What does happiness mean to you?
Sonja Lyubomirsky, positive psychology researcher and author of The How of Happiness, defines it as, “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
Most of us probably don’t need a formal definition because you know you’re happy when you feel it. Maybe you’re reasonably happy on a daily basis, but don’t put much thought into where those feelings come from or what, specifically, is making you happy.
However, not all of us experience those feel-good moments. In fact, it’s common for people to be more in tune with what makes them unhappy. Instead of having feelings of joy and excitement, they’re consumed by feelings of anxiety and depression. The 2018 World Happiness Report found that “income per capita has doubled [in the United States] since 1972 while happiness (or subjective well-being, SWB) has remained roughly unchanged or has even declined.”
So what exactly does this mean? Are we spending too much time and energy buying things we think will make us happy? Do we assume that a bigger house or a luxury car will make us happier? Many people equate happiness and success with the amount of money they have. But at the same time, it’s important to look at other factors that might be making us unhappy – apart from just money and consumption.
Think about your job, the amount of sleep you get each night, and how hard you are on yourself. Are you striving to be perfect? We often find ourselves in a vicious cycle of striving for more and then blaming ourselves when we fail, even when things are out of our control. Plus, the influences of culture and the pressures of society don’t make it any easier for us.
People throughout the world struggle with feeling unhappy. Thanks to the rise of social media, all it takes is one refresh on Facebook to instantly compare ourselves to a stranger. We overanalyze our decisions and are faced with too many choices. This extends to everything in our lives from work and relationships to dieting and exercise.
However, it’s crucial to take charge and see what we’re doing to ourselves. We all want to be happy – but we also have to take action to get there. As it’s been said, “Happiness is a journey, not a destination.” And there’s no better time to start that journey than by finding what makes you happy today!
At Integrative Nutrition, we teach about primary food – the things that nourish you off the plate. Primary food – including relationships, career, physical activity, and spirituality – relates to how you de-stress and communicate, your career path, and what form of spiritual practice feeds your soul. We encourage you to think about how you can improve and find balance in these areas to nourish both your mind and your body.
Here are a few ways to get started:
Keep a happiness journal.
Think about what makes you really happy. Write down a few things and commit to understanding what makes you feel good. It can be something as simple as reading a good book, getting a few extra hours of sleep on the weekend, drinking your morning coffee, or sitting in the sun. Then, when you have an off day or need positive reinforcement, reference your notes!
Make your workplace a better place.
Happy people enjoy their work. Check in on how you’re feeling about your career. If you’re not fulfilled, find small ways to take action to improve the job you have – perhaps adjusting your hours or talking to your boss about what projects you’re working on. Even an unfulfilling job that’s paying well will get old quickly. You can’t pursue a job for money or fame and put your passion on hold forever. And if you’re stuck in a job you don’t want but can’t make a move just yet, take consistent steps toward a brighter future every day. You’ll be happier knowing that something exciting is ahead.
It’s not about being skinnier or looking better; it’s about moving your body. Go for a long walk or try a new workout class – just do something for you. Getting your heart rate up not only produces endorphins that make you feel good but also decreases stress. Commit to exercising a few times a week, and you’ll feel stronger physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Surround yourself with people you love.
We’re social beings who crave connection, so make your relationships a priority. If you are in a relationship, set a date night or put away your cell phones so you really connect when you’re together. Make plans with a friend, even if it’s something small, like grabbing a cup of coffee. Having something to look forward to makes you happier! Close family and friends can provide support in times of stress and make life’s ups and downs just a little bit easier to get through.
Take care of your spirit.
We’re always on the go, so it’s important to take a few minutes each day to take care of ourselves. Sit down, light a candle, do some deep breathing, and relax your mind and body. Take the time to get in touch with your inner self through things like meditation and yoga. By either starting or ending your day (or maybe both!) with a spiritual practice, you’ll have more energy, be in a better mood, and might even sleep better.
Similar to IIN’s concept of bio-individuality, what makes you happy won’t be the same for anyone else. Big, small, or silly as it may seem – we want to hear what puts a smile on your face and keeps you going! So share with us what makes you truly happy in the comments below!
Find more information on becoming an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach here!