The idea of stepping into happiness is a bit misleading, though it is based in a common misconception, which is that happiness it out there somewhere waiting to be found or in this care, to be “stepped” into.
Happiness is always within you – you chose to be happy. Granted sometime the choice can seem difficult, especially when it seems as if the world has conspired against you. Robert Holden PhD, director of the Happiness Project, describes it this way, “Nothing in the world cam make you happy; everything in the world can encourage you to be happy.”
The premise of “stepping into happiness” is really about finding those things that will “encourage you to be happy.” Still, happiness is always your choice.
Step One: One idea that’s been making the rounds in the happiness circuit is that money can buy you happiness. The caveat is happiness isn’t found in buying cool stuff for yourself. Whether it’s buying a new outfit or a new car (while you most likely will catch a short sugar buzz), your purchases won’t make any really difference in your overall happiness. It won’t change your happiness set point.
According to Michael Norton, co-author of “Happy Money: The Science of Smarter Spending,” that:
“When it comes to spending that money, most people just follow their intuitions. But scientific research shows that those intuitions are often wrong.
Happy Money explains why you can get more happiness for your money by following five principles, from choosing experiences over stuff to spending money on others. And the five principles can be used not only by individuals, but by companies seeking to create happier employees and provide “happier products” to their customers.”
The research is showing that money spent on experiences, like travel to new places, music lessons or even dinner out will have beneficial effects in a number of ways. First there’s the anticipation of the event and then we have the “feel-good” memories of our experience (which often tend to be remembered as better than they actually were).
Step Two: Don’t focus on what’s wrong; focus on what’s right. Studies have shown that focusing on your strengths is a much more powerful strategy for stepping into happiness than trying to “improve” on your “weaknesses.”
One reason for the rise of positive psychology is, prior to its growth as a field of study, psychology’s focus was on the negative or what’s wrong.
In a study, done by Willibald Ruch from the University of Zurich, people that concentrated on their strengths and not on what they “needed to work on,” experienced greater happiness and less depression.
Step Three: Giving. Sharing and charity have long been known to be happiness enhancers. Giving becomes a more powerful event when it is from the heart and not from a sense of duty or feeling a need “to do the right thing.” One of the best ways to, according to the research, is to help those you know or with those who you have direct contact. Not only do you get the rush of doing something for someone, but by helping someone you know you get instant positive feedback.
I would caution that this practice can lead to “conditioned happiness” which will quickly become no one beneficial to sustained happiness than buying a TV.
Step Four: Happiness can be found on your way to work. This is a step I employ all the time and have found it as effective as it is enjoyable; which, is the point of the whole exercise.
There are so many ways that your work commute can “encourage you to be happy.”
On the way to work I like to listen to audio books and what often happens is I hear an idea and I’ll stop the recording and being mulling it over as my ride to work continues. The ride to work is great for introspection and contemplation.
I love listening to some tunes. Music can really set my day in to motion in a good way. And music has been shown to be a wonderful mood enhancer. It releases all kinds of natural chemicals that boost positive emotions.
Step Five: “Fake it until you make it,” or a “smile is worth a 1000 words.” There’s power in turning up the corners of your mouth, and probably more that you realized. According to research, into what is known in psychology circles as the “facial feedback hypothesis,” we can affect our own mood simply by smiling or, even more powerfully, by laughing. (It should be noted that frowning can have the opposite effect.)
To get the process going, just think of something that makes you smile; a joke, a funny bit from a TV sitcom, or think of someone you love.
You can step into happiness and these steps are ones that have worked for and they’re all based in scientific research; in case that is something that would “encourage you to be happy.”