness will be unique to each person.
Step 2. Happiness is a state of mind, which we can control
Just like all of our emotions, happiness is our mental state associated with our nervous system. Through various chemical changes, our body produces thoughts, feelings, and behavioral responses. Growing up we have pleasurable experiences naturally and our body continues to seek this experience through pleasurable events. What we are not taught from a young age is that our happiness level can be controlled by us and not just external factors. We have the power to manage our emotions through our thoughts and our actions.
Daniel Gilbert, a social psychologist of Harvard University, found that people were able produce happiness in otherwise unhappy circumstances. Even though’s who had gone through some trauma, found that after a certain period of time, they were able to have a positive perspective on the “negative” event. Our psychological immune system allows us to create something called synthetic happiness. What he found is that we do not have to search for happiness, we synthesize it through our mindset.
When we are faced with circumstances we have no choice in, Gilbert found that we are able to synthesize happiness out being stuck. Essentially, we accept what we have and chose to be happy with that.
The idea of happiness being a state of mind can also be seen in the work done by Viktor Frankl. Viktor Frankl was a Psychiatrist in Auschwitz who wrote “Man’s Search For Meaning“. Viktor studied the people in Auschwitz and what he found was for those who lived, they had an interpretation or belief that their future would be BETTER. They believed something better was going to come from their current experience.
Those who were able to change their thought process, were the ones who thrived through some of the worst conditions on earth. Between stimulus and response is a choice, and that is where your power lies. Your choice is how you interpret events and how you give them meaning.
At the end of the day, happiness is a choice. How we perceive events in our life is how we will emotionally experience them.
Step 3. Practice self love
We are bombarded on a daily basis with advertisements and messaging that we are not good enough. What we see our parents and peers doing is often what we mimic, and if we are not conscious of the messages we are receiving, we may not realize we are being manipulated by a “not good enough” ad culture.
Open up Instagram and you will see just how much beauty standards in the United States has changed just in the past 5 years for women. What we see on our movie screens and magazines are women with artificially reshaped faces and bodies. Even the men are bigger than ever, magically still have a lustrous head of hair at age 50, and teeth that never stain. Understand that in order for them to sell us happiness, they first need to make us feel like we don’t already have it.
When bombarded with these images, it is easy to get caught up in the superficiality of it all. Your self worth is not measured on how you look, how much money you make, who you know, or what you drive. Your self worth is measured on your integrity as a person and you choose to view and see yourself. You don’t even realize over time that you talk negatively to yourself because of these unrealistic standards.
A huge key to your happiness and well being is high self esteem and practicing self love. Now don’t get me wrong, high self esteem is not the same boastfulness and cocky behavior. It is quiet the opposite. When you feel good about yourself and feel confident in who you are, other people’s behaviors and criticism affect you minimally. You also do not feel the need to put others down and compete. You are just able to be your authentic self.
Practicing self love allows you to empower yourself and empower others – at the same time. You are now coming from an abundance mindset. When you accept yourself, you do not feel the need to prove yourself to others or shy away from certain groups of people who you feel may judge you. If they do, it does not rub you the wrong way because you know that you are not meant for everyone.
Step 4. Fill your own cup
Oprah often tells us that the key to success and happiness, in all facets of our life, is filling your own cup first. You can not give to others what you don’t have, whether that be in a relationship, job, or project. Your cup most runneth over. When your cup runs over, you will be able to give your best to all facets of your life.
Here is another example. When your on an airplane, they tell you to put your oxygen mask on first before you put on your childs’. Why? Because if you don’t take care of yourself first, you are not as helpful to those who need you. You can best serve others when you have fully served yourself.
Step 5. Practice gratitude
Gratitude isn’t just for the holiday season. Practice gratitude all year long to get the benefits of having a happier life. When we shift our perspective what we have and get to do, vs what we don’t have and “have” to do, we see life in a new light.
A great way to practice gratitude is with a gratitude journal. Each day, write down 3 new things you are grateful for. When we practice gratitude we feel more positive emotions, improve our health, are better able to handle diversity, and build strong relationships.
Step 6. Create your own meaning
If you were to search “find your purpose” on google, you would see that there are nearly 2 billion search results. Purpose and the search for meaning are huge questions people ask themselves. What is the point of life without meaning? How do we add meaning to our lives?
Life on earth is very short, so create your purpose and add meaning to your life.
Step 7. Build deep, meaningful relationships
Happiness is not just a one man project. You can do all the inner work and fulfillment, but we still need other people in our lives. Beyond reaching an enlightened stage, happiness is created through building meaningful and deep relationships.
Quality is better than quantity.
Step 8. Have compassion for yourself and others
Do you know what is exhausting? Judging, criticizing, and pick ourselves and other people apart. It is also doesn’t make us any happier. What does contribute to our happiness is having compassion. Compassion is showing kindness, caring, and consideration toward others.
When we have compassion for others, we are better able to put yourselves in their shoes. When we have a better understanding of someone else’s experience and why they do what they do, we can remove ourselves from their reactions.
For instance, when someone cuts you off in traffic, an initial response may be to get annoyed at that driver. How did that make you feel and why do you feel that way? Some people who may get annoyed by this may feel disrespected by that other driver. They may assume this person thinks they are better than others and just cut in line or cut you off and that their needs are more important than yours. If this is your frame of mind, it is all assumptions.
What may have been the case is, a woman was running late for work and her 5 year old son has already been waiting for her after school. She was late to pick him up and she is worried that his alone at the school.
Sometimes we don’t realize what is going on in other people’s lives and we have assumptions for why they do what they do and how that plays a role in our lives.
When we are compassionate to others we allow space between what is true and taking things personally. The rude bank teller who never smiles and is curt, may just be unhappy with her life. It is easy for people to walk away from that interaction and think “that person was a jerk”, and our continuous interaction with them is to be unfriendly back, creating a negative interaction cycle. Break the pattern by smiling at this person and complimenting them. This may just brighten their day and your compassion separates your reality from hers.
Studied have shown that spending money on others or charitable communities actually increases our happiness.
Step 9. Understand that good comes with bad.
If we did not have the good and the bad, there would be no contrast between knowing either feeling. To be happy, we must understand that happiness is not always a constant. Just as it is important to experience bliss and fulfilling moments, it is our bad times that help teach us the most.
Through negative events and emotions, we can truly learn the value of the things we have or desire.
Step 10. Learn to stay present
The now is the only moment you have. The past has happened and the future is out of reach. It can take time to practice living in the moment, but this is where we can find joy.
Find happiness where you are right now. Choose to be happy with where you are right now. When we dwell on how we could change things or reminisce about the good old days, we are disconnected from what is current. We create depressive feelings of what is not NOW. When we day dream about how the future will be different and better, we are not taking in all the amazingness of the present moment.
Staying present allows up to also be grateful for what we currently have. Cherish the moments you spend with your family and friends.
Step 11. Acceptance
Acceptance is not the same as settling, but it the key to uncovering happiness right now. Along with staying present, it is important to accept where ever we are in life right now. If we are not in a place we would like to be currently, we must accept what some of our certain circumstances. Where there isn’t acceptance there is mental suffering.
The longing, desiring, and anxiety of having something else, being somewhere else, or being in a different position than where you currently are is mental suffering. Once we accept our realities, we allow ourselves to have self compassion. We must be compassionate with ourselves for what we can and cannot change.
For instance, you may have become ill or found out a new diagnosis from a doctor that has no cure. Receiving this news, you become depressed because you are not able to change these life circumstances. The only think you can change is your mindset towards them and when you accept what you can not change and embrace your adversity, you diminish suffering.
There will always be limitations in your life. Instead of wishing things were different and creating unproductive responses around them, accept your current limitations. Adjust what you can and can’t do and work within that frame. Through acceptance, you can find happiness, for what you resist, persists.
By always thinking about how you wish things were different, you are creating mental suffering. Pain may be inevitable, but suffering is optional.
Step 12. Mindfulness Meditation
According to science, meditation has a lot of health benefits. Along with being able to lower cortisol levels, reduce anxiety, and enhance attention span, meditation actually rewires your brain. When practiced consistently, mindfulness meditation strengthens our ability to be mindful in that moment and in our every day life. Mindfulness is just our awareness of what is going on around us. It is the ability to observe without judgement.
While learning the techniques of mindfulness meditation, you are able to then experience events without immediately attaching an emotion to them. It teaches us to approach life with equanimity. This mental calmness helps us better manage challenging moments in our lives. Thus, when we are better able to managing challenges we are often happier.
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