It makes us glad to be alive and scientists say it has the power to heal and extend life. But it’s elusive.
“Happiness is as invisible as electricity and just as powerful,” says Lois Blyth, author of The Secrets Of Happiness: How To Love Life, Laugh More, And Live Longer (Cico books).
“The difficult bit for some people is choosing to step away from unhappiness and deciding wholeheartedly, and with total commitment, that happiness is something that they really do want — and that they deserve. The challenge for others is choosing to step out of the place of comfort and familiarity, and to start experiencing new challenges that inspire them to live their life in a different and vibrant way.”
“Much of what makes us happy is experienced via our senses,” says Blyth. “Consider what happiness feels like to you, what colour it is, and what it sounds or tastes like. If you love music, make a CD full of your favourite happy songs... Small changes can build and affect your happiness ratio.”
When you dream of winning the lottery, you imagine what you would buy. But instead of focusing on material goods, imagine how you can ‘change’ yourself.
“Unlock your adventurous side and ask yourself what you are putting off doing until the conditions are right, and that you could actually start doing now,” she says.
The paths to happiness are not always obvious routes you would want to take. “Happiness is closely related to feelings of positive self-worth and achievement — we need to take calculated risks in order to grow and develop self-respect.”
Physical contact can reduce stress, reduce cortisol levels and increase oxytocin, a ‘happy’ hormone, in the body, says Blyth.
“Make a mental note to hug a friend, get a massage, hold hands with a loved one, stroke a pet, make love, go dancing, and generally to be more physical,” she says.
When you hear yourself thinking or saying passive words, such as ‘I wish’, ‘should’, ‘might’, ‘can’t’, swap them for active words such as ‘I can’, ‘I will’, ‘I am’. Language puts you in control.
Procrastination — indecision — is an enemy of happiness. “Once you discover the joy of completing tasks in good time or on time, your belief in yourself will slowly change. You will have time to be happy on your own terms,” she says.