Do you have peace, contentment, and meaning in your life? According to the experts, happiness isn’t something that happens to you; it’s something you make happen. We spoke to a couple of experts in the happiness business, life coach Susie Moore and Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann, to get the low-down on feeling uplifted. Read on to find out how you can take steps towards a happier life.
Forget Your Troubles, Come On Get Happy
Do you tend to always see the cup half empty? Or, have you experienced negative external circumstances, such as a death in the family or loss of a job? You may think that pulling the covers up over your head and getting used to feeling bad is all you can do. But New York City-based life coach Susie Moore has good news. “Happiness can be cultivated through mindset and daily habits,” she told us. “Consciously developing the practice of gratitude, for example, works wonders in creating happiness.”
Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann of The Society for the Advancement of Judaism, agrees. “Part of my happiness comes from the feeling of luck that I am able to do work in the world that is personally meaningful and that I believe helps others.” Rather than take her good fortune for granted, Rabbi Grabelle Herrmann remains thankful, a proven way to raise happiness levels. “Taking time to recognize all of the blessings in your life rather than focusing on what is lacking creates a habit of looking for the positives in your life.”
How else can you cultivate happiness? With input from Moore and Grabelle Herrmann, we’ve compiled five sure-fire strategies to help bring more joy to daily life.
1. Give to Others
Altruism not only gives us a “high,” which increases happiness, but it can improve our health, according to an article in the Stony Brook Newsroom by Professor Stephen G. Post. Helping neighbors, volunteering, or donating goods and services are linked to health and wellbeing, and being selfless “is associated with a substantial reduction in mortality rates and is linked to longevity.” Lending an ear, teaching a skill, celebrating the joy of others, and being present with friends and family are all ways to give. Giving means getting: take care of others, and you wind up taking care of yourself.
2. Be Passionate about Your Goals
“Working out what your life goals are and what you are passionate about is important,” Moore says. “Taking steps to realize your life goals gives you an amazing sense of progress and alignment with yourself. It makes you feel like you are on track in life and living a life that is your own, which boosts your happiness greatly.” Ask yourself: What do I want to achieve in life? What is a dream I’d pursue if I felt I had no barriers? Then take small steps towards your goal, remembering to celebrate progress along the way. Eventually, you’ll find yourself as the owner of your own thriving business, crossing the finish line of a marathon, or 25 pounds leaner.
3. Boost Your Self-Esteem
According to The Secrets of Happiness in Psychology Today, “Happy people like themselves.” The article points to several studies from The University of Michigan indicating that the best predictor of overall happiness isn’t satisfaction with income level, friendships, or even family life, but satisfaction with self. According to the article, most people overestimate their successes and how other people rate them, support their opinions, and share their foibles. And this modest self-deception is a good thing: the “positive illusion” helps protect us against depression and anxiety.
Moore urges her clients to advocate for themselves in the workplace to cultivate more self esteem. “Feeling like our monthly paycheck is fair for the work we carry out in our career is a self esteem boost. This goal is an area I am passionate about, and I have spent time developing guidance on how to ask for the salary you deserve, which has helped guide many women especially to a salary that reflects their contribution.” So ignore the conventional wisdom that discourages tooting your own horn; the better you feel about yourself, the better you’ll feel overall.
4. Do Meaningful Work
Grabelle Hermann uses her position as a rabbi to inspire and influence others, which gives her a sense of purpose. When asked what else is meaningful about her job, she expounded, “I like the diversity of tasks – I can be doing program planning, teaching, writing, listening to people, big-picture thinking, working with kids and more on any given day… and maybe sometimes all within one day.” Like many happy workers, Grabelle Herrman knows what is important to her and incorporates it into her work. Moore also stresses the need to know yourself as you seek a career. She shared, “An important part of happiness is working out who you are and what drives you and aligning your work to this.”
People who are happy in their jobs don’t necessarily clock in for the paycheck. A recent Gallup Poll in the area of Work and Education revealed that nearly two-thirds of surveyed Americans would not quit their jobs if they won $10 million in the lottery. The implication is that most people find their work to be rewarding enough to forge on regardless of financial need.
5. Connect with People
As the old song goes, “People who need people are the luckiest people of all.” The Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin proclaimed in The Huffington Post that “Everyone, even introverts, gets a boost of happiness and energy when they interact with other people.” We humans are born to be social. In fact, we rely on others for our very survival. No wonder a lack of connection and isolation can lead to depression and poor physical health. Grabelle Herrmann sees this in her personal life and in her work as a rabbi. “Connectivity is huge,” she affirmed. “People, myself included, need people who can reflect back that they are understood and therefore have a place in this very big universe. And the benefits of making connections can even extend to our furry friends. “Having a pet is a key part of my life,” Moore enthused. “My dog Coco puts a smile on my face every day.”
What Doesn’t Make Us Happy?
In a article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nobel Prize winner Daniel Kahneman reports that after a person reaches slightly beyond the average middle-class income level, large increases in financial gains don’t bring much, if any, increased reported happiness.
Don’t get the wrong idea: Money can bring truly poverty-stricken people happiness by relieving the stressors of not having enough food, not having access to dignified housing, and not being able to access medical care. So don’t discount the value of 9-to-5 jobs; there is pride to be felt in earning enough to care for yourself and your family. Joblessness increases rates of divorce, suicide, and disease, according to social scientist Arthur C. Brooks in his 2013 New York Times article, A Formula for Happiness. But the ultimate goal should still be to find work that combines your passions and capabilities, allowing you to create value in your own life, and in the larger world as well.
So take control of your own happiness today. As Moore advises, “Happiness can be cultivated through mindset and daily habits.” And even the smallest steps can lead to a big payoff down the line.