This blog post was written by guest blogger Tilde Guajardo – Founder & CEO of Womanars, Activator, Speaker, Author, Facilitator & Visionary.
What makes you happy?
One would think this is a fairly easy question to answer, but in reality most people don’t really know what makes them happy at all, or they have a false perception of what will. When I was younger, I believed making a lot of money, having a great career, big house, fancy cars and being able to travel all over the world would make me happy. So I chased the great career and got it, made a lot of money, built a big custom home with a pool and bought a new car every 2-3 years. By all standards, I was living the American Dream and the dream I envisioned for myself. I was also proud and happy when I reached those milestones, but eventually I would go back to feeling like something was missing. So I would set another goal to do something bigger and better to only go back to the way I felt before. Have you ever felt like this? If so, you are not alone, most people are going through life searching for happiness this way and don’t even realise it.
The Hedonic Treadmill
This process is known as the “Hedonic Treadmill”, which states that regardless of what happens to someone, their level of happiness will return to their baseline or set point after the event. What does this mean? It means if you get married, move into a new house, get a promotion, loose a job or suffer an accident, for example, after a certain period of time you’re likely to return to your set point. There is the initial spike in happiness, or sadness; however, as time goes on, the feeling of happiness or sadness caused by an event starts to subside. After some time has passed, you are back at the level of happiness you were at before. See this graph below…..
So how do we get off this crazy treadmill and begin to increase our happiness without feeling like we “need” anything more? Can it be done? The good news is we can. Recent research reveals that happiness is made up of different factors that contribute to our well-being and these factors can move in different directions. So sometimes, you could have both positive and negative emotions declining, but life satisfaction on the rise. For example, at one point when I was going through my divorce in 2005 both my positive and negative emotions were declining, but I was feeling better and better about my life and the opportunities I had before me.
Some people are also more “optimistic” no matter what is happening in their life. Two people may be going through the same circumstances but one is handling it much better than the other. It is due to the happier person being able to look at events or situations from a more positive perspective. I have been called an “eternal optimist” because I have the ability to see the good or an opportunity in almost any situation or circumstance. I’d love to say this came naturally to me, but it didn’t. I did a lot of work in my 20’s to do a mind-shift from a lot of anger, fear, shame and negativity to a mind full of faith, hope, love and optimism. So I know increasing your happiness is possible, because I’ve done it myself over the years.
Research also shows that 50% of our ability to be happy depends on our genetic factors, 10% on external circumstances and 40% on us and our choices. So if 40% is within our control, how can we begin to make better choices in our lives?
Here are some practices I incorporate into my daily life that may also help increase your own happy meter:
- Be gentle with yourself, and allow yourself to be human. You have permission to feel your emotions, examine them and move on. If you try to stop or reject them, you will only get frustrated.
- Simplify your life. Less is more, so stop multi-tasking and focus on one thing at a time.
- Live with meaning and pleasure. Do more things for the love of doing them, not because you feel obligated. Spend 2 hours a week doing your favorite hobbies or spending time with your favorite people.
- Be grateful for everything! Write 3 things before going to bed every night that you are grateful for, big or small.
- Be present in your relationships and meetings. Become a great listener with your partner, spouse, friends, family and clients. Enjoy the moments!
- Exercise to increase your energy, stamina and allow the dopamine and endorphins to increase your happy meter.
- Meditation/Prayer – Be mindful of your Spirit-Mind connection. This is essential to your well-being as your connection and alignment to your Spirit is where all your Peace, Love and Joy reside. Connect and align with your Higher Power and be open to whatever it wants to teach or show you.
These practices changed my life for the better and have given me the resilience to bounce back quickly from setbacks and challenges. They taught me happiness is not an “outside” job, but an “inside” job. Happiness is a state of being that needs nothing but a connected mind willing to see the beauty all around it and to believe it is good.
“It’s not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.” Charles Spurgeon
If you have any questions or would like to learn more, don’t hesitate to reach out to me.
Tilde is an entrepreneur, author, facilitator, TEDx Speaker & Organizer, start-up consultant, investor and global leader. She has over 20 years of experience in diverse leadership roles with experience in team development and management, curriculum and program development, event organization and planning, entrepreneurship, as well as leveraging global partnerships.
To contact Tilde click here.