Happiness has become one the sexiest yet most elusive products of our time. You could read the Internet for the entire of your existence and still find another million searches on how to crack the happy matrix. Indeed, happiness is a multi-billion dollar industry.
But what if happiness was a little easier to hack than you’ve been lead to believe? Here are five easy ways you can increase your happiness and lower your stress levels.
Admit you compare yourself to the next person
Most of us are familiar with the term FOMO (the fear of missing out). We feel anxious because we feel like we’re missing out on something wonderful online. And it’s starting to lead us closer to depression and anxiety as a result.
But this is not a new concept, nor is it only a social media issue.
In 1954, social comparison theory suggested we measure our worth against others for the first time. We check the validity of our thoughts, feelings and ideas in relation to other people. And that we can use comparisons to drive us forward to achieve great things, or it can be a source of envy.
Biologically and psychologically, we’re designed to compare ourselves with our peers. And it’s OK to recognize this trait rather than deny it. It could be the first step you take to move beneath the cloud of FOMO.
Use comparison to your advantage
It’s one thing to know you’ll fall into the comparison trap on occasion. It’s quite another to allow it to fuel you towards great things. Don’t get caught up on denying someone gets under your skin — use it to your advantage!
Ask yourself 3 simple questions:
- What do they do better than me?
- What do I do better than them?
- What can I learn from their approach?
Turn your comparisons into intelligence gathering. Convert that envied enemy into a valued peer. Or use their impact on you to re-design a strategy that works for you.
Think about what excites you about the other person. Now ask yourself why you’re less excited by your own ideas and change it. Don’t copy them. Find out how you can zig to their zag.
If someone motivates you that much they live in your head, there is always some value you can derive from it.
Focus on accomplishment
We’re so often pre-occupied with what we have ‘to do’ that we forget the amazing things we’ve done. Yet accomplishment is one of the best sources of happiness.
So how do you focus on the great things you’ve done between major milestones?
Here are some ideas:
- Capture what you’ve completed as a ‘done list’
- Have a chalkboard that displays what you’ve done in a month, quarter or year
- Save up the things you’ve ticked off your ‘to do’ list in a jar on a scrap of paper and watch it grow
- Write a thank you note to the people who have given you another great week- and don’t forget yourself in that!
Whatever the mechanism, enjoy the difference that comes with seeing what you’ve achieved. Focus on progress.
Step outside yourself
Our culture spends a lot of time focusing on what we can get out of life for ourselves. But we’re actually happier when we’re giving to others.
Volunteering is good for us. It gives us the opportunity to step outside ourselves and think of others. Volunteering and giving doesn’t just give us the warm, fuzzy feeling of doing good. There’s even proof that helping others helps us sleep, make friends and generally feel fitter and stronger.
So if you want to increase your happiness, helping others is a wonderful way to do it.
Go back to the basics
Getting enough sleep, taking enough breaks and exercising all contribute to our happiness.
Working too hard impairs your thinking. We know we have to sleep to reset the clock. Time spent daydreaming and idling helps us with the creative processes.
Stress also has a productivity cost. Thankfully, exercise is a great stress antidote. Several studies have shown exercising aids in the management of stress and mental health conditions.
There’s no point in squeezing extra hours in the day for work if the work isn’t the best quality.
So if you’re feeling under pressure, sleep, rest and movement can help. Don’t pack each minute with project work.
The bottom line on happiness
You won’t find happiness at the bottom of a bag of diamonds or at the drinks at an expensive conference. But you can find it in the little things. Being kind to your body, mind and what you achieve is a big part of being happy.
Give yourself a break and be happy to be you.