The saying that ‘If you do what you’ve always done, you’re going to get what you’ve always got’ could not be more true. Small changes in your life can lead to big shifts in how you feel and lead you into an upward spiral of positive emotion. We can use the metaphor of a central heating system where even small changes to any one part can cause a profound effect overall: for instance, by altering the thermostat, turning off a radiator or changing the timer, you can make noticeable changes in every room. Likewise, changing one attitude or belief can cause a massive change in your life.
Consider the following five points to see whether you agree or disagree with them.
1. Happiness is an active choice, not something that happens to you.
2. Happiness can only be experienced in the present moment.
3. No one can ‘make’ you happy, and you cannot ‘make’ anyone else happy either.
4. If you wait for happiness to happen, you may miss out on being happy now.
5. The key to being happy is to accept and enjoy what is already positively present in your life.
You may resist or disbelieve some of these ideas, but accept, or at least open yourself up, to the possibility that they are all true. Ask yourself: would you rather be right or be happy? Even if you just act ‘as if’ these things are true, even if you have some doubts, you can increase your level of happiness.
These are the five major points that author of Laugh Your Way to Happiness, Lesley Lyle covers in her ‘happiness coach’ course with her clients. “Many of them are surprised to discover that the ‘coach’ is not me but a metaphor for their own journey to happiness. They are the driver of their own coach, they decide on the route, whom they invite to share their journey and how much baggage they bring.
First of all, though, they have to get on board, sit in the driving seat and take control. There is no point in them just sitting there and wishing that they were somewhere else. They have to take action and accept total responsibility for their own journey. Making mistakes, going in the wrong direction or stalling is not a problem; anyone can get back on track. Perhaps I am like the sat nav, suggesting directions if they are lost and reminding them that there are lots of other routes than just one. After a while, a sat nav is no longer necessary because the driver is able to use his or her own instinct and sense of direction to know which way is best.”
As Buddha says: There is no path to happiness: happiness is the path
Happiness is a choice, but in order to make the right choice, you need to have the right information, intention, motivation and commitment. If you have been chasing happiness in the wrong places, or waiting for it come to you, then the good news is that happiness is already present if you look in the right places. Once you discover what makes you happy, and what does not, you can make some simple changes and adopt new behaviours that soon become a new habit.
No one can say exactly what activities will bring you happiness, but simple acts like being grateful, helping others, connecting with friends and family and pursuing meaningful activities have been shown to be common to people who describe themselves as happy. These are things that are almost always available to us, regardless of our circumstances. Once we know what will truly make us happy, we can take action to ensure we include it in our lives.
Laugh Your Way to Happiness by Lesley Lyle
256 pages • Paperback • £8.99