Ya, ya, ya, you’re hearing it everywhere now – the secrets to happiness are feeling connected to others, being kind to yourself and others, feeling grateful and being in the present moment.
And guess what…it’s all true. But guess what else, scientifically understanding our brain and happiness is only a relatively recent occurrence. That means those of us who live in modern society are in a transition.
Society to date has focused us outside of ourselves on our acquisitions, achievements and accomplishments, but the science of happiness shows us that happiness truly does come from within.
This simply boils down to the fact that happiness is not about what you do, it’s about how you do what you do.
Let’s look at connecting with others. Are you fostering feelings of connection while you do what you do? Maybe you’re studying for a test. Are you connecting with the impact that an education can have on your ability to help others in the future, or are you focusing only on yourself and your performance?
If it’s the later, this will not only leave you feeling disconnected and stressed about the possibility of failure, it will keep you chasing after the next achievement with the false promise that this will make you happy.
Many people call looking beyond yourself “connecting with your why,” and it’s a phenomenal stress management skill. Feeling connected to why you are doing something, especially when it’s challenging, can invoke feelings of perseverance and meaningfulness rather than stress. Reducing stress is the best natural anxiety remedy there is.
If your “why” is limited to what you want to get for yourself, then you aren’t tapping into many of the factors that trigger happiness. The happiness factors want you to be connected to the world around you. This is why people who focus on something like getting rich as their purpose feel unfulfilled. Fulfillment doesn’t come from what you get from the outside, it comes from what you give from the inside. This is the science of happiness.
The win/win to this situation is that when you’re focusing on how your existence can positively connect with the world around you, you’re motivated to accomplish things like grades, getting jobs and taking care of yourself. The results are actually better than when you were just focusing on yourself and your performance.
You don’t have to change what you do, you just have to change “why” you do it in order to increase your happiness.
With every action you take each day, you can be mindful of how it fits into the bigger picture of your connection to your world. Do your actions reflect kindness to yourself, others and nature, to appreciating the good things in your life, and to paying attention to what you’re giving to the present moment?
If not, you now understand why you don’t feel happy. If some of your actions do, you now understand how you can feel even happier.
The key to increasing your level of happiness is to take baby steps. Begin with one new way of perceiving something negative in your life through the lens of one of the happiness factors instead. Connect with a “why” that has meaning beyond just your own needs and decide what actions you want to take from there that support forward movement toward that goal. Little by little, you can create a life you feel happy to lead.