"If you've forgotten the language of gratitude, you'll never be on speaking terms with happiness." -- Author Unknown
I've been asked often, "Why is there such a lot of talk about happiness?" I can cite the practical reasons: happiness enhances creativity and productivity, your health, and longevity, too, but most of all it is because happiness just makes us feel good.
Ultimately we all want to feel good -- any time, all the time. Happiness is being discussed and analyzed more and more each day. Yet the unhappy fact is that we, in the 35 developed nations of the world, are getting increasingly unhappy in the past 40 years according to the U.S. General Social Survey and the International Social Survey Program. Women especially are feeling less satisfied as the years have gone by.
How do we find happiness when the statistics indicate that it is becoming more elusive? Don't worry, it's possible, and in fact once you learn the process, you'll find it much easier and with practice it will be quite natural. Here are six handy steps to becoming happier:
1. Identify your reason for being. Why were you born? Each one of us has a unique purpose for living. When we are aligned with our life mission, everything flows much easier and we can move forward in life with commitment and courage. If you are unsure of your life purpose, relax. Don't make it another point of stress. Lean into what interests you -- over time your purpose will become more apparent and you can use it to guide your each decision.
2. Realize that you can choose how you feel. It is how we regard a situation rather than the actual circumstances that determines how we feel. How heavy is a one-pound weight? It's light if we hold onto it for only a moment, and it gets progressively heavier the longer we hold onto it. Don't continue to dwell on your state of affairs without looking for resolution. Assess the facts and then explore what your options are. Seek outside and inner counsel. Choose your best option, and move forward with conviction and a light(er) heart.
3. Balance the five key aspects of life in accordance with your life purpose. Analyze how your decision(s) will affect you in all the major life areas -- money and other forms of exchange, relationships, body, spirit and community. Realize that making money is only one of five significant facets of life. We don't want to focus on wealth only for example, and then spend our resources trying to regain our relationships and/or health lost in the process. There are different ways to live, and we are not locked into a pattern that may have been set by old conditioning or by others a long time ago. You have choices -- choose what is for your highest good now.
4. Give gratitude. Seek the good in what is. Yes, I know sometimes your world may seem very bleak, but there are lessons and blessings in everything we experience. When my husband died suddenly of a heart attack while he was out mountain biking, I was devastated. I could not see anything good in the situation. Misery filled my consciousness. It was only after I consciously made myself give thanks for five things each morning and night did I begin to climb out of the black hole of suffering. Eventually I was able to use that energy to learn more skills and get a bigger and more rewarding job than I had before. I developed more resilience, compassion and gratitude, all of which have helped me in life ever since.
5. Be good to yourself. We are oftentimes our own worst critic. I've even said so with some pride when I was young, but we don't have to tear ourselves down to get ahead. The world is already well stocked with people and comparisons that could minimize us. We need positive reinforcements! Encouragement builds self-esteem, confidence and enhances our cognitive processes. All qualities that will help us succeed, thrive and be happy.
6. Smile and act positively. Yes, even when you feel less than happy, smile. The physical act of smiling triggers the body to release stress and elevates your mood. Psychologist and facial coding expert, Paul Eckman's research showed that when one puts on a "Duchenne smile," a full smile that includes the wrinkling of the skin around the eyes, the person's attitude and stress level are both improved. The converse is also true, we feel more miserable when we frown. And your smiles and improved moods are also contagious -- another benefit to smiling.
This is the season for thanksgiving in many countries. Scour your mind for all the reasons you have for giving thanks. Give gratitude for them and your life will improve in all ways, and indeed you will be happier for it. Happy thanksgiving!
Marilyn Tam grew up as an abused and neglected child in Hong Kong. She found her life purpose at age 11 when she found out as bad as her life was. She was much better off than her classmate, Rebecca. Wanting to help others and to right the wrongs, she left home as a teen to come to America alone to study. She became a business leader (CEO Of Aveda, President of Reebok and Vice President of Nike) and a global humanitarian. She shares in her latest book, "The Happiness Choice" how you can live a life of happiness, health and success. It's her way of giving back to the world for all the blessings she's received. "The Happiness Choice" http://www.marilyntam.com/books.html tells the stories and insights from Marilyn and many experts, including, Jack Canfield, Joan Borysenko, Harville Hendrix, Arielle Ford and others on how to live the life of your dreams. The book was #3 top business book in March (800 CEO Read), and won the Silver Medal in the Global eBook Awards 2013 in the Inspirational/Visionary category. Her radio show, The Happiness Choice on FMG Network is broadcast globally to over 30 million listeners. Marilyn is a regular blogger on Huffington Post.
Marilyn Tam is an international selling author, speaker, entrepreneur, humanitarian and former CEO of Aveda, President of Reebok Apparel Products & Retail Group and VP of Nike and the Founder and Executive Director of Us Foundation. www.MarilynTam.com