Many people stumble through life unhappy. Whether it’s a failing relationship, troubles with your job, or a simple lack of interest in anything.
There are several small things you can do to change this. I’ve shared a few steps below that I’ve experienced first-hand.
1. Material things won’t make you happy
“It is not the man who has too little that is poor, but the one who hankers after more.” — Seneca
A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law told me that her one-year old son became bored of a toy we gave him for Christmas. He simply lost interest in it after playing with it for weeks on end. So, she took it and hid it away for a month. He didn’t even notice. And after that month, she took it out again. His eyes lit up. It was like he was given a brand-new toy.
Material things simply won’t make you happy long-term. Sure, in the short term it feels great. Whether it’s a new car, TV, or just a general influx of money. But as you become accustomed to the new situation, the impact fades. It becomes your “new normal”.
A study on lottery winners determined that a few months after winning, their happiness levels were not significantly different from non-winners.
It’s called hedonic adaption.
It’s helpful to recognise when you’re stuck in this situation. Would you be happier if you get that raise? Would your life be better with that new car? The latest smartphone? Temporarily, perhaps. But this vicious cycle is never-ending. It’s also the reason hedonic adaption is called the hedonic treadmill.
Recognise it and jump off the treadmill as soon as you find yourself on it.
2. Do something out of your comfort zone
“Do one thing every day that scares you.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
Comfort zones are prisons. Yes, it makes you feel safe. But how can you grow as a person if you’re too afraid to try new things?
Do things out of your comfort zone. Things that will further your experience. Start with the small things and built upon that.
- For the last two minutes of your shower, turn the water to the coldest setting. Endure the initial discomfort.
- Turn your phone off for the day. No texts. No social media. If you use the same phone for work, try doing it on a day when you’re not needed.
- Try new food. Do you always go to the same restaurant or choose the same item from the menu? Change it up! Go to a place you haven’t been before. Order something you’ve never had in the past.
- Talk to a stranger. The person ringing up your groceries. A parent at the school. Somebody at work. You’ll be surprised how willing people are to talk once approached.
These are only a few small changes you can make to test the waters outside of your comfort zone.
3. Be happy for others, and grateful for what you have
“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” — Epictetus
So, Amy’s family is going to Disneyland for a month. Or James just got a raise and he’s decided to redo his kitchen. That’s great! Grant them this — they more than likely worked hard to get there.
The key here is to be genuinely happy for them. I know, sometimes you experience a stab of jealousy. This is human.
“Why not me?”
Are you surrounded by loving family? Able to provide for yourself and your loved ones? If so, you already have more than most. I know it’s no consolation, but gratitude is key to happiness.
You should always strive for better. But you also need to be grateful for what you have. Once you settle into that mindset, you’ll find yourself being less jealous of others, and happier with what you have. You might even find this spurs you on to do great things.
4. Be more self-aware
“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.” — Lao Tzu
Before you know what makes you happy, you need to know yourself.
In this always-connected age, we rarely have time to just sit and think. We’re rushed from the moment we wake up until the moment we hit the pillow. Emails, texts, phone calls, social media. Even while falling asleep, your mind is racing, thinking about the next day.
One way of exploring who you are is introspection. Find a quiet spot, close your eyes, and observe yourself. Self-reflect on what you’ve done the last day, week, month or year. How you’ve treated people. What is your passion? How do you want to grow personally? Don’t judge yourself. Let your thoughts flow and try to avoid any distractions.
It’s also important to switch off and let your mind rest. Meditation is a great way to do this, and comes with several benefits. I use an app called Calm. A mere ten minutes of meditation a day has had a noticeable impact on my mood, tolerance and outlook on life. If you’re in a busy household, try waking up a little earlier to find some quiet time.
5. Stop caring what people think
“Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” — Dr. Seuss
Stop being a people pleaser!
Do what makes you happy.
Focus on what brings joy to your life.
Don’t allow yourself to be manipulated emotionally. Surround yourself with people that appreciate you. Exclude toxic people from your life.
I’ve found far too many people bend over backwards for others at their own expense. It’s time you start doing things for you. And if people are offended, who cares? One day when you look back on your life, you want to say you’re glad you lived your life for you.
That you were true to yourself.
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