What Is Your Happiness Code?
You want to be happy, right? It is something that we all want yet so often it seems elusive.
When faced with life’s problems, happiness seems like a luxury. More bills to pay. Shit day at work. Kids playing up. When will it end?
If we just get those problems sorted out then we will be happy. Except, when has there ever been a time in your life when you didn’t have problems. Probably when you were 5.
Fighting Your Brain
Part of the problem is genetic. The brain is wired with a negativity bias. It is a survival thing that has evolved over the last 600 million years.
Your brain causes your body to react much more forcefully to negative stimuli than positive stimuli, so it stands to reason us human beings get hooked on the bad stuff than the good stuff.
Yes, that is right. We are wired to be drama queens 😉
Focused On The Wrong Model
That other part of the problem is that we are pretty much focused on the wrong model of happiness.
In the west, we have been conditioned to follow the Do-Have-Be model. In simple terms, DO a job that you may love or hate, in order to get the money to HAVE material stuff (big house, flash car, beach holidays) in order to BE happy.
What a crock.
Being rich is no guarantee of happiness. Sure, money can help, but this model predicates that our happiness is contingent on things outside of us…often beyond our control.
That’s why there are many unhappy rich people, and why many of us do all the things we are told that are required for happiness (good job, big house, get married, have kids) and yet still feel like something is missing.
Getting Back On Track
There is an alternative. The Be-Do-Have model. This is what a lot of what we call ‘eastern philosophy’ is based on.
When you follow this model, you put your internal state of BEING first. Your internal state somewhat within your control (even if you are fighting your genetic negativity bias) as you can CHOOSE to be happy/positive/joyful etc. It is a matter of choosing a positive perspective over a negative one.
Doing puts you in a resourceful state which means that you are focused on possibility and solutions rather than negativity.
What you then choose DO is likely to be far more life-affirming, inspiring and aligned with what makes you happy. You might choose work that is more aligned with your values, connect with people on your wavelength, start your own business or write that book.
Because you are feeling good much more of the time, your happiness is enhanced by HAVING the stuff and experiences that you want, rather than being dependent on it.
This creates a virtuous circle that reinforces your happiness and wellbeing.
That Sounds Great, But How?
We are now firmly in the realms of positive psychology…which basically says “focus on the good stuff, and you get more good stuff”. Some of the more well known positive psychology practices are mindfulness, gratitude, choosing kindness and focusing on your strengths.
However, I am a big fan of Gretchen Rubin’s personal happiness commandments.
These are overarching principles that you identify for yourself that you try to live by. Rather than being sticks to beat yourself over the head when you don’t live up to them (your inner critic will do a good enough job for you!), they are reminders for you to anchor into when life gets tough.
The way I think about this is rather than being a code of ethics to live by, it is your personal happiness code. When you in a great space, they give you the code to get back to happy.
Create Your Own Code
So how do you write your own happiness code? Gretchen Rubin offers 3 guidelines:
- Consider phrases that have stuck with you– whether other people have offered advice, quotes that resonate or simply phrases that mean something to you.
- Aim high and fight the urge to be too comprehensive– this list works best when you review it daily and keep it front of mind…and therefore it helps to keep it short and snappy.
- Think about what’s true for YOU– think about yourself, your values, your strengths and your interests.
Personally, having had a go at this myself, I would add a couple of guidelines:
- Take your time to distil– this will probably take some time to think about what is meaningful for you
- Don’t be a perfectionist– it is better to have a happiness code that is imperfect than not have one. Also understand that as you change over time, your happiness code will as well. So, if you find that something no longer fits, change it!
I recently spent some time in Canada doing some personal reflection and I had a go at writing my own personal happiness code. This is what I came up with…
- Generosity at every opportunity
- Trust the process
- Choose a Friendly Universe
- Look deeper
- Time out
- Say YES to Life
- There's a right time for everything
- Simple, simple, simple
- Smile. A lot. Dance. A lot.
Of course, you need to create your own but these will just give you a flavour.
So, give it a go! Grab pen and paper or your phone/tablet/laptop, pour yourself a big cup of coffee or glass of wine, give yourself some time and space to think and write your first draft.
Make your happiness code part of your daily round.
Read it when you wake up. Make it the wallpaper on your phone. Share it with friends and family. Leave a comment here and share your code with us!
And, when life challenges you…which it will…use your code as your reminder of what gets you back to happy.
It won’t take your problems away, but it will put you in a much better state to deal with them…and it will help set up that virtuous cycle I mentioned earlier.
And you are guaranteed to have a far more enjoyable ride through life.