Be Happy!

PUBLISHED: 17:12 06 July 2009 | UPDATED: 15:06 20 February 2013

Just Smile Liz Morris

Just Smile Liz Morris

Take control of your life and make some positive changes - simple changes, like those in our seven step guide, can make a huge difference. So don't worry - be happy! By Liz Morris

Take control of your life and make some positive changes - simple changes, like those in our seven step guide, can make a huge difference. So don't worry - be happy! By Liz Morris
If you followed all the advice churned out by the health and lifestyle gurus of the mass media, you'd either be a gorgeous, emotionally balanced, highly polished sex bomb clad head-to-toe in cashmere and spandex that's been washed by eco powder in a machine powered by the dung of the two goats in your organic garden; or you'd be exhausted.

We often make the mistake of thinking that long-term happiness is what we'll attain once we get certain things right in our lives, have enough money or bought a big enough house. But that's fantasy! Over the last 20 years our standard of living has risen dramatically yet our happiness levels have stood still. The good news is we can learn to be happy here and now. And it's vital for our long-term health.

Research links happiness with a longer life, greater success, stronger relationships, a better social life, less stress and greater creativity. Happiness on its own 'though is not enough. For it to flourish we need meaning in our lives. Without meaning, we drift, lack motivation and can end up yo-yoing from one instant gratification to the next. Ultimately the road to happiness through material consumption leads to dissatisfaction, depression, loneliness and even self-destruction.

Long term happiness is not related to age, physical attractiveness, money (as long as you can feed, house and clothe your family), gender, educational achievement, living in a sunny climate or house size. A study by the University of Warwick and Dartmouth College in America showed that we're at our happiest in our 20s and 70s. In our 20s,we're full of aspirations. We're at our unhappiest in our 40s, despite it being a time of greater financial security. Apparently we mourn the life we could or should have had. By our 70s there's an acceptance of ourselves the way we are. It's a shame we take such a long time to reach that point.

Here's how you can increase your happiness right now and for the rest of your life:
1. Practice gratitude. Say "thank you" with meaning and stop a while to count your blessings. Find at least three things to say thank you for each day.
2. Focus beyond yourself to others, the community and the planet. A random act of kindness increases your own happiness and that of the person you helped. Try one act of kindness each day, even if it's just paying a compliment.
3. Don't compare yourself to others with more money, bigger houses or slimmer hips. Remember happiness comes from within. Focus on what you are, how you behave and what you contribute.
4. Invest in your closest relationships and don't let another's kindness go unthanked.
5. You have a spiritual side. Nurture it. What truly has meaning in your life? Explore it further and it will take you on a journey of self discovery.
6. Take regular exercise as a healthy body means a healthy mind.
7. Be brave - make decisions and set some goals. Don't drift.



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