Zaggora founder Dessi Bell explores our search for how to be happy
How to be happy … It’s the topic of philosophy books, talk shows and something most of us strive for.
Whilst many of us live in times of unprecedented comfort, we seem to lack ‘inner peace’. According to Google, the search term ‘how to be happy’ has increased 3X in the past 10 years. The World Health Organisation estimates there are 350 million people suffering from depression globally. They estimate that by 2020 it will be the second most widespread ‘disease’ in the world. We all want to know how to be happy but our search seems to be getting further from the goal.
How to be happy
I’ve summarized some of this latest research on happiness. ‘How to be happy’ comes down to getting out of your head and into the world. The more we open our hearts and minds and stop focusing on ourselves, the higher our chances of finding the answer to ‘how to be happy’. As the old saying goes, “yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery but today is a gift”.
1/ Be more mindful.
Mindfulness has been extensively researched to have long term effect on our overall level of happiness and reduction of anxiety. In a three year study, mindfulness was found to be an effective long term treatment for anxiety disorders (3).
Action: Try to spend 5 minutes today just sitting in quiet noticing your breath. Then during the day try to notice every time you sit down and get up and be totally present in that very moment. It’s harder than you think ?
2/ Commit to the life you want and take action.
A new strand of emerging therapy called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (or ACT) seems to be having promising results in changing people’s perceptions around happiness. (4) ACT works very simply on the following premise. Life is not all butterflies and rainbows and shit happens. We have to accept that. However we have to commit to the life we want, regardless of our current circumstances and take action. The simple act of taking action makes us feel more in control. How to be happy becomes less important as we are already in accordance with our values. Practicing over time, may help us developmental flexibility and be more resilient.
Work through the values on the worksheet attached here
to determine what matters to you. Commit to live in accordance with your values.
3/ Diffuse unhelpful thoughts.
Cognitive diffusion comes from ACT. It is rooted in behavioural models linked to relational frame theory (RMT). RMT looks at how we use language to relate to the world. In short our brains make sense of the world by relating one thing to another and linking experiences. This means that we do not control our thoughts as associations will pop up without us realizing. We understand the world by literally believing our thoughts. As children we learn about things by using our imagination. Sayings such as “You are what you think” create a further bias that our thoughts are ‘real’. However, they are just electrical impulses passing through our brains. By choosing which ones are helpful and which ones we do not wish to believe we take control of our actions. Just because we think something does not mean we need to act on it.
By actively practicing exercises to see your thoughts as just thoughts, you may develop greater control over your reactions and actions. Control is a key ingredient in the recipe of how to be happy.
Watch this video
on thought diffusion and just do it! It has been reported to work for mind related conundrums we can’t think our way out of and things like insomnia, the blues …
4/ Spend some time daily meditating.
As an active meditator I can talk endlessly about the benefits of meditation. Research into meditation has produced a lot of positive results suggesting meditation is helpful for reducing anxiety (5-8), encouraging creativity (9-12), improving relationships (13-14).
If want to give it a try, there are plenty of nice apps to get you going with some guided meditations on your smartphone. Headspace
for example is awesome and it offers a free trial.
5/ Be more giving.
Research has shown that people who focus on giving to others, either monetarily or by donating their time, report higher levels of happiness, better health and life satisfaction (15). We give $5 from every zaggora.com order to create opportunity for a woman in need. It is the most meaningful part of our business and gives us purpose to jump out of bed every morning.
Action: Try doing something for someone else once a day without expecting reciprocity. It might just change your perspective… We like to keep a diary of daily achievements, celebrations and giving. It helps us to appreciate ourselves and bigger world out there.
6/ Do more exercise.
Research has shown that physical exercise has both a positive effect immediately and over time on making us feel more upbeat. Even if it’s walking outdoors for 20-30 mins, being active can be a simple way to stay on top of your game (17).
7/ Watch what you eat.
Deficiency in certain nutrients that assist neurotransmission are thought to be linked to the onset and severity of the blues (18).
Action: Ensure you take sufficient amounts of B vitamins, C, Zinc as well as Omega 3 (fish oil) to support your body’s natural processes. Try Vitamin enriched Zaggora’s Superfood Shots and take a good quality Omega 3 oil on a daily basis.