Get into the habit of being happy! We may all have different abilities, interests, beliefs and lifestyles, beliefs but there is one thing that we all have in common: We want to be happy! Happiness shows you how to be happy by adopting lifelong "Happiness habits" that bring and fulfilment and pleasure to your days. These habits will help you manage life's inevitable ups and downs; consistent practice will develop your Happiness abilities and help you live the happy life you want. Aristotle believed that Happiness was comprised of pleasure and a sense of life well-lived. Today's research agrees, suggesting that "Happiness" is defined by your overall satisfaction with your life as well as how you feel from day to day. This book shows you that Happiness is a skill made up of a particular set of habits that you can bring in your life starting today. * Identify your own, personal definition of "Happiness" * Learn why we need to be happy and what often gets in the way * Develop habits that help you create and maintain Happiness long-term * Learn how to be happy when you're stuck in an unhappy situation * Discover the often-overlooked Happiness that surrounds you every day While Happiness is not feeling good all the time you do have the ability to control how you feel Happiness gives you the skills and perspective to recognise Happiness and pursue a happy life--whatever that may mean for you.
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This edition first published 2018.
© 2018 Gill Hasson
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Names: Hasson, Gill, author. Title: Happiness : how to get into the habit of being happy / Gill Hasson. Description: Chichester, West Sussex, United Kingdom : John Wiley & Sons Ltd., 2018. | Includes index. | Identifiers: LCCN 2018026832 (print) | ISBN 9780857087591 (pbk.) Subjects: LCSH: Happiness. Classification: LCC BF575.H27 H384 2018 (print) | DDC 158— dc23 LC record available at https://lccn.loc.gov/2018026832
A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.
ISBN 978-0-857-08759-1 (pbk)
ISBN 978-0-857-08762-1 (ebk)
ISBN 978-0-857-08756-0 (ebk)
Cover design: Wiley
Printed in Great Britain by TJ International Ltd, Padstow, Cornwall, UK
To Tom with love from Mum xx
Why Be Happy?
Chapter 1 What Happiness Is
A Short History of Happiness
Chapter 2 How to Be Happy: Find Purpose and Meaning: Know What’s Important to You; Know Your Values
Identify Your Core Values
Work and Career
Friends and Family
Interests and Hobbies
Identifying and Working Towards Goals
Manage the Difficulties and Setbacks
Plan for Difficulties
Chapter 3 Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Step Out of Your Comfort Zone
Let Go of What’s Making You Unhappy
Positive and Negative Thinking
Free Yourself from Commitments and Situations that Are Making You Unhappy
Chapter 4 How to Be Happy: Identify and Indulge in Small Pleasures
Small Pleasures and Awesome Things
Can Money Buy Happiness?
What to Buy and What Not to Buy
Chapter 5 Happiness When Life Is Really Hard
Being Stuck in a Job You Don’t Like
Serious Difficulties, Setbacks, and Trauma
Chapter 6 How to Help Others Be Happy
Help Someone Who Is Unhappy
Help Someone Be Happy
Express Your Appreciation
Show Your Appreciation
Useful Websites and Books
About the Author
Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.
– Abraham Lincoln
We may all have different abilities, interests and lifestyles, goals, values, beliefs, and expectations, but there’s one thing that we all have in common: we want to be happy.
How happy are you right now? How happy are you with your life in general, as a whole? Would you like to be happier? How much happier? Of course, it’s not really possible to measure happiness; there’s no point system or way to measure the happiness flowing through your bloodstream. But we don’t really need to be able to measure happiness in order to know whether we’re happy or not. And it seems that so many of us aren’t.
Levels of anxiety, stress, loneliness, and depression appear to have escalated in recent years. The mental health charity Mind reports that, in England, one in six people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety or depression) in any given week. A survey of 2330 people in the UK carried out in 2014 by YouGov for The Mental Health Foundation revealed that almost one in five people feel anxious ‘nearly all of the time’ or ‘a lot of the time’.
A survey carried out in the UK in 2017 for the Jo Cox Commission on Loneliness showed that almost three-quarters of older people in the UK are lonely – but anyone who is socially isolated as a result of, for example, the loss of family and friends, unemployment, a disability, illness, or caring for others can also experience the unhappiness that comes with feelings of loneliness.
Even if you aren’t lonely or experiencing a mental health problem – even if your life is OK – it seems that the pressure to be happy and successful is greater than ever before. These days, it’s not just having money, a great job, a nice home, a good relationship, and lots of friends that defines a successful life, but how happy you are and how often you’re happy.
For many of us, it’s become important to appear super happy all the time; to share happy news, post happy photos, tweet happy tweets. Due to social media’s obsession with joy, it can seem like everyone else is achieving nirvana levels of happiness and bliss. In fact, a 2017 poll by the charity Girlguiding, of girls and young women aged 11–21, found that one in three feel under pressure to present themselves as having a ‘perfect’ life on social media.
It’s easy to feel bad about ourselves for not being happy. And that just makes us feel worse. How come life is so rosy for other people? Maybe you think happiness is a matter of luck. It’s not. Happiness is not a matter of coincidence or good luck. Neither, as Chapter 1 explains, is happiness a matter of living a blameless life or being in the right place at the right time. Happiness isn’t given to you, you can’t expect someone else to make you happy, you can’t wait for the stars to align before you can be happy, and you can’t just ‘be happy’.
Quite simply, happiness is a matter of following your human instinct to find purpose and meaning, to manage the challenges that come with finding purpose and meaning, and to enjoy the small pleasures in life. This book – Happiness – will show you how to do that.
You will learn that happiness doesn’t happen by chance – it’s a result of the thought, time, and effort you put into pursuing and maintaining happiness. Happiness comes from identifying what’s important in your life – in the different areas of your life: your work, your relationships, your hobbies and interests, your health, and so on – and having aims and purpose in those areas. Chapter 2 explains how you can identify and work towards what will make you happy (not what you think will make you happy or what other people think will make you happy).
Being happy – living according to your values, having goals, doing what is important to you and has meaning for you – not only involves making an effort and persevering, taking some risks and making sacrifices. It also means stepping out of your comfort zone. There will always be challenges and difficulties involved in pursuing happiness, but if you don’t push yourself, nothing will change and you won’t be happier. Chapter 3 explains how each time you extend your comfort zone you extend your happiness.
However, it could be that there’s something you need to stop doing; something you need to let go of before you can commit and pursue the things or thing that would make you happy. Chapter 3 also has plenty of encouragement and advice on how to let go of unhappy situations and circumstances so you can move on to happier times.
Chapter 4 discusses the little things in life that can make you happy. Whatever your circumstances, whatever your abilities, however much money you do or don’t have, there’s a world of small pleasures which can bring you moments of happiness every day. Often, these small pleasures can be the things you do with other people. Chapter 4 explains how almost anything we do to improve our connections with others tends to improve our happiness as well.
However, there will be times in all our lives when there are very real challenges to being happy; times when you’re stuck in a situation – a job you dislike, for example – and you can see no way out. There are, though, things you can do to make the best out of a bad job. Chapter 5 explains what those things are.
How can you find any happiness when you’ve suffered or are suffering a serious difficulty? No doubt the last thing you can imagine is being happy. Chapter 5 discusses how you can find hope and therefore some happiness when life is really tough.
Having learnt how to find purpose and meaning in your life, and about the importance of identifying and indulging in small pleasures, connecting with other people, and knowing how to find some degree of happiness during difficult periods of your life, Chapter 6 looks at how you can help other people be happy. When someone you love and care about is unhappy, you feel it too; but whether you just want them to be happy so you can be happy, or you believe that you have the solutions to their problems, you cannot make it your mission to ‘fix’ them and make them happy. You can, though, be supportive. Chapter 6 explains how.
Finally, just in case you need some encouragement to make the effort to pursue happiness, you might find it helpful to know what some of the benefits of happiness are. When you’re living a happy life, you
feel engaged with the world around you,
have aims and goals that you can work towards and achieve,
have good levels of confidence and positive self-esteem,
build and maintain good relationships with others,
more easily cope with the stresses of daily life,
are more positive, more solution focused,
manage better during difficult and challenging times in your life,
help those around you to be happy.
With this book – Happiness – you will learn how to make happiness a habit. You will discover how to live a good life; a life that, despite its inevitable ups and downs, is both meaningful and pleasurable.
A happy life!
Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.
– Jim Rohn
We all think of happiness as something positive; something good that we want to feel and to be. But is it realistic to think we can be happy all the time? To answer this, it helps to understand that happiness happens in two ways: first as a long-term, general sense of wellbeing and second as a short-lived pleasure.
As a short-lived pleasure, happiness is a result of something that pleases us in some way – a funny joke, an uplifting film, a delicious meal, a good night out, a great holiday – and causes us to feel emotions such as contentment, satisfaction and enjoyment, delight, or joy. As a short-lived pleasure, this form of happiness is temporary; it’s a passing happiness. Although short-lived pleasures do contribute towards happiness, we simply can’t feel like this all the time. It’s not realistic to think that we can.
But happiness is not only experienced as short-lived pleasure. We also experience happiness as a general sense of wellbeing. It’s this sort of happiness – a general, stable sense of wellbeing, feeling fulfilled and feeling that life is good – that we can more realistically expect to experience if not all the time, then most of the time.
Although it might seem that everyone is in the pursuit of happiness nowadays, this is, in fact, nothing new. Over 2000 years ago, in his work ‘Nicomachean Ethics’ the Greek philosopher Aristotle explored the nature of the good life. He concluded that happiness – wellbeing – is a central purpose of human life; it’s what we’re all aiming for.
He identified the two types of happiness as hedonic happiness and eudaimonic happiness. Hedonic happiness is the small pleasures and eudaimonic happiness refers to a sense of meaning, purpose, and fulfilment.
Aristotle suggested that because, as human beings, we have a unique ability to reason – to use logic and good sense, to make judgements and come to conclusions – we should, indeed we must, use this ability to work out for ourselves ways to live our lives so that whatever else happens in life, we have a general, stable sense of wellbeing, feel fulfilled, and feel that, overall, life is good.
Aristotle acknowledged that happiness can be affected by such things as our health and wealth, friends, family, the work we do, where we live, etc. And yet, he said, by using our ability to think and reason, we are able to create a life for ourselves that enables us to bear the ups and downs of our existence with balance and perspective and maintain a general sense of wellbeing.
Fast forward 2000 years and, like Aristotle, today’s psychologists and researchers are also interested in what makes for happiness and a good life. In his 2011 book Flourish, positive psychology professor, Martin Seligman, also suggests that in order to be happy we need to have one or more things in our life to aim for – things that mean something and make sense to us, that interest and absorb us, that we want to be involved in and allow us to feel good when we achieve what we set out to do. He says that, as social beings, we need to interact with others; to connect and feel that we belong. Seligman acknowledges that we need to experience short-lived pleasures in order to experience positive emotions such as contentment and enjoyment, inspiration, hope and joy, etc. But he recognises that although short-lived pleasures contribute to happiness, they are not the basis of happiness.
Of course, what’s meaningful, engaging, and gives a sense of purpose is different for everyone. As is what makes for positive relationships and provides for positive emotions. But that’s where the cognitive abilities that Aristotle referred to come in; we each need to work out for ourselves what makes for meaning and purpose, positive relationships, and small pleasures.
Aristotle and Seligman both agree that happiness requires thought and effort. This is a good thing! It means that the ability to be happy is within your power; you have the power to make yourself happy. You can discover for yourself what will bring sense and meaning to your life, what will engage and absorb you. You can identify what brings you pleasure – what the small things are in life that give you moments of happiness.
Rather than waiting to be happy, you can learn to be happy. You can make happiness a habit; your natural, normal way of being.
However, even if you can see that happiness is within your power, you may have beliefs and assumptions that have led you to conclude that happiness isn’t possible for you.
In Chapter 3 we’ll look at some of the obstacles that get in the way of being happy; we’ll identify the potential problems, difficulties, and challenges and you’ll read how to manage them. But first, let’s look at some common, unhelpful beliefs about happiness.
Maybe you feel you don’t deserve happiness; you don’t deserve to be happy because of something you did wrong in the past. You made the wrong decision to do or not do something. You blame yourself; you feel a sense of loss and sorrow and wish you could undo a choice that you made. Maybe you regret something you did or didn’t do. Perhaps you did something that harmed or hurt someone else and now you feel guilty; you feel regret and remorse. You believe it would be wrong to try and be happy.
If that’s the case, you need to know that regret, remorse, and guilt actually have a positive intent. Rather than keeping you stuck, the positive purpose of these ‘negative’ emotions is to prompt you to make up for your wrongdoing, to learn from your mistake and to behave differently in future.
Happy people learn from their mistakes and move on. You can do the same. Stop berating yourself for what you did wrong. Acknowledge and accept that what’s done is done and can’t be changed. There’s nothing you can do about it. But what you can do is change what you do next.
It could be, though, that you haven’t even done anything wrong. But you believe that you have. Perhaps you feel guilty that you can’t alleviate someone’s suffering, or that you didn’t do enough to help someone. Perhaps you feel guilty that you survived something that other people did not. If that’s the case, then you’re experiencing imagined guilt. Imagined guilt happens when you feel guilty about events that, in fact, you were not, or are not, responsible for.
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