Want to be happier? Here are 8 steps that can transform your life

The pursuit of happiness. A quest that almost everyone in the world is on

Zeta Yarwood
Zeta Yarwood - Special to Al Arabiya English
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The pursuit of happiness. A quest that almost everyone in the world is on. But with very few of us having ever been given a map, it’s no surprise it often feels like we’re on a never-ending journey to a non-existent land. If the education system focused more on giving us this map by teaching us about self-esteem, confidence, love, empathy and fulfillment, instead of purely academia, I believe the world would be a much happier place.

If you weren’t taught these core lessons as a child, don’t worry. There is hope for you yet! Research has shown that by following just a few of the steps outlined below, you can start to live a more fulfilled, happier life – starting right now.

1) Be grateful

Feelings of sadness can often arise when we think about everything we don’t have in our lives. By shifting our focus onto all the things we do have and being grateful for each one, we can increase our happiness levels two-fold.

Before you get out of bed each morning, write a list of all the things and people in your life you are grateful for. And as you do it, think about why you are grateful for each one and really FEEL the gratitude. Feeling the gratitude is the key in this exercise. Get into the habit of doing this every morning, and notice how much happier you begin to feel at the start of each day.

2) Helping others

Deep-rooted fulfillment comes from contribution: a sense of service and focus on helping, giving to and supporting others. Scientific research has shown helping others triggers the release of happy chemicals serotonin and dopamine. So next time you’re feeling down, look at ways you can start to contribute to the lives of those around you and notice the difference it makes to your own emotional well-being.

3) Get outside and look up at the sky

This is a tip for anyone looking for a quick fix. Sometimes our problems seem so big, it feels like we can’t breathe. By getting outside, looking straight up at the sky, and appreciating its vastness – it will help you gain a sense of space. Take a few deep breaths and acknowledge that compared to the size of the universe, your problems are really only as big as you make them (in your mind).

4) Change your perception

I’ve talked about this several times in some of my articles on my website. It’s not the problem that’s the problem. It’s your perception and interpretation of the problem - that’s the problem. That’s what is causing the unhappiness. For example, let’s say you didn’t get the job you wanted. Now, you could choose to interpret it as a reflection on you: “I must be useless. I’m clearly unemployable. I’m such a failure.”. Or you could choose to look at it differently - “Maybe the company was not a good match for me. I would have had to pretend I was someone I wasn’t just to fit it. That would have been exhausting. Perhaps God or the universe is redirecting me to an even better job where I can really be myself and thrive!”

Whenever you find yourself thinking negatively, ask yourself: “How could I perceive this in a different way that would actually make me feel better?”

5) Exercise

Research has shown again and again exercise is not only good for the body, but also the mind. Even going for a simple walk has been shown to increase serotonin levels and lift people’s mood for hours after. If you’re new to exercise, start by walking for 30 minutes a day and get those happy chemicals pumping!

6) Love what you do

Research has shown that people who feel a real sense of purpose and meaning in what they do are generally much happier than those who don’t. If you’re not happy right now, think about what would give your life meaning, and look at ways to incorporate more of that into your life instead.

7) Focus on the pleasure of change

Quite often we stay stuck in our situation because we are focusing on the pain of making a change. The pain of what we might lose or have to sacrifice. The pain of moving out of our comfort zones and the hard work involved. The pain of potential negative outcomes. But what if you focused on the pleasure instead? All of the great things that could happen if you made the change? Yes, the initial period might be tough but the long-term gain will be worth it. What change could you make today that would really make a difference to your life?

8) Celebrate your successes

People with low self-esteem or depression tend to focus on all the times they failed or weren’t good enough. Go back over your life and think about all the times you were good enough. When you were a good enough son, daughter, friend, colleague, student, employee, parent, aunt, uncle…. Take the time to truly acknowledge your success in those moments and continue to appreciate your successes, no matter how small, for higher self-esteem and enhanced emotional well-being.

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