Another week comes in. You work hard, study hard, take care of your families, and try to find time for hobby or personal project if you can.
In the midst of busy life, it is important to stop rushing and ask one question.
Am I happy?
Sometimes we try even harder to be happy, because we think happiness comes from success, and success comes from hard work. This entry aims to let us all reflect that point, and take a stab at some of the actions you can take immediately…for what? To find happiness.
Happiness (WHY and WHAT)
Why in the first place is it important to be happy?
Simply put, to feel good. Besides, there are many benefits. Happy people are healthier and live longer, cope with stress and enjoy life. Unhappy people have all the opposite. So it is fair to say that we all want to be happy.
But what is happiness anyway?
According to Oxford dictionary, hapiness means:
“The state of feeling or showing pleasure”
“The state of being satisfied that something is good or right”
So this implies that happiness is quite subjective and light. Some tend to think that happiness is something to gain as one product, but it could be actually something you can feel inside (it might be already there). Many of us sort of know when we feel it, or lack thereof if we are intentional.
Here is an interesting question we tend to ask.
Does money help us to be happy?
The answer is “yes to a certain degree but not a definitive factor” as shown in the below graph.
The study shows the correlation between GDP and happiness at country level. The higher the GDP is, the sharper the country happiness level increases up to $30,000 GDP per capita (after that it doesn’t affect happiness level).
Of course, this is looking at GDP only and it is country average (within one country there could be many differences at individual level). But this corrects some of our notion that happiness is synonym of success. You can be economically poor, sick, failure of something but happy. You can be millionaire, physically fit, have many SNS followers but unhappy.
Ok, we went through WHY and WHAT about happiness. Let’s see how.
As happiness is subjective wellbeing, there is no one single and perfect prescription. But that’s when dedicate people’s work come in.
According to one of the most popular TED talk “Happy Secret to Better Work” (Shawn Achor), Some recipes to be more positive/happy are below (to know more about TED and recommended talk, please see here)
- Appreciate (Write 3 things you appreciated for the last 24 things everyday) –> the focus of this entry
- Random act of kindness
As I found the first point quite interesting, I started experimenting, and came up with 5 ways to appreciate in your life quite easily.
5 great ways to have gratitude
Below are 5 ways to have gratitude. In a nutshell, it is to be mindful about the fact that our life is given, nothing is static, and there are many beauty if we are intentional. They might work well for some and maybe not for others. Let’s see one by one.
Feel the nature (change of the season)
First recommendation is to feel the nature. If you live in a place where you can feel the difference of the seasons, go out and feel it. Even if season doesn’t change overnight, you can find some tiny change such as different weather, state of plants in your surrounding, etc. It is quite easy to forget that our life is given by tremendous nature and mother earth.
In Japan, where I happened to stay for 10 months due to telework, I could see 4 different seasons after long time interval. I especially like autumn (change of color in trees) and spring (cherry blossom).
<Autumn “Beauty in the rain” @Iwakura kogen, Nagano>
<Spring “Once-in-a-life view of Yoshino cherry blossom” @Yoshino, Nara>
What if you don’t live in such place to feel the change? Don’t worry, I get it. I lived in the extreme environment including Mongolia and Mauritania (long winter and constant hot/dry season respectively). So it was quite difficult for me to feel the nature. In that case, I often watched below video.
If that’s the case, you can see the photos, videos (youtube) and movies. Also, planting something helps to remind us of the change.
Action: go out and feel the nature and/or see photos/watch videos or plant something to feel the nature to appreciate.
Reflect the origin of your meal you have
Just pay attention to the meal you have today. Just check, then try to see where ingredients came from and who were involved until this goes to your mouth.
For example, my today’s meal was Thai green curry, green salad and green tea (it’s just a coincidence that they are so many green, but green is usually good!). First, the green curry paste came all the way from Thailand through some factory worker, I suppose (for packing) followed by shipping, delivery to the market, someone to buy and cook. We also used coconut milk, which also has many process and people involved. Vegetables came from different farmers and green tea is also a product of many process and people involved.
Just thinking about all those helps us to think that our life is supported by so many people and we tend to take it for granted.
Action: Look at ingredient of the food you ate today, and imagine all the people involved in the process so that you can feel supported and grateful.
Pray before the breakfast (language lesson!)
Words you emit have souls. The more positive things you say, the more positive feeling you will have. And I have been praying since 2018 where I couldn’t access to many ingredients, but realized that I could still eat and live. I also recommend breakfast, as it is the beginning of the day, so you can keep gratefulness for the rest of the day. It has nothing to do with any religion, just appreciating for what you have.
As added value, if you are interested in learning language, you can also pray in your target language, so it can serve as good practice (the more emotion you put, the more you learn the phrases you are learning).
Here is the example of my praying in Portuguese.
“Today is Thursday, April 15. Half way through the month and time flies. We are grateful for a new day, because we have basic needs for humans, including breakfast to start a day, water to drink, bedroom to sleep, house to live, and many people who helped to let us do so. We will learn and contribute to the society even at small scale. Thank you. Itadakimasu (Japanese greeting and way of appreciation to start eating)
Action: Pray before having a breakfast to appreciate the foods/drink/new day. You can also practice using your target language you are learning.
As the first thing to do in the morning (after meditation and bathroom), there is a specific thing I do every day: digital journaling. Some people might prefer handwriting (and there are some benefits around it too), but to me digital journal works better so that I can search some key words.
Here is what I do. I have excel spreadsheet like below, and just put some honest information about the following things:
(1) Things I did yesterday and how it went (copy and paste of (4) from previous day and be honest about it)
(2) Today’s feeling level (1 as worst, 2 ok and 3 great)
(3) Today’s feeling narrative: I try to write how many hours I slept (from what time), how I feel. I also add what I am grateful about.
(4) Ideas for today
(5) Recently I started to add 1 fiction story line to practice creative skills (each day just rough idea of any story)
Just to show an example, here is how it looks like. Oh, I also write in different language to brush up some writing.
|Date||Day||Previous day||Today’s feeling level||Today’s feeling narrative||Ideas for today|
|16||Fri||・My book writing: not done
・Read books : Read a few chapters
・Downtime: chat with friends (XX) which felt good
・Turning point: I decided to decline an offer and shared with relevant peopl
・Infographic for my project: done
|3||I slept 7h (11: 00-6: 00) and well. Even though I keep thinking about work, at least I feel better about the decision I made. I am grateful for Carol’s help. I think things are happening for the reason with Turning point (motivation to start, talk to Mariko, coach, written test invitation, withdrawal announcement with Crom and Anna, rethinking, mapping, Kazuo, Yuya, Honda, info graphic). や っ て み て 修正||・My book
・ShoppingStory about a guy who became rich with online business but never met a person after that
Action: Keep the journal to reflect appreciation of what you did and what you plan to do. You can use it for language learning and creative exercise.
At the end of each day, I use application called “Gratitude” which is simple journal app. It aims to be an avenue for self reflection and helps users improve their mental health and change their perception of life. I set up notification at 10pm (30-60 min before I sleep), so that I can write about what I am grateful for the day. It also allows to put 1 photo for free (paid version will allow more photos). It tends to be the same contents of (1) and (3) mentioned in the above digital journal. But it allows me to reflect the day.
I am Grateful today for warm weather, chance to write and read books, having people to share my important decision, and have mind to do some creative work, and friends/family who helped me.
Action: Set up notification of gratitude application (ideally 30-60 min before you sleep) and write what you are grateful about the day and attach associated photo.
Well, that’s it for my recommendations, and I hope these will be useful for your happiness. If you practice and/or have other suggestion, please share.
I am suggesting all these so I should be happy all the time? Not necessarily, as I also have lots of up and down. But I am trying and learning by doing, and I would say at least I find more happy moments than before. The finding usually stays inside you, not outside, so the more you explore, the more you will find some grateful things. I believe it’s the accumulation of intentional effort. Let’s build the habit of happiness and spread it, then the world will be a better place (I mean it !)
The learning of this time
Happiness improves our life and it is something you can explore and feel internally. One way to do so is to have gratitude, which you can practice by feeling the nature, thinking about your food, praying, keeping journal, and useing gratitude app.
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