Happiness is feeling or showing pleasure or contentment. Science tells us that only 10 percent of the variation in people’s reports of happiness can be explained by differences in their circumstances. Therefore the bulk of what determines happiness is your personality and – more modifiable – your thoughts and behaviours. Contentment is something you can cultivate; it is the sum of your life choices. Your choices, thoughts and actions can influence your level of happiness.
People who are happy seem to intuitively know this, and their lives are built on the following pillars:
Devoting time to family and friends
Appreciating what they have
Maintaining an optimistic outlook
Feeling a sense of purpose
Living in the moment
Here are a few tips for cultivating contentment:
Invest in relationships. Surround yourself with happy people. Being around people who are content buoys your own mood. Friends and family help you celebrate life’s successes and support you in difficult times. It’s easy to take these relationships for granted, so they need nurturing with kind words and actions. Let people know that you appreciate what they do for you or even just that you’re glad they’re part of your life.
Express gratitude. Gratitude is more than saying thank you. It’s a sense of wonder, appreciation and thankfulness for life. It’s easy to go through life without recognising your good fortune. Each day identify at least one thing that enriches your life.
Find your purpose. People who strive to meet a goal or fulfil a mission (whether it’s growing a garden, becoming healthier or finding new talents) are more content than those who don’t have such aspirations. Having a goal provides a sense of purpose, bolsters self-esteem and brings people together. What your goal is doesn’t matter as much as whether the process of working toward it is meaningful to you. Try to align your daily activities with the long-term meaning and purpose of your life. Ask yourself these questions to find your purpose:
- What excites and energises me?
- What are my proudest achievements?
- How do I want others to remember me?
Live in the moment. Mindfully look for opportunities to savour the small pleasures of everyday life. Focus on the positives in the present moment. Take time to do whatever feeds your soul and makes you feel good.