In June, I gave a talk on cultivating happiness habits. I had given a talk a few month earlier on habits and habit loops because I was interested in what influences our behaviour and why change is JUST. SO. DIFFICULT. When I thought about what I wanted to talk about for my second talk, I didn't really know why I chose to focus on happiness but I knew I wanted to continue exploring habits. Since that talk, I've realized that I chose happiness because I was waiting for something external to make me happy. I wasn't in control of my own experiences.
Just committing to give this talk was a significant personal win. Like so many people, public speaking is not my forte and so it was a huge leap out of my comfort zone. And as they say, the rest is history.
So, what happened next was nothing short of amazing. An organic alignment if you will. A friend of mine, Amy Longard, uber talented Nutritionist, attended the talk and approached me the next day with an idea. She introduced me to Kate Durie, yogi extraordinaire, and a week later... #HappinessHabits613, an adventure to cultivate happiness and building community, was B O R N.
Based on the research on happiness, we complied nine (9) principles or habits (below) that if done daily, can cultivate a happier and healthier life.
Our 9 Principles for cultivating Happiness!
We can cultivate happiness from the inside out. Recent research has shown that only10% of our happiness is due to external circumstances. 50% comes from our genes and 40% is from internal activities that we can fully control.
According to Shawn Achor, author of the Happiness Advantage, we have the formula for success all wrong. Happiness actually fuels success not the other way around. If we reverse the formula, we can be happier now, in the present. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TBRy3QrRGFI
Action: Each day, write down 3 things that you are grateful for. You might write more than 3! If you’re on a roll, keep going. Keeping a journal by your bed sets you up to practice first thing in the morning and sets the foundation for the day. Practicing before bed is a great opportunity to scan through your day, and start making links between experiences, things, moments, people and your gratitude. You can also carry your journal with you, and practice throughout your day, capturing your gratitude in the moment or when you have a break to pause.
Why this matters: Because it has been proven that our brains have a negativity bias. It takes exponentially less energy and effort to spiral into negative thinking vs. positive. A gratitude practice, over time, turns negative thoughts and language into positive. Gratitude increases your sense of belonging, optimism and positivity, while decreasing stress, anxiety and depression. It also increases your mindfulness. Begin to take intentional pauses throughout your day to notice, savour, capture, and share experiences that make you feel good.
2. Purpose/Meaningful Experiences
Action: Everyday, write down a meaningful positive experience that happened to you in the last 24 hours. Discover what your unique strengths are.
Why this matters: Writing down an experience helps you relive it! And as you begin to string together these meaningful experiences, you will see how you’re already living a meaningful life. In addition to this, you’ll gain clarity about the things that make you feel enthusiastic and the times there's flow in your life. Clarity about your purpose, joy, and strengths helps you live a more authentic, fulfilling life. In the short term, this may simply help you identify what’s missing, and where there are gaps; giving you the information and the inspiration to start intentionally cultivating meaningful experiences. Create and design a life rooted in happiness. Your happiness.
Action: Contrary to what many of us believe about meditation, the point is NOT to "not think" while you are meditating. The point is to be aware of the thoughts that do come up; allowing them to pass through you. Over time, through regular practice, the space between thoughts begins to widen, and our reaction to them begins to lessen. Mindfulness is simply moment-to-moment awareness and presence, without judgment. Inhabit each moment as it unfolds.
Why this matters: Meditation changes so many things, and you only need to practice for a few minutes a day (5, 10, 20). It positively changes the neural pathways of your brain. It increases kindness and happiness. Focusing on the present moment is very important because it reduces stress, depression, and anxiety. This practice also increases self-awareness and emotional intelligence, enabling you to cope with challenges and handle negative thoughts and feelings as they present “off the cushion”. Cultivating mindfulness through meditation, then taking it off the cushion and into your life, is a foundational principle, meaning that it serves as a catalyst for the other principles, and for cultivating happiness as a whole. It elevates our awareness, our presence, our connection, and our gratitude.
Action: Engage in some form of movement everyday. Find a physical exercise that you can do on a regular basis or make healthier choices daily like going up the stairs instead of the elevator, walking instead of taking the car, etc.
Why this matters: Exercise is a foundational habit which means it’s a catalyst for other good habits like drinking water, eating healthier and better sleep. It increases your mind/body/soul connection and it decreases illnesses, depression, anxiety and stress.
Action: Choose foods that nourish and heal the body. Choose local and seasonal foods where possible. Aim to eat fresh, whole and nutrient rich foods as much as you can. Look to reduce refined foods, sugars, and other stimulants or depressants.
Why this matters: Food impacts mood. Making good choices will help maintain balanced energy levels, improve mental clarity and will also set the stage for a healthier, happier life. Eating nutrient dense whole foods may help reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression, and will reduce your risk of various chronic and degenerative diseases.
6. Altruism/Giving Back
Action: Give back, pay it forward, be in/of service to others. This could include sending someone an email telling them they’ve done a good job or how they’ve positively impacted you (gratitude), buying a stranger a cup of coffee, volunteering, etc. Any little act of kindness can make a difference. This is all about planting seeds. Not being attached to results, simply planting seeds of kindness, generosity, gratitude, and connection.
Why this matters: Giving back releases endorphins. That means that our bodies want us to give back. It creates a sense of purpose, increases trust and pleasure and creates a better connection with community. This is a fuelling process; as you become happier, you become more generous and the more you act in service, the happier you become.
Action: Bring awareness to your environment and the things you already have in your life. Your physical belongings, your relationships, your mind, your body, your home/space, your job, your people/pets, the food you eat, etc.
Why this matters: We are a consumeristic society. We accumulate stuff. But this can eventually become a burden. Physical space has a profound impact on how you process information and how you feel. The lighter the space, the lighter the mind. It also helps you pay attention to what you bring in your space and the energy around you.
8. Connection to Nature
Action: Get outside every day; even if it is only for a few minutes. Take a walk to the park on your lunch break, step outside of your home or office and take several deep breaths, go jogging along the Canal, hike in Gatineau Park, or walk barefoot in the grass. Make sure that you find a way to connect with nature every single day.
Why this is matters: It is scientifically proven that simply looking at a tree can positively shift your mood. A connection to nature, or simply spending time outdoors, can enhance your productivity, creativity, mood, just to name a few.
9. Social Connections
Action: Spend time with family and friends. Connect with others – those you know, those you don’t know (yet). Find your tribe by intentionally cultivating meaningful experiences. When we’re under stress or when there’s a challenge in our lives, we tend to isolate or hide away. We get trapped in that negativity bias, feeling like we’re alone, broken, and the only one going through such a challenge. Have faith. Reach out. Connect. Share. When we shine our light, our truth, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same, and in doing so we build community and create connection + belonging.
Why this matters: Our society praises individualism but we are social beings that overcome challenges when we have a support system. When you connect with others in the present moment, it can have profound effect on your mental and physical health. This in return, improves your immunity. Social connections also help you live longer. Happiness is collective. If we are happier, others around us are happier too.
Resources (my happiness inspiration):
Book: The Happiness Advantage - Shawn Achor
TED Talk: The Happy Secret to Better Work - Shawn Achor
i'd love to hear from you!
How are you going to start intentionally cultivating your happiness every single day? What are some things you already do that make an impact on your overall happiness and wellbeing?