Last time, I talked through 5 different areas that have a big impact on happiness and how I’m working on improving or adding them in my own life. Today, we’ll round out the list with a few more key happiness boosters.
Remove the Unhappy
The Happy Philosopher has a great post about removing “alligators” from your life. These are the things in our lives that actually take away from our happiness and we’ve all got plenty, I’m sure. For me, the big ones that come to mind are Social Media and “The News”. There’s a consistent argument that people need to stay “informed”, which is used to justify this barrage of negativity in our lives. I don’t buy it. Anything truly “newsworthy” will end up making its way to my ears, regardless. Instead, what I’m filtering out is the 99% of “news” that is really about entertainment, fear-mongering, and click-baiting. Most of the content out there is meant to generate advertising revenue and/or push an ideological agenda that often involves partisanship and anger.
Whenever I’m able to successfully keep these things out of my life (and boy, do I fail at this often) I find that my baseline mood and happiness are significantly elevated. On the flip side, I’ll often find that after I’ve wasted a half hour flipping through Facebook (for example) I feel noticeably more discontent and just generally more “bleh” than when I went in.
This point could also apply to negative people, jobs, or anything else in your life that is just sucking away at your happiness. Life’s too short to let these things consume as much of our time, energy, and thought as we often allow.
Creation, not Consumption
Along with building community, another huge reason that you’re seeing these words on your electronic device of choice is because I want to shift my time from being roughly 100% consumption driven to being at least partially about creation. Western culture is dominated by messaging that we can consume our way to happiness, but anyone that takes even half a minute to think that through knows it’s bullshit. Nevertheless, we dutifully buy the fancy cars and houses because gosh darn it, we deserve it! It’s a self defeating cycle and I think one of the keys to breaking free is realizing that creating something, anything, is much more satisfying.
(Don’t listen to Retta)
Whether it’s DIYing work on your house instead of paying someone to do it, sitting down with an instrument to make music instead of paying to listen to others, or just typing your thoughts and experiences into a computer, creation is a worthwhile endeavor. Often there’s the double benefit of saving money (and sometimes even earning money) along with the satisfaction of putting a piece of your soul out into the world. Plus, you’re often developing skills that could come in handy later. It’s win-win-win… just winning all over the place.
So, for me, even if no one ends up reading this, it makes me happy to know that I took the time to express myself. I’m getting marginally better at writing (at least I hope) and I’m maybe helping someone else out to live their own life even better. That’s pretty damn happiness-producing.
Okay, last one. I’ve written before about The Power of Habit, which I found fascinating. It makes a great case for the unbelievably large role that habits play in our lives every day. I’m trying to use this “power” to build more happiness into my life. Habits like practicing gratitude, meditating, and regularly scheduling time to work on goals, will all (I hope) make it easy to create a higher baseline level of happiness each day that can be more resilient to the occasional bad days and negative events that might otherwise drag me down. Also, once these activities are established as habits, it takes less mental energy to keep doing them consistently.
One cool habit that I’m trying to lay down is to regularly take a second and mentally wish happiness on random strangers throughout the day- like someone I walk by or see sitting on the train. It requires no outward action and just a second or two of positive thoughts. In my head I just think “I wish you happiness.” Strangely, this simple little act never fails to bring a smile to my face. This is one I read about in Tools of Titans.
I’d be very curious what habits readers have built into their lives in this pursuit of happiness.
Ultimately, what I’ve found is that the more I can achieve the kind of contentment and happiness that I’m after, the less need I feel for the quick pleasurable escapes that used to be common in my life. It seems to be a virtuous cycle where the harder I try to be happy every day, the more I actually am happy. The work continues every day, but even just writing it all down here is a positive step in building into my life the thoughts and patterns that create lasting happiness and not just ephemeral pleasure.
“We are what we repeatedly do” and this includes the stories we tell ourselves and the thoughts we have each day. I tell myself I am incredibly fortunate, happy, and living a great life- therefore this becomes my reality.