Growing Our Inner "Happiness Gardens"

June 28, 2020 | Leadership & Management | Written by Mohamed Soliman

If you have found your way to this short article, it might be because there is something within you that is looking for more positivity and happiness. Who does not? Even the most positive and optimistic would feel uncertain and anxious in the unusual and challenging times that we currently live. What you are about to read is not new. It is about a process that is as old as humanity itself.

Before I talk about growing our inner happiness garden, let me share a thought. Cultivating happiness and positive thinking can be challenging. We do not know where we are supposed to start. Yet, just like any other process, the key to building positive thinking is to take small steps. Think of it as growing plants, if you will. It is slow but, for the most part, a sure process. We start small - especially if we do not think that any of these methods will work for us. A small step at a time, we gradually weed out self-doubts - that good-things-only-happen-to-other-people - and slowly reap the crops of our happiness gardens.

Let me ask you now, on a scale of one to 10, ten being that you are satisfied with your daily life most of the time over the past 2 weeks, where do you rank yourself? If your answer is anything below seven, here are some techniques and ideas to boost your inner happiness.

1 - Are we living by our own definition of happiness? we all might fall into the trap of dissatisfaction with our lives or services if defined by someone else's “joy measuring stick". Using others' definitions of joy instead of ours is a sure way to lose the joy game. To know what brings us satisfaction, we can ask ourselves: what are 1-2 things that when went missing from our lives and made us feel dissatisfied? It could be a religious or spiritual practice, workout routine, an activity with a partner that was lost due to low energy or disinterest. It could be anything. Gradually resurrect one of these habits. It brings us the energy to achieve bigger goals.

2 - Take "happiness breaks:" Do you have an "enjoyable and happiness list?” A 10-15 minute "happiness break" between 12-1 PM or 4-6 PM can be happiness brain-boosters. See if you could do an activity that brings you happiness. This could be calling a friend/parent/partner, a meditation practice, a solitude time with eyes closed, push-ups...anything that will give you a sense of satisfaction from your “happiness list.”

3 - Build relationships with positive people: Who comes to mind from your high school, college years, previous workplace, a prior neighbor whom you remember as grateful and understanding? These people enhance our "happiness quotient." In some ways, positive thinking and happiness are infectious. These people inject a “can do” attitude in our lives. They give us energy. Keep in mind that these people are human too. They also have their own down moments. None is perfect. Do not judge them as "not as cheerful as they were" because they did not meet your expectations.

4 - Speak words of gratitude: And ask for it too! It seems much easier in work environments to express dissatisfaction, criticism, and negative observations than it does the favorable ones. Feedback, for the most part, these days imply nonspecific positive complements that most of us do not buy and many negative comments. When we exchange gratitude, understanding, and objective praise, we all are bound to thrive and appreciate what we have in hand.

5 - Have some moments to be “here and now” in your day: Aka practice mindfulness! When working with clients, among the most frequent things I hear is "When I achieve this objective, I will finally achieve my dream." Life isn't taking place in the "then". Life is happening right now. Make a habit of paying attention to the first 2-3 sips of your morning cup of tea/coffee. Relish it. Savor it. These little things could make our day different. Pay attention to the blessings around you in the very minute you are experiencing them. It could be that the laptop is working without issues, the air conditioner is not broken or the fact that you still have a job during this turmoil time. Take a mental note of these gratitude moments. Whatever it is that you are grateful for, this feeling will stick with you longer throughout the day - if you don't let it fly. At the end of your day, this "here and now joy" will positively color the overall impression of your day.

6 - Quiet our inner critical self-talk: This is the hardest of all. We might be unaware of the numerous negative and self-critical thoughts that fly by our minds throughout the day. The truth is that, as a criticism of others, unfavorable self-talk did not help anybody become a better person. Become your own investigator. Whenever you notice a self-critic idea going through your mind, write them down on your phone/note app. Then purposely and deliberately refute this with some favorable observations (refer to the ABC of positive psychology article).

During our current tough times, it is not easy to build our own happiness garden. We might feel a sense of frustration if we measure our lives or work progress using somebody else's “joy measuring stick.” Comparing our lives and accomplishments to those of others, and using their criteria rather than ours, might be the best way to lose our happiness and gratitude. Taking "happiness breaks,” connecting with positive people, lavishly expressing gratitude, practicing mindfulness, and refuting the thoughts of our inner self-critical voice are a handful of mental techniques that we can use to grow our inner happiness gardens. Get imaginative and begin thinking of your own options. They will pay huge dividends!

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If you are interested in connecting with me, please visit my website www.drsoliman.com/letstalk.