Improve your health with a hobby

14 April 2011

Create a happy environmentIt’s easy to have a passive attitude to happiness, expecting it to ‘just happen’, but should you be taking a more pro-active approach? 

What’s your level of happiness? Whether you’re happy every day, happy sometimes or striving to be happier, happiness can be a difficult issue to pin down and measure, especially as there are varying views on what actually makes a person happy.

One problem is our stubborn insistence that it’s money and an easy life full of possessions that would make us instantly happy, if only we could achieve it.

There’s often an assumption that if you win the lottery and can afford to do anything you want, you’ll automatically be happy, but it’s sadly not that simple. Those who have come into money or acquire celebrity status discover that money and a change in status isn’t necessarily the key to instant happiness. 

Our understanding of happiness, even personal happiness, is often patchy at best, making it all too easy to live life only realising our happy moments in retrospect. It’s easy to sit back and expect happiness to occur in your life but, rather than just relying on a random emotion, we should be actively creating our own happiness formula.

How to create a happy environment

One important way of helping yourself and your family to feel happy is to create a happy environment at home or, where possible, at work. 

Our brains respond in a negative way to the wrong colours, smells and sights, so prime your mind for happiness by taking control of your surroundings where possible.

Natural products, like wood, stone and fabric are said to raise our feelings of well-being, as are uplifting or soothing colours like yellow, blue or some shades of green. Flowers and plants can lift your mood too, as can the sight or sound of running water. 

Is there a song or piece of music that uplifts your spirits? Make sure it’s on your iPod or computer, or you have a CD handy, so you can play happy music when you need a boost.

If you’re keen to be happier, here’s a guide to the ten steps needed to increase your happiness and positivity:

1. To be happy, you need to start off by thinking small and seeking out those moments in the day when you feel better or contented. It could be the first great coffee of the day, a hug from the kids or the cat purring on your lap.

2. Next, seek out those things and allow yourself to build unashamed anticipation for them. Remind yourself verbally what you like – e.g. “I love sitting reading the Sunday papers” – and cherish those moments. 

3. Avoid focusing on negatives and stop moaning, being cynical and dwelling on bad news. There will always be things you don’t like doing, but why allow them to dominate your thoughts, mood or conversation? It will only diminish your happiness.

4. Release your inner child. Kids seek out happiness – it’s their natural stage – they have goals and dwell on enjoyments.

5. Build treats into your day. Do something nice in your lunch break, phone someone you haven’t spoken to for ages or dance around the kitchen for fun. Find ways to let your day exceed your expectations and see these ‘exceeds’ as treats. 

6. Plot bigger and longer-term goals in your life. Make sure they’re things you want to achieve, not something you think you ought to achieve to please other people. 

7. Remind yourself of your achievements so far. Write down what you’ve learnt, overcome, worked hard on or made other people happy with. 

8. Create a happy collection. Fill a box with items that make you happy, such as a small gift from someone you love, a special card you’ve received, funny photos, funny newspaper clippings, holiday photos, children’s drawings or your baby’s first shoe. 

9. Keep both sides of your brain boosted. If your job involves logical, detailed work, make sure you have a hobby that involves creativity – like baking, crafts or gardening. Immersing yourself in a creative skill can be one of the best ways of boosting your feelings of happiness and contentment. 

10. Keep a journal. Writing your life down helps remind you to have happy moments each day so you can log them. It also helps put any problems into context.