The Action for Happiness website (www.actionforhappiness.org) says you need to live the Great Dream on a day-to-day basis. Great Dream is the acronym for the 10 internal and external keys people need to take to bring more happiness into their lives.
The first five—“Great”—relates to the ways we interact with the outside world through the activities we pursue on a day to day basis.
G is for giving or doing things for others and it’s not always about money because time, ideas and energy is just as important.
“Helping other people is not only good for them and a great thing to do, it also makes us happier and healthier too. Giving creates stronger connections between people and helps to build a happier society for everyone.”
R stands for relating or connecting with people. Today I came across an interesting quote—“Respect people who find time for you in their busy schedule. But love those who never look at their schedule when you need them.” In a crisis, knowing who to call and knowing that the people who matter to you can depend on you is very important.
“Taking action to strengthen our relationships and create new connections is essential for happiness.”
Make that call, and send that e-mail to show you care. Don’t put things off before they are too late.
E is for exercise which is very basic but essential in the pursuit of happiness. Because the body and mind are so connected, being active releases happy hormones and keeps us fit. Getting adequate sleep everyday is also a must. Not everyone can run a marathon but it’s the little steps you take in everyday that can guarantee a regular release of those happy hormones to help keep you fit and sane. Unplug from technology and carve out at the very least, half an hour a day to walk, run, do yoga, swim, hike or bike—whatever floats your boat will keep you on that road to happy.
A stands for appreciation, taking time out to notice the world around you. Practicing mindfulness does wonders for our well-being in all areas of life.
“It helps us get in tune with our feelings and stops us from dwelling on the past or worrying about the future—so we get more out of the day-to-day.”
I cannot count the number of times I have stopped in the middle of what I’m doing to take in a glorious sunset, bask under the glow of a full moon, listen to the water gurgle in a brook, or watch my children sleep and listen to them breathe—magical moments that cost nothing but in their simplicity reward us with great joy.
T is for trying out and learning new things.
“Learning affects our well-being in lots of positive ways. It exposes us to new ideas and helps us stay curious and engaged, gives us a sense of accomplishment and helps boost our self-confidence and resilience.”
I remember how at age 40, I conquered my fear of heights by going wall-climbing for the first-time, and at age 45 ran my first ever 5K. There are no limits to what you can do, and age is simply a number if your heart is willing to take the risk.
Let happiness in
The last five keys to happiness—“Dream”—come more from inside us and depend on our attitude to life. This is the harder part, one that sometimes entails a paradigm shift and a lot of self-reflection.
D means direction, or having goals to pursue. Every day you need to have something to look forward to. We need goals to motivate us, challenging enough to excite us, but they need to be achievable, too, otherwise, you’ll just be setting yourself up for undue stress.
“Choosing ambitious but realistic goals gives our lives direction and brings a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when we achieve them.”
R is for resiliency, my all-time favorite word. Finding ways to bounce back from loss, failure or trauma is essential to happiness.
“We cannot change the cards we are given, only the way we deal with them,” inspiring author Randy Pausch once said. Though some people are more resilient, like many other life skills, it can always be learned. Resiliency is like a muscle, that becomes stronger every time we bounce back from a tough period in our lives.
E stands for emotions, specifically positive emotions.
“Recent research shows that regularly experiencing them creates an ’upward spiral’, helping to build our resources.” It’s important to be realistic but it never hurts to always focus on the good aspects of any situation. Re-frame the situation and try look for the good.
A is for acceptance and being comfortable in your own skin, flaws and all. The gift of being able to laugh at oneself is a precious. Learning to be kind to ourselves and others when things go wrong teaches kindness and increases our resilience and well-being. When we become more tolerant of ourselves, we learn to extend that tolerance to others.
M is for meaning and being a part of something bigger.
“People who have meaning and purpose in their lives are happier, feel more in control and get more out of what they do. They also experience less stress, anxiety and depression.”
Often your purpose lies in your soft spot or in a painful experience that changed you. Find that soft spot and embrace it, channel the painful experience into something positive by advocating for it. Doing so will bring more happiness not only into your own life but into the lives of everyone you care for as well.