Most of us imagine that once we find the perfect partner, reach our ideal weight, land our dream job, or once our kids are sleeping through the night, then we’ll feel happier.
In 2012, psychologists and happiness experts Kennon Sheldon and Sonja Lyubomirsky wrote a paper about ‘hedonic adaptation’, a term that describes our ability to quickly adapt to positive change. They found that while we might be happier for a little while if we win the lottery or fall in love, within a short space of time, our happiness levels return to what they were.
When you achieve a new goal, you quickly adapt to your new normal. Within a month or two, you’re back to feeling that there’s just another hurdle to overcome and you’re pretty sure that this is the thing that will really make you happy.
As I wrote in Be Mindful & Simplify Your Life, feeling happier every day involves bringing the power of positive feeling back into the present moment. This doesn’t mean you won’t have goals but it does involve learning to be more content with where you are before moving on to the next thing.
Use the following tips as a guide to help you feel happier right now.
1. As you travel to work each morning (or prepare for your day if you’re not working right now), think of something you’re looking forward to in your day (having a coffee break mid-morning; seeing a colleague or friend whose company you enjoy; taking your dog for a walk).
2. Let go of unrealistic expectations of how your life should be and appreciate and feel grateful for what is good in your life right now.
3. Find a couple of attributes in your physical appearance that you’re genuinely happy about and when you look into the mirror each morning, remind yourself of these things instead of only focusing on the aspects you don’t like.
4. Write down three positive qualities in a friend, your partner, a work colleague or a family member who you’re finding difficult to get along with right now.
5. Grab a pen and paper and write down at least ten things you have achieved in your life that you feel genuinely proud of. They don’t need to be significant achievements – consider even small things like being there for a friend when they were in need, getting into the basketball team when you were in school or making it to your yoga class every week this month. Keep the list where you can review it often and add at least one new item each week.
6. Keep your life interesting by continuing to try new things. This is one of the proven factors to improve happiness and one of the best ways to enjoy your every day.