This UN International Day of Happiness, it is exciting to see the world mobilizing on behalf of happiness. From government-wide programs to flash mob celebrations, it's clear that the world has clued into well-being as a basic human right.
Sounds good... but what kind of happiness are we talking about? This definition is not about simply seeking pleasure without meaning, nor is happiness just about getting more stuff.
Yes, campaigns that focus our mind (and money) on temporary external fixes are everywhere - suggesting that to be accepted, respected and to belong, you need to own the next phone, toy or lipstick.
But what if the happiness we seek is right here, right now, in our own hands, hearts, and in the habits we bring into daily life? This kind of happiness is sustainable and starts from the awareness that we are enough, and that we have all the resources we need for happiness already inside of us. There are empowering practices that transcend the boundaries of country, language and economics. On top of relating to people all around the globe, they contribute to our strengths, cost nothing, yet provide riches to all.
So here's an invitation - why not make this International Day of Happiness the start of a 21- day challenge and commit to growing your inner resources so you can enjoy greater well-being?
Over 21 days (the time it takes to form a habit) 7 entry points, described below, will uplift your outlook and ripple out to those around you. We call these entry points the "7 Happiness Habits", because like any habit, the great thing about practicing is that they eventually become your default, automatic, no effort way of being. Now that's something to celebrate!
To make it easy, these 7 science-backed habits coordinate with the 7 days of the week:
1. Mindful Monday: Mindfulness, the ancient practice of focusing non-judgmental awareness on the present moment, is a proven way to reduce stress, increase focus, enhance emotional intelligence, and decrease anxiety. It also helps activate your senses so you can fully experience greater positive emotion.
2. GratiTuesday: Your grandmother may have told you to count your blessings. Science has proven that it works. By intentionally focusing on the good parts of our day, we are affirming that there is goodness in the world, so the feeling of positivity grows. In only 21 days of daily writing down three things you are grateful for you'll begin reaping the benefits. The best things about gratitude is that it not only increases positive emotion up to 25%, it also sustains it. If you want to jumpstart your well-being, this is where to start.
3. Wellness Wednesday: Simply put, happiness is good for your health. Choose a form of exercise that you love - dance around the kitchen, find a yoga class, walk with a friend... The thing is to find something fun that you can build into everyday life. Get enough sleep; most American are sleep-starved. Choose foods that energize the body instead of dulling the mind. Simple, basic and it works! Want to have more energy, prevent heart disease and reduce stress? Your body can be your best friend.
4. Thoughtful Thursday: To feel good, do good. Whether you live in North America or Northern Africa, helping others, even in very small ways, will contribute to your long-term happiness. Did you know that according to Greater Good Science Center, "Altruism is good for our love lives: When researcher David Buss surveyed more than 10,000 people across 37 cultures, he found that kindness was their most important criterion for a mate." Giving to others also releases endorphins, activating the parts of our brains that are associated with trust, pleasure and social connection. As the researchers write, "Increases in well-being promote altruism that, in turn, increases well-being. Such a cycle holds the promise of creating a 'sustainable happiness' with broad benefits for altruists, their beneficiaries, and society at large."
5. Friday Freedom: Being your authentic self allows you to live with greater freedom. According to Dr. Brene Brown, when you embrace an authentic and vulnerable stance in life, people will meet you there in that openness, allowing you to experience true connection. Forgiveness is a byproduct of living authentically and vulnerably. Forgiveness doesn't mean tolerance of error but rather a patient encouragement of growth. Practicing forgiveness doesn't only benefit the person we forgive, recent research shows that it has tangible benefits for ourselves as well. So the next time you're holding a grudge, try letting it go for your own well-being!
6. Saturday Social : Just as babies need connection to thrive, adults are no different. Connection is important in boosting mental and physical health and even increases immunity and longevity. Did you know that happiness is contagious up to three degrees of separation (for example, to the friends of one's friends' friends). One study reports: "People's happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected. This provides further justification for seeing happiness, like health, as a collective phenomenon." Make time for friends and family - your well-being depends on it! Help celebrate #internationaldayofhappiness by sharing something positive to make new connections with others.
7. Soulful Sunday: Most people would agree that having a life of meaning contributes to sustainable happiness. Did you know that it also helps you live longer? (See here) There are many ways to experience meaning, and most of them start within. It is in the quiet moments that we can connect to our inner guidance, as well as to something greater. These moments can show up in nature, they open us to a sense of spirituality, or even emerge In conversation with a trusted friend. Take the time to connect with your innermost essence; it will guide you to know that all the answers reside inside.
Celebrate this International Day of Happiness with a commitment to your own daily thriving! Take the 21-day challenge and jumpstart your well-being...it'll soon become your way of being in the world. The smallest steps have the biggest outcomes. Start creating the life you want now.
For more information or to sign up for the Happiness Challenge click here.