Finding happiness is easy if you try
Follow these simple steps to find clarity and calm in our ever- busy world, writes TIFFANY DUNK
TIM Sharp, chief happiness officer at The Happiness Institute, says people look in the wrong places for their happiness.
FEEL MORE JOY
Why it’s a struggle: Tim says looking to material possessions, money and physical appearance for happiness is not a long- term solution.
“The benefits we get from these are short- lived and superficial.”
Sharp says other factors include lack of exercise, poor sleep and an unhealthy diet.
Try this quick fix: It’s as simple as grabbing a pen and paper and creating a happiness plan for yourself.
“Like with anything in life, we’re far more likely to succeed if we’re clear about what we want and have developed a plan to get there,” Sharp says. “It’s no different to financial planning.”
Write down your values. Is it creativity? Spending time with your loved ones? Maybe leading a healthier life?
“Think about what you can do on a day- to- day basis to make that a reality,” Sharp adds.
“Schedule an appointment with yourself to make it happen [ such as]: ‘ At lunchtime, I’ll go to the gym’. If we write it into our diary, we’re far less likely to miss that appointment.”
In addition, at the end of each day, note down the three best things that happened. “It only takes a couple of minutes but people who do this every day tend to be happier,” Sharp says.
Why it’s a struggle: Blame the modern age and the advent of smartphones, TVs, laptops and other digital distractions, clinical neuropsychologist Dr Ash Nayate says.
“We’re so used to multi- tasking these days that it’s very rare that any of us would just be focusing on one single thing for any decent length of time – even more than a couple of minutes. And if you don’t use it, you lose it.”
Try this quick fix: Spend 60 seconds being mindful. “Pick an activity and focus 100 per cent of your attention on that activity,” Nayate says. “We might find we’re only able to do it, say, for 30 seconds or a minute before our minds start wandering. In which case, bring it back to that one thing.”
If there’s a thought that keeps intruding, whether it’s a worry or wanting to check your email, write it down on a post- it note.
“By making a written record, you make it something you know you can come back to later.”
Last but not least, remember practice makes perfect.
“It’s a matter of perseverance,” Nayate says. “If on day one you do one minute, day two a minute and half and so on, then you get better at it. It’s just like exercising a muscle.”
RETAIN MORE INFORMATION
Why it’s a struggle: “It comes down to your brain state,” brain ‘ untrainer’ Rik Schnabel says. For example, in a classroom that’s quiet and low- pressured, you’re in a calm state. But put yourself in a quiet exam room with high pressure and your state can become fearful.
“In fear, our brain moves to high beta [ frequencies] and our state changes,” Schnabel adds. “We then release a chemical called monoamine oxidase A. As a result, you can’t get information out of your head as easily.”
Try this quick fix: Focus your attention with a technique called “expanded awareness”, Schnabel says. “From where you’re sitting, focus on something – a painting on the wall, something above eye level,” he says.
“Focus every scrap of attention on that one spot.
“You’ll probably feel reasonably focused but now intensify that focus as much as you can. Increase it so that all you see is that spot.
“Next, keep looking at that spot but expand your vision so you can see the sides, too. Take that in.
Keep focusing on the spot but now focus all your attention at the sides.” Do this for as long as needed.
Once you feel your state has changed, stop.
Schnabel says this causes your brain waves to slow from beta ( 1230 hertz), which is associated with waking consciousness and reasoning, to alpha ( about 9- 12 hertz), which signals deep relaxed activity in the brain.
Anchor this feeling by folding your hands together.
“Make it a move you can replicate to come back to this state more easily,” Schnabel adds.
“Your brain retains far more information in alpha.”
Why it’s a struggle: Stress plays an overwhelming part in an inability to problem- solve.
“We get overwhelmed and bogged down by what we have to do in order to achieve a particular outcome,” Nayate says.
“Our mind can only hold so much information at one time so if we’re preoccupied with a million other things, there’s less room to solve the problem.”
Other factors that inhibit problem- solving include fatigue, pain and illness, Nayate adds.
Try this quick fix: Learning to breathe correctly will help you manage your stress levels, which Nayate says is “the biggest impediment [ in] finding our next foot forward”.
STAY FOCUSED: It’s true, the simple things in life are often the best so make time to appreciate natural pleasures such as relaxing at the beach.