TIB #35: DREAM GREAT to be happier this year

Written by Arno Jansen

It is early January as I write this and many people, myself included, have spent some time during the holiday period to come up with plans, ideas or goals for the coming year.

Most (solo) entrepreneurs and creators, started their journey because of one or both of two reasons. You probably have too.

  • You wanted to increase your autonomy, by working on your own terms. 
  • You wanted to have a positive impact on the world around you by doing work that matters a great deal to you.

Running a business is a rewarding, but challenging journey. It is easy to loose focus of why you started in the first place and get overwhelmed by all the different tasks. To keep going you need ways to enjoy it through the good and the rough times.

Striving to “be happy” seems like a good thing. But how do we do that? Can we, and should we, try to be happy as much as possible?

Striving for happiness does not mean that other emotions should be suppressed.

Some days just suck.

Some situations cause grief, anger or frustration.

Suppressing or ignoring those emotions or trying to replace them with happiness, is not going to work. But, what we can do is work at adopting an attitude to life that is generally more positive.

Recently, I learned about the work of Richard Layard, a professor at the London School of Economics. He is one of the first economists to work on happiness and how better mental health can improve our lives. He coined the apronym “GREAT DREAM” in which each of these letters represents an attitude towards increasing happiness. Let’s have a look at each of them.

Giving – Doing something for others

Doing something for other people not only makes other people happier, it also increases your own feeling of well-being. Being kind to others can take many forms. It can start with just a smile or an honest thank you. You can plan “giving” in your calendar, or it can be a spontaneous action, but more importantly, it is an attitude towards the world around you. Finding ways to be kind to others, will increase the way you experience the world around you

Giving is also a part of our businesses. Besides getting paid for the work we do, “giving” in this context can mean going above and beyond for our customers, clients, or audience.

Regular acts of kindness in a form that suits you will increase your overall feeling of happiness.

Relating – Connect with other people

Creating new relationships and maintaining existing ones, makes you feel part of something bigger. You give and get love, belonging, and meaning from your relationships with other people.

Family, friends, school, your local community as well as your business relationships can all be sources of increased happiness. But having other people’s phone numbers is not the same as connecting with them though. 

To really connect with others, means you invest in the relationship. Build rapport, find common ground, and feel a sense of empathy or share ideas and experiences.

Those people nearest and dearest to you, are often the ones that give you the most happiness. Surrounding ourselves with people you love, can trust, and feel safe around, boosts you mentally. These are the relationships that give meaning, but also make you feel better at times you feel a bit less happy.

Exercising – Take care of your body

Our bodies are not just a means to get our minds to other places. They are connected and related. Taking care of your body is important for both physical and mental well-being. Regular exercise, a balanced diet, and enough rest are essential for maintaining a healthy body, which in turn boosts your mood, energy levels, and overall sense of happiness.

When you take care of your body, you are more likely to feel good in your own skin and have more energy to engage in activities that bring you joy. Additionally, when your body is functioning well, it’s easier to cope with stress, focus, and think clearly. Overall, taking care of your body is an essential step in the pursuit of overall well-being and happiness.

Awareness – Live mindfully

Living mindfully means being present and fully engaged in the current moment, rather than dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. It involves paying attention to your thoughts, feelings, and physical sensations, and accepting them without judgment.

Practicing mindfulness has been shown to have a positive impact on overall well-being and happiness, by reducing stress, increasing self-awareness, and promoting a sense of calm and contentment.

Trying out – Keep learning new things

Continually learning new things helps to keep your mind active and engaged, which can lead to a greater sense of well-being and happiness.

It also boosts your self-confidence, self-esteem, and self-worth. Learning new skills and acquiring new knowledge can also open up new opportunities, both personal and professional.

It is also an enjoyable and fulfilling experience in and of itself and can be a great source of satisfaction as well as a way to connect with others.

Additionally, studies have shown that continuing to learn helps to keep our brains healthy and potentially delay cognitive decline as we age. Overall, continually learning new stuff is a great way to stay mentally and emotionally engaged, and can be a powerful contributor to overall happiness…

Direction – Have goals to look forward to

Goal setting gives your life a sense of direction and purpose by providing you with clear targets to work towards. It helps to focus your efforts and gives you a sense of progress and accomplishment as you achieve your goals.

Making progress towards your goals and achieving them, also increases your motivation and self-esteem. Additionally, it allows you to set long-term plans and a vision for your life.

Goal setting can also be a source of positive stress. It can help to stimulate our mind and body, and give you a sense of accomplishment. Overall, setting and achieving goals can be difficult to do well, but it provides you with direction and purpose, while also letting you enjoy progress, accomplishment and fulfillment.

Resilience – Find ways to bounce back

Resilience is the ability to deal with adversity and cope with stress and challenges. A resilient person is able to adapt to difficult situations and maintain a positive outlook, even in the face of tough circumstances.

Resilience can be built. Being resilient increases your overall well-being and happiness.

Having resilience allows you to manage stress and difficult situations, and contributes to decreasing negative feelings and emotions. When you are resilient, you tend to have a more positive outlook on life, and are better able to cope with setbacks and bounce back from failure.

You will also be able to accept the things you can’t change, while believing in your ability to change the things you can influence. You are also more likely to find opportunities in difficult situations.

Finally, resilient people often have strong social connections. A supportive social network can play an important role in building resilience. Resilience also shows in a high sense of self-efficacy and self-worth.

In summary: building resilience improves your overall well-being and happiness, and allows you to better cope with stress and adversity.

Emotions – Look for what’s good

Barbara Fredrickson is a scientist who has conducted research on the influence of positive emotions on overall well-being. Her research focuses on the concept of “micro-moments” of positive emotion, or fleeting experiences of pleasure that occur throughout the day. She argues that these micro-moments of positive emotions are important for overall well-being, because they can have a cumulative effect on our mood and mindset over time.

Fredrickson’s research suggests that these micro-moments of positive emotions can broaden your perspective and make you more open to new experiences. They also help to build your resilience.

Additionally, these brief moments of positive emotions contribute to the development of positive relationships, as they open you up to more social interactions and can make those interactions with others more positive.

Furthermore, Fredrickson’s broaden-and-build theory suggests that positive emotions broaden your attention and cognition, and build your psychological, social, and physical resources.

This means that positive emotions can lead to greater creativity, better problem-solving, improved relationships, and better physical health.

Overall, Fredrickson’s work highlights the importance of experiencing positive emotions in our daily lives, and emphasizes the cumulative effect of these micro-moments on our happiness.

Acceptance – Be comfortable with who you are

Being comfortable with who you are means having a sense of self-acceptance and self-understanding. It means you are able to accept your strengths and weaknesses and be able to appreciate your unique qualities and characteristics.

Being comfortable with who you are is important for your well-being because it allows you to have a more positive view of yourself and the world around you.

When you are accepting who you are, you are less likely to compare yourself to others and are more likely to be content with your own life. This leads to a greater sense of self-acceptance, self-worth, and self-esteem.

Finally, self-acceptance increases your relationships. When you are comfortable with yourself, you are more likely to communicate your needs and wants effectively, and are be more accepting of others.

Additionally, self-acceptance helps you to be more authentic, which can lead to a greater sense of fulfillment and satisfaction in your life.

Overall, being comfortable with who you are is important for your well-being because it allows you to have a more positive view of yourself and the world, to be more content and fulfilled, and to have better relationships with others.

Meaning – Be part of something bigger

Having a sense of meaning in life can improve overall happiness because it provides a sense of purpose and direction. When you have meaning, you feel like your actions and activities contribute to something bigger than yourself. This gives you a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction.

Additionally, having a sense of meaning can also help to buffer against negative emotions, such as anxiety and depression. When you feel like your life has meaning and purpose, it helps to negate feelings of hopelessness and despair.

Additionally, having meaning also gives you a sense of control over your lives. That means you are less likely to feel like you are at the mercy of circumstance.

Moreover, having a sense of meaning is related to a sense of belonging and social connection, as having a purpose in life helps you to connect with others and build meaningful relationships. This can contribute to a greater sense of happiness and social well-being.

Ok, so now what?

Now that you know what these “ten keys to happiness” are, how can you use this to improve your own happiness?

Well, that is not an easy question to answer. It is very personal of course and there is no switch anywhere labelled “boost happiness”.

What works for me, is to be aware of these keys and continually look for ways to experiment with what works. All change is a process, so do not expect instant gratification.

Try to find one thing you can do and go do it. These are “keys” but not templates for happiness.

Another way to keep a healthy focus on this, while not letting it become an obsession, is to include these 10 keys in a regular review process.

I will incorporate this list of 10 items in my monthly(-ish) review so that I am regularly reminded of the things I can do.

What works for you? Please let me know, as I’d love to learn what works in your day-to-day life.

Looking to get more productive, focused, and resilient?

Join my free Focus Finder email course to transform yourself from deeply distracted to fully focused.

    Looking to get more productive, focused, and resilient?

    Join my free Focus Finder course and go from deeply distracted to fully focused.

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