There are times when we blame our unhappiness to events, nature or other people.
We think we´re unhappy because of our boss, we´re unhappy because our boyfriend or spouse did not love us enough, we´re unhappy because we´re single, or married without children, because we haven´t achieved our goals yet, some people are taking advantage of us, nature did not make us beautiful or sexy, or maybe, we´re unhappy just because it´s winter.
There are many reasons why we are unhappy, and if we take a moment to examine ourselves, we can easily pinpoint the cause why we feel that way.
But did you know that you are in control of your own happiness? And that there are things you can do to make yourself happy?
The saying, “only you can make you unhappy” is true. Plenty of researches conducted since 1960 proved time and time again that we can easily improve our mood and overcome unhappiness if we know what to do.
Here are six research-proven ways to make yourself happy.
In the Philippines we have an idiom for fake smile; we call it “dog smile”. A dog smile applies to anyone who fakes a smile in order to look happy even if that person isn´t necessarily happy, or if she forges a smile to look pleasant and polite even if deep inside, that person feels the contrary. A fake smile is being smirked upon in our land.
But according to several scientific researches, one in particular was led by clinical psychologist James Laird in 1960 and which triggered further clinical studies, forcing yourself to smile has direct effect to your feeling of happiness.
When you force yourself to smile, you will feel happier. But if you frown, you will feel significantly angrier; your thoughts will wander to things that make you angry, and negative emotions will take over.
Therefore if you want to be happy, smile as often as you can. Make it a habit.
Create a fun way of reminding yourself to do this by drawing two self-portrait of yourself wearing a huge smile. Make your portrait as fun and humorous as possible.
Draw one in an A4 paper and stick it somewhere prominent in your home such as on the door of your refrigerator. Draw another on a small paper and put it in your wallet or purse.
2. Enjoy your walk
I hate running but I love walking. I also love taking long walks with my husband. However, my husband and I have opposite walking styles. My husband is a strider; he takes long steps, walks with bounce, lets his arms swing back and forth, and holds his head up high. Most importantly, he walks fast.
In the contrary, I´m a shuffler. I walk slowly, I take small steps, I often look down, and even if I´m not aware of it, I have drooping shoulders and my arms don´t swing. When I walk, I tend to get engrossed deep in my thoughts, but they´re often unpleasant thoughts.
Generally, striders are perceived as happy people and shufflers as sad people. But are those perceptions correct?
Psychologist Sara Snodgrass from Florida Atlantic University found in her research that changing the way people walked influence the way they themselves felt. People who walk with long strides, swing their arms, and hold their head up high feel significantly happier than those who shuffle along.
When I learned about this, every time I walked I made myself conscious on how I walk. I walk straight; I smile and bounce and I learned to enjoy swinging my arms. I often think of myself silly, but I couldn´t stop smiling to myself until I reach my destination.
3. Happy talk
Did you know that you can talk to yourself and make yourself feel happier? Have you ever tried it?
I guess you´ve tried more talking to yourself and making yourself feel worse. We know that we have this critical, unforgiving side of our self who tells us, “you´re ugly”, “you´re stupid”, “you´re not good enough”, “you´re a loser”, “you´re worthless”, and so on. That´s the bad girl in us, she often defeats the good girl if we just stand there watching and doing nothing.
But there´s a way to be proactive, you can reinforce positivity to back up the good girl in you and that´s by talking to yourself positively and giving yourself positive affirmations.
Some Christians raise objections to positive affirmations because they claim that these positive affirmations urge us to focus on ourselves and not to God. But as a matured Christian you can learn to find the right balance.
Here are some examples on how to talk to yourself happily. It will feel odd at first but with practice, it will come naturally.
- I feel surprisingly good about myself today.
- I am beautiful. I´m a beautiful creature of God.
- I think that I can make a success of things.
Click here to download your 26 Positive Affirmations. Read each statement out loud to yourself, try to sound as convincing as possible. Take time to pause between sentences, try to absorb the meaning of its thought.
Did you know that laughter is the best medicine? Proverbs 17:22 says that “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones”, and it´s safe to assume that laughter is number one on the list on what makes a cheerful heart.
According to medical researches, laughter relaxes the whole body, it boosts the immune system, triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, and it protects the heart.
We have all the reasons to laugh our way to good health, yet at the same time, laughter can make us feel happier.
Charles Schaefer from Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey conducted a research on the effect of laughter to happiness. His research concluded that while smile makes a person happier, laughter makes a person elated.
Thus, laughing works better in making you happier than smiling, although smiling is easier to do.
Schaefer´s research influenced the birth of laughter clubs. When group members meet up, they form a circle and they spend around twenty minutes performing laughter exercises.
But what if there´s no laughter club in your area? The best approach is to learn to tell (clean) jokes, be funny, make friends with funny people, watch funny movies, and if you´re alone, tickle yourself to laughter. Chant out loud … Ho-Ho, Ha-ha!
Dr. Peter Lovatt from the University of Hertfordshire carried out a research into dance. His research was based on the hypothesis that happy people like to dance. He ran a ten-week dance experiment to examine the effects of dance on mood.
He gathered a group of willing volunteers whom each week had to learn a new dance move. From foxtrot to flamenco to salsa and swing, everyone had a good time.
The results proved that behaving as if you are happy makes you feel better. Non-competitive dances with easily learned repetitive structure, such as Scottish country dances and line dances, are especially effective.
Have you done Zumba exercises? It´s an aerobics fitness program featuring Latin American music and dances. I´ve tried it and I often felt wonderful after an hour of dancing. It makes exercising so much fun.
Now I´m a person who grew up in a totally strict Christian home, dancing was never allowed. One night I shook my hips to the beat of the music from a neighbor, I was ten years old and I thought I was alone in the dark, but my dad saw me and I got scolded.
Seductive and dirty dance moves are not advised in most Christian religions such as the Seventh Day Adventists. This shouldn´t stop you from dancing though, there´s an array of easy-to-learn folk dances that are more effective in making you feel happy and relax than vigorous, seductive dances.
6. Have fun
The best way to journey in life is to have fun. No matter how busy, how tough and how challenging life is, we should never forget to have fun.
In order to level up the fun in your life, list down all the activities that you enjoy doing. Which friends and colleagues do you enjoy hanging up with?
What hobbies, interests or sports do you really enjoy? Do you like travelling? Do you like helping people? What are the things you used to enjoy when you were a child?
Write down all the things that you enjoyed from the past and the things that you always dream to do but never found the time. Make time for them, make time to have fun, make time to play, and make time to be happy.