How can we lead a happier and more meaningful life?
There have been more challenges in Australia and across the globe this year than most of us have ever experienced or could even imagine up until now.
Communities have been ravaged by drought, bush fire, floods and now this global pandemic is taking even more of a physical, emotional and economic toll on so many. And at this point in time we don't know when the world will ever find a new 'normal'.
When challenges build and compound, it can be easy to wonder about the meaning of it all, and we might find ourselves questioning our own purpose, or lacking drive at the very least.
So how can we lead a happier and more meaningful life? Especially when it seems more challenging than ever to find things to feel happy about.
I was recently asked in a podcast interview to share some thoughts on what I believe makes for a happier and more meaningful life, based on my personal experience and the research we have conducted at Positive Living Skills, so here are some ideas that have helped me feel connected to meaning and purpose, even when things haven't felt like they've made much sense. We'd love to hear from you with anything you'd like to add to the list too.
When we think about how we can help others, or we give our time or attention or support to other people in our lives, or contribute to a cause that is greater than ourselves, firstly it takes our focus away from the things that aren't as we would like them to be in our own life. That's the number one and immediate benefit, but there is so much more to it than that. Adding value to the lives of those we love, or those we might never meet, taps us into motivation, drive, purpose, value, which is really the gift and far outweighs what you put out.
If I could only share one tip, this would be it.
Appreciate the simple joys.
Anyone who knows our work at Positive Living Skills would have heard of 'highlights'. These are the simple pleasures that don't cost money and are available to just about all of us on any given day. A cool glass of water on a hot day, a smile with a friend (even over facetime), the touch of a soft blanket or the warmth of the sun. When we fully experience these moments and 'take them in', we are experiencing happiness and we can build our neural networks to notice them more easily and feel them more deeply.
The little things really are the big things.
Take yourself lightly.
Even when times are tough, if we can take ourselves lightly and allow ourselves to smile and laugh more (especially at ourselves) we give others permission to do the same, and smiling and laughing releases feel-good hormones like dopamine, endorphins and serotonin. These signal your body that you’re happy, and in turn, you feel happier.
The best decision I have probably ever made (apart from marrying my husband) is to start learning about how my own mind worked. After visiting a counsellor a number of times in my life, I eventually decided to study counselling, coaching,and NLP (Neuro-linguistic Programming) and have been learning ever since to gain more understanding of who I am, how I can understand others even more, and how I can help the next generation to do the same. Learning keeps our mind sharp, engaged and open, which is why supporting children to develop a growth mindset is such an important part of the PLS programs.
Focus on Progress.
When we are wanting to achieve something, we are encouraged to set goals, and if you follow the SMART goal methodology, then you set goals that are measurable and time-related. Very good advice and well worth investigating. After all, goals are all about purpose and drive and meaning.
"If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy and inspires your hopes.” —Andrew Carnegie
When Cath Shaw, founder of the Positive Living Skills Initiative, and I set out to develop the PLS programs, we had some goals and plans and they were clear and measurable, and then like the majority of new ventures, there have been loads of twists and turns along the way and lots of set-backs.
What really helps us to maintain our resilience and continue to move forward with passion and purpose is to focus on the PROGRESS we are making rather than only measuring the outcomes and time lines. So important for anyone who wants to achieve a goal, from weight loss to business success.
"If you want to have ongoing joy and fulfillment in your life, the secret is just one word – progress." Tony Robbins.
Until next time,
The PLS Team