Happiness is a powerful and contagious emotion. In fact, it does not just make us feel good; it has superpowers. According to Mental Health America, it can lower anxiety, decrease stress hormones, promote heart health, and even lessen pain. Experts say that positive feelings can also boost your ability to bounce back from pressure, solve problems, think flexibly and even fight disease.
I recently conducted a study regarding happiness and learned that, as of 2022, there are only moderate levels of happiness in the United States and two-thirds of the respondents said they were surviving, not thriving. The good thing is that most believe there are benefits to being happy and would like to improve their levels of joy.
No doubt happiness is the good stuff, but how can we jumpstart our joy and take advantage of the superpowers of feeling good?
My theory is happiness is a muscle. You can train that muscle to get strong through practice and actionable everyday rituals. If you are looking for where or how to start, try these three easy strategies:
Define your happiness rituals.
Your happiness rituals are actions you take every day because they bring you joy. These practices may have extra benefits outside of the happiness you feel, but the main reason you do them is to feel cheerful. For example, I light pumpkin spice candles all the time, reminding me of my childhood and autumn activities. Another of my happiness rituals is taking my 24 lb. blue-eyed Siamese cat for a walk in a baby stroller. It is so fun to see how people react to it, and my cat enjoys this quality time with me.
If you do not have existing happiness rituals, try something easy, like doing a good deed every day. It can be as simple as bringing someone a cup of coffee and a doughnut. It will bring instant joy to their day, and their gratitude will boost your morale, too.
Know what drives and nourishes your values.
The definition of value is a person’s standards for behavior; what is important in their life. Your values should be the roadmap on how to live and work. When your lifestyle matches your values, life is good, and you are happy! When your lifestyle does not match your values, life is melancholy, and you feel something important is missing.
Unfortunately, many people do not know their unique core values outside of family and friends. I suggest looking back on the “wow” moments in your life to find yours. The times you felt exceptionally proud, satisfied, and joyful. Going back to college to get my MBA while working full time and being a single mother was one of mine. Running my first marathon at age 50 and training for two months in the dead of winter was another. They were both tough, but rewarding. These “wow” moments made me realize one of my core values is I have a love for doing hard things. The sense of pride I feel in doing hard things makes me happy.
My other core values are indulging my inner child: (who does not love a good belly laugh and child’s play?), physical fitness (pushing myself to be at my best and reverse aging), helping people (connecting them to what they need or would make life easier or better.)
The quality of my life is amazing when I incorporate my core values into every day. Before I go to bed, I ask myself, “Did I include my values in my day?” and give myself a pass or fail, like a report card. Making your values actionable is just as important as knowing what they are.
Take responsibility for your happiness.
You and only you own your happiness. While other people can help you
find joy; ultimately, happiness is an inside job. I learned that at a young age. My mother, Sue Kahn died incredibly young. She had a brain tumor followed by terminal pancreatic cancer. She was frustrated and depressed all the time. Then one magical day, she was smiling and happy — a big change from her previous pessimistic state. I had to ask her what
had changed. She said she had no control over cancer, but her happiness and attitude were something she could control. That was a big “aha moment” for me and one that inspires me every day.
Happiness is a compelling emotion, and I hope people will start to invest in their happiness as the payoff is incredible for not only themselves but the people around them, too.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Peggy Sullivan is a women’s leadership speaker, mindset expert, and founder of the nonprofit organization, SheCAN!. She is also the author of the book, “Happiness is Your Responsibility”. Peggy is a strong advocate of utilizing the power of happiness to achieve personal success, professional growth, and increased health and wellness. She has won numerous awards and honors, including the 2019 Woman in Leadership Award from New York State. Peggy has also been featured in Forbes Women, FOX, and BloomTV, and has presented and consulted worldwide for organizations such as Bank of America, Blue Cross BlueShield, Ingram Micro, and WomanUp Conferences. You can connect with Peggy on LinkedIn and Instagram, and purchase “Happiness is Your Responsibility” here.