Be content with what you have
We all know accumulating money and stuff doesn’t necessarily make us happier. A relatively unknown fact, however, is that striving for more possessions can reduce our state of wellbeing. Studies by psychologists Tim Kasser and Richard M Ryan revealed that people who strive for material things more frequently suffer chronic pain and psychological problems than people who place emphasis on good relationships or contributing to society.
Science has concluded that growing discontentment results from false ideas of happiness. The secret to a good life does not lie in quantity. “If we don’t learn to apply the motto of ‘good is enough’, we run the risk of letting happiness pass us by our entire life,” says Daniel.
Re-think how much you need to be comfortable
Modern-day happiness research is now examining just how much we need in order to be content. Most of us have more than enough money, clothes, shoes and living space. “For many of us, a comfortable bed is essential. But how many extras does the bed need in order to be comfortable?” asks psychologist and author Ed Diener.
If we examine our idea of comfort and identify what’s crucial to it, we see that, actually, few things are required for us to feel content. Recent studies have shown being truly happy is about recognising the beauty of simplicity; not depriving or denying ourselves, but discovering our inner wealth. A simple life enables us to focus on the essential and teaches us the art of enjoyment from the heart – by practicing serenity, learning to let go, allowing dreams to drift in and out, and enjoying time as it passes.
Stick to not-great expectations
“What I gain in years, I take off in expectations – as if it had been needs, not time, I had been using up,” wrote Greek philosopher Epicurus. Not expecting too much from life may be the secret to true serenity, along with having a life motto that allows us to experience more surprises than disappointments.
When we have desires, we know we can continue to live well, even if they’re not fulfilled. But if we can expect something that doesn’t happen, we can get frustrated, and feel annoyed and as if we’re the victim.
“The main problem is we often expect others to help satisfy our needs and that they’ll make us happy,” says Stefan Klein, author of The Science of Happiness. “But our personal happiness is our responsibility, because we can only expect life to give is what we ourselves are prepared to put in.”
Realise that happiness is quite simple
Gratitude is the feeling that tells us things are good just as they are; a feeling of no longer wanting more money, more attention or more variety. To make gratitude a habit, we need to learn to look inward more, and place more of a focus on small moments of joy. It’s all around, in friendly encounters, games played with children, the first signs of spring in the garden, a warm hug, a genuine compliment, the morning sun.
The Japanese have a self-reflection ritual called naikan, or ‘looking inside’. It involves asking three questions everyday: ‘Who has given me something today?’ ‘What have I done for others?’ ‘Who did I make life difficult for?’ Answering these questions helps you put things in perspective, and focus on the simple but important things in life.