Find­ing hap­pi­ness is easy if you try

Fol­low these sim­ple steps to find clar­ity and calm in our ever- busy world, writes TIF­FANY DUNK

Townsville Bulletin - - NEWS -

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.

CON­CEN­TRATE MORE

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.”

PROB­LEM- SOLVE

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.

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