Aristotle once said that when you reach happiness, there's nothing else you'll want but to be happy. He explains that once this state is achieved, the feeling allows you to focus on living as your true self and express yourself without regard as to how others may perceive you.
I’ve been experimenting with ways on how to lead a happier and more fulfilling life, and the most important thing I’ve learnt is that happiness doesn’t come ready made off a shelf somewhere, but from our own actions. Unfortunately, many people in today’s society tend to attach their happiness to things outside of their control. Money. That long-awaited promotion. And the “I’ll be happy when I have …” statements. The truth however, is that happiness is a feeling that is ultimately experienced from the inside out.
Having experimented with a number of habits over the years, I want to share with you some of those that I’ve found especially powerful:
1) Gratitude At the end of each day, make time to reflect and write down 3 things that you’re grateful for, no matter how small. Perhaps for the fact that you’re doing something you’re incredibly passionate about. The fact that you were able to enjoy the view of a beautiful sunset with your partner. Or that the London tube strikes were called off so your commute back home was smoother than it would’ve been! If you’re in a relationship, you could also tell your partner these 3 things instead of writing them down.
2) Exercise. If you’ve ever experienced an intense workout session, you’ll know how good it feels after! By regularly pushing your body and testing your limits, you don’t just become stronger. You become more productive, more energetic and in a better mood to handle whatever may come your way that day. In fact, it’s well-known that lifelong exercise can lead to improved brain function in later life. So start small and work towards increasing the intensity. I went from wearing size 36-38 inch trousers to comfortably fitting into 32 inch pairs in little over 12 months and am the healthiest I’ve ever been. Make time in your schedule for exercise and notice how you feel as it becomes a habit.
3) A Kind Gesture. The carrying out of kind deeds and the appreciation of others, provides you with perspective and an ability to empathise with what people other than yourself are going through. Put a smile on someone’s face, make their life easier by recognising what they’re going through and helping out accordingly, and provide genuine praise if you’re impressed by a level of service or achievement. You’ll make their day! I tend to write a note of appreciation to a restaurant or hotel whenever the service is exceptional and look for ways to inspire others — from volunteer work to running workshops at universities to give students the tools they need to get into their dream career.
4) Environment Optimisation. A key driving force behind an individual’s success and happiness can be found in the company they keep. You may not be consciously aware of it, but the people you hang around with can have a massive influence on your life. A large reason as to where I am today is because of the support I’ve had, the people I’ve met and the circles I’ve had the privilege to be a part of. Focus on spending as much time as you can with those who will help you improve your life to become more than who you are. As Oprah Winfrey said, “Surround yourself with only people who are going to lift you higher.”
5) Meditation. Put that smartphone/tablet/laptop aside and instead, begin each day by meditating for as little as 15 minutes. Meditation is a key habit of happiness as it helps you to gain clarity and be more present by connecting you to your inner self. It allows you to reflect on the day ahead, what’s most important to accomplish and acts as a reminder that you, and you alone, have the ability to choose how great your day will be. In essence, if you’re able to practice this on a regular basis, studies show that you will literally be rewiring the structure of your brain to allow for the experience of more positive emotions.
6) Living In The ‘Now’. Find joy in the present, for your life is made up of moments. Moments that if you fail to appreciate, will simply pass you by. You’ll miss the beauty of living in the here and now. And once gone, you can’t live them again. Create optimal experiences by immersing yourself in each moment and you will, in time, create some incredibly epic memories! What you do today will determine how far you’ll go. As the Dalai Lama said when asked the question of what surprised him the most: “Man, because he sacrifices himself in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then he dies having never really lived.”
7) Be Curious. The world is one gigantic classroom, yet many of us fail to explore it for all its wonder! Rather than spending your hard-earned cash on objects, ask yourself what you want to experience and how you want to grow (development of new skills, learning a new language, etc). Feed your mind and follow up on things you have a passion for. One of my goals in recent years, has been to travel more often and consume more books to further my learning in a variety of different fields. As Jim Rohn states: “Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune.”
This is not meant to be an exhaustive list as what I wanted to do here, is to share with you the habits that have helped me the most. My challenge to you? Commit yourself to doing some of the above in the next few weeks and notice what you experience. Which one will you chose first?
"Simon Alexander Ong is an investor, success strategist, European Director of the Entrepreneur Institute and a mentor for startups at Branson's Virgin Startup. Connect with him now on Twitter @SimonAlexanderO and follow his blog at simonalexanderong.com"
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