What really makes a happy person?
25 May 2020
Road rage, queuing, poor internet connections, the stresses of modern life – no matter the problem, some people always seem to come up smiling. They appear to be naturally happy and cheerful. But, their sunny dispositions don’t come down to DNA. They have to work at it. So how do they do it? Here are five ways to start getting in on the happiness action and taking a giant leap towards a better and more fulfilling life.
1. They think the glass is half full
Sadly, science has shown that we are predisposed to a negative bias. The good news is that we can do something about it. With a little effort, we can re-program our brains to seek out the positive. Once you do this you’ll feel that rush of dopamine to the brain and you guessed it, feel happier.
Dr Timothy Sharp (aka Dr Happy), chief happiness officer at The Happiness Institute, says that he has ‘absolutely no doubt that people can exercise their brains and enjoy benefits such as happiness… just like when we exercise our bodies we enjoy benefits such as fitness and strength.’
If you want to up your positivity, try this simple technique: As soon as you finish brushing your teeth, close your eyes and think about a moment when you felt truly happy – you’ll Jedi mind-trick a shot of bliss into your regular routine.
2. They get physical
This doesn’t mean you have to take up marathon running to find some positivity. No, there’s a simple and easy way to release negativity and you don’t even have to leave your living room. All you have to do is stand up, put on some music and bust a few moves.
A perfect example of how this releases positivity can be seen in Tommy Franklin (aka ‘Salty Rain Man’) who made it to the grand final of Australia’s Got Talent in 2013. His talent? Dancing like nobody’s watching – only, everybody was. Franklin had been an angry teenager who fell into a life of drugs and drinking. After a life-threatening accident, he hit rock bottom and started attending a youth group. Listening to church hymns, he would break into wild, energetic dance.
Franklin enthuses, ‘dancing was a natural response to life, I needed another coping mechanism that was healthy – I had plenty of unhealthy ones.’ Franklin now makes a living from touring Australia doing what he loves. ‘It’s amazing,’ he beams.
So if you are looking to boost your happiness, put on some tunes and let loose three times a week. Or whenever the mood strikes.
3. They live what they love
Daniel Evans is an award-winning writer, director and producer renowned for his effusive personality and his work in empowering young people through theatre. ‘People say you should choose your battles, but I think you should choose your passions,’ Evans says, smiling. ‘Let what you fight for come from a place of conviction rather than a place of anger. You decide what you care about and what you are willing to let go of.’
Evans says to create a non-toxic environment and really think about what it is you value. ‘Find cause to laugh. Seek to understand people. And don’t forget to look back and up every now and then to see how far you've come and where you exist,’ he says. Take charge and make a decision on where you want to invest your energy and choose to move away from negative situations that sap your spirit and make you stressed.
4. They’re passionate
Research shows those who regularly practice acts of kindness are ten times more likely to be in good health, and that volunteering helps the body release natural painkillers and reduces stress.
Take Polly Snowden, a photographer who began her volunteering work in Somalia, for example. She not only holds mentoring workshops for up-and-coming musicians and artists, she also travels the world with activist musicians such as Michael Franti, John Butler and Santana. And when she returns home she holds art, music and healing workshops in remote Aboriginal communities.
‘I can be on a private plane one day and doing the washing up barefoot in an outdoor kitchen, the next,’ Snowden laughs. ‘I don’t want to have a normal life experience. When I’m in the service of others I’m at my happiest.’ Snowden advises, ‘you can’t do it all. Find your passion and embrace others around you to complement and fill the gaps.’
5. They bounce back
Pharrell Williams sang in the catchy tune, Happy, ‘I should probably warn you, I’ll be just fine.’ That’s exactly the attitude that happy people have – they know how to put the negative behind them and make space for the positive.
And that couldn’t be more true for Jodie Bartrum, a construction administrator from Queensland, was diagnosed with osteogenesis imperfecta (brittle bone disease) at the age of seven. She says finding something great to focus on can help you move forward when life gets tough. The beach is her place of bliss. ‘I like to think of myself as a mermaid, as I have brittle bones,’ she explains. ‘I think my break tally is up to 300. In the ocean is where I feel free – all the pain goes away!’
Feeling a little more inspired to go out and find more positivity in your every day? Remember, happiness won’t come looking for you. You have to go out and chase it. But hopefully you’ll have fun doing it.
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