One of the key points in the first post was around acceptance - realising that we aren't wired to prioritise this. Our brains are designed to keep us alive, happiness isn't as strong a survival pressure as we might have hoped. Recognising this is important to prevent the frustration that might build up, however I now also see a second implication, that we need to take ownership of the happiness piece. If we aren't designed for this to be a natural process then it leaves it up to us to manufacture opportunities for happiness. Thankfully there are some really simple exercises and approaches we can use to increase our odds for a happy day, rather than leaving it at the mercy of our monkey mind.
1. Intentions: If you don't set out to have a good day then how do you expect to achieve one? This is a first principle when it comes to taking ownership. Many of us go about our days like a ship without a sail, hoping the currents take us a little bit closer to where we want to be. Safe to say this isn't an effective tactic, you need to get the sails up and the oars out and, crucially, be very clear on your direction. Start each day by finishing this sentence - 'I will have a good day today by...' By doing so we achieve 2 things. First we identify what are the things within our control that can make us happy and secondly how do we incorporate them in our day and therefore increase the odds of having a good one.
2. The little happy things list: This sounds a little bit like a cheesy exercise you might find on Pinterest but is actually an important tool in the happiness tool box. As discussed above we need to be clear with identifying some of the things that make us happy. The danger here is that we write down material and aspirational elements that we think will make us happy but are actually just briefly satisfying the monkey mind. If instead we focus on little things that are free to do and can be incorporated easily into your day we both make it easier to experience these and we reduce our threshold for happiness. Simply write down on your phone a list of all the little things that make you happy. This could be a certain song, speaking to a certain friend, having a coffee or watching a sunrise. Once we've defined them we can then start applying them and using them through your day. If you're having a tough day go back to your list and see what you can use to improve it.
3. Gratitude: This might not immediately resonate with you but we all have everything we need to be happy already. Even those people below the poverty line in the UK are classed as being in the top 2% globally in terms of resources and opportunities. That means that we are all incredibly lucky and privileged, but do we recognise this? By practicing gratitude regularly we start to attune our attention to pick up on the good stuff that surrounds us every single day. You've got running water? Lucky you! You drive to work in a car? Think how amazing that is! Simply write down 3 good things that you are grateful for on a daily basis and you will be amazed at the tangible impact this will have on your happiness levels.
4. Celebrate the wins: I've written a post specifically about having a scarcity vs abundance mindset and the challenges this can create, especially for our sense of happiness. Because of our naturally negative hard wiring we quickly fall into the trap of focusing on all the things we haven't done and all of the things we aren't. This isn't a particularly cheerful place to be. If instead we consciously switch that focus to look at what we have done we can gradually train ourselves out of the negative slant. The reality is that every day we have many many wins, we just aren't used to looking for them. Try finishing every day at work by writing down your win for the day. Or you could use a 'jar of awesome' type exercise and create a longer term record of all the impacts you've had.
Whilst this list isn't meant to be exhaustive it hopefully does give you an indication of how taking ownership of the happiness in our day gives us really clear opportunities to practice and generate happiness for ourselves. So the next time you feel that it is a bit of a grey day, ask yourself, what have I done to change that?