We often think we will find more happiness, feel better and have more time for what we enjoy at some point in the future, just not now. When we are doing better financially, when we move house, find the right relationship, take more holidays, when the kids leave home, we get promoted, or retire, then we will find that elusive balance point that equals a happy life.
The basic ingredients for a happy life make for a long list. We need to be: feeling safe, having our needs met, have meaningful work, enjoy deep connection with people that love and care for us, have connection to our community, do enough exercise, express gratitude or appreciation, cultivate a positive outlook, a sense of perspective, find some quietude, a good deal of resilience, self-control and courage. We need all these things in our lives to grow our happiness.
We also need to shrink the enemies of happiness. These are: perfectionism, self-obsession, comparing ourselves to others, focussing on negative thoughts or concepts, fixating on the past or future, taking on too much and complicating our lives.
If our goal is more happiness researchers say the key ingredient is quietude. Finding the time and place to be inward for 20 minutes or so a day is what we need. It needs to be a time alone without distractions or responsibilities so that we can reflect on our lives with a little distance. This time of reflection can be spent meditating or practicing mindfulness, it can also be carved out of a busy day and combined with walking the dog or gardening or even during your commute to work.
Quietude is especially valuable for supporting happiness when we approach it with a conscious intention. It’s the way you set it up. The idea is to make a commitment to quiet the mind and to consider the impact your current choices are having on your life.
The habit of reflection allows us to notice and address negative thought loops, attacks on ourselves or too much concern with the lives and opinions of others. We can notice we are too focussed on bad news and tragic events we have no control over. We can observe our tendency to derail our happiness by replaying upsetting events from our own past or obsessing negatively about our future.
The good new is that although happiness is to some extent genetic we can over write the genetic code and train ourselves in daily happiness habits like quietude, gratitude, appreciation, empathy, optimism and generosity.