The Printable Happiness Project!

When I started this blog three years ago, it really was the start of my own happiness journey. It was at a time in my life when I felt lost, stuck and super unhappy.

I was realising that my happiness was very dependant on outside conditions and comparisons with other people. Looking back, I could see that I felt this was a normal thing to do and it’s what I’d always done. But where had it got me exactly?

It’s become so cliché to say that happiness comes from within and that it’s all in the journey but, my gosh, it’s so so true.

Happiness is all about those little habits we do every day both physically and mentally. It’s how we talk to ourselves, how we view ourselves and the perspectives we choose. And my biggest lesson was that I had a choice. I always assumed my negative self-talk was normal – that I wasn’t choosing to see life in a certain way.  But the truth is I was.

It can be hard to change your negative beliefs but with consistency and investment in yourself the resilience, emotional stability and cultivation of positive mental health can be achieved.

This is why I created the Printable Happiness Project 🙂

The Printable Happiness Project is a 53-page printable journal and planner which includes 28 worksheets with practices that will help you build up your self-love and create a more positive outlook towards your inner and outer world.

There are 17 guidance sheets that talk about each happiness practice with tips and motivation as well as explaining its importance.

Being printable, you can pick and choose which practices resonate with you and build up your own unique happiness project over the course of your journey. There are also several evaluation sheets to help you see your progress and address the areas of your life that need more attention.

The Printable Happiness Project has really been made with love and is designed to help you create the happiness habits that will improve your life in subtle, yet big ways.

For more information and to purchase the Printable Happiness Project click on the link 🙂

The Printable Happiness Project

I can’t stress enough how important it is to start with the intention to create your own internal happiness. Whether it’s with the Printable Happiness Project or not, make your mental health and happiness a priority starting TODAY!

Lots of love and happiness 🙂

How To Create Happiness Through Writing Stuff Down

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There’s immense power in writing things down. It’s very easy to think about our hopes and dreams, or positive and negative emotions but in the act of writing them down, our brain is forced to process the feelings more intentionally. It’s this process that can generate a type of therapy or create a sense of excitement within us that helps towards that all-important happiness.

There are several ways the power of writing things down can increase our happiness.

Keeping a Gratitude Journal – The combination of writing and feeling gratitude is extremely powerful. The act of doing this allows us to think back through our day in a positive way. Our brains are wired to look for the negative in order to survive and keep us safe so we need to make that extra effort to think about the positive aspects. Physically writing our blessings down means you’re able to look back over what you’ve written and further make you realise the wonderful things currently in your life. So each night write out the best thing that happened to you that day (even if it’s as simple as a free coffee or a smile from a stranger!) and then list out 10 more things you were grateful for happening. Keep this up and you will feel it getting easier and easier to find things to be grateful for 🙂

Lists – We can often feel overwhelmed with the amount of things we need to do each day so writing these tasks down is a wonderful way of organising them in our mind. Crossing each one off helps the feeling of productivity and raises your feel-good worthy vibes.

Writing Out Affirmations – Each morning get out a pen and paper and write out a few meaningful affirmations and use them as your mantras throughout the day: I am worthy, I am loved, I am a successful person, I am capable of anything! Keep them in your wallet, write them on your mirror, or stick them on a post-it note to act as reminders. Take the time to really think about what you need to hear from yourself – it may feel corny as you write them out, but they feed you that little bit of positive reinforcement throughout your day and slowly creates a more positive mindset from within rather than validation from other people.

Keep a Daily Journal – You might associate journals with teenage girls but journal-keeping has come a long way since the 80s! Writing down how you feel is a good therapy session. If it’s negative it can help get it in the open because physically writing it out and re-reading can give you further perspective on the subject. It allows you to really reflect on why you feel that way and find a way to change it. You can also just use a journal to set out your positive intentions for the day and helps keep tabs on your productivity keeping you aligned with your daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals. I personally use The Daily Greatness Journal but even just getting a plain notebook and doing it ad hoc is still very powerful.

Writing things down helps with awareness. Most of the time we’re on autopilot and don’t structure our daily routines. This means we aren’t always being mindful of how we live our lives. By writing things down, we can start to understand how we think, why we think the things we do, challenge these perspectives, know ourselves better and see the world in a more positive light. So get out that pen and paper and harness the power of writing things out 🙂

 

 

Do You Focus Too Much On Lack?

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I think we can all be guilty of this. When life isn’t quite going our way we focus on just that – that life is not going our way! What about what is going our way?

It’s become a bit of a cliché when it comes to happiness – be grateful and appreciate what you have in life – it goes over our head because we’ve heard it a million times and we stop applying it to our own lives.

But there’s great power in how you focus. There are times in life when everything is moving along perfectly and there are times when, well, it just isn’t. However, the way in which you step back and look at what is going on – the bigger picture – really can be the difference between feeling positive and just feeling crappy.

If your life is taking a turn or you are struggling to see how life is good try to steer away from focusing on the lack.

Our minds are naturally drawn to focus on lack and what we don’t currently have in our lives that we would like to have. If we want the perfect job but feel we don’t have it, we may focus on our current job and what’s wrong with it like the annoying boss and the boring work, but instead try and focus on what’s good about it. Maybe your commute is short and trouble-free, you have fun colleagues, the pay is enough to deal with your bills. The more you focus on the good things about a situation that’s less than ideal, the more you can cope with it.

Remember every situation is temporary and we’re continually moving forward. When we focus on the better things, our mind fights us and thinks we’re trying to accept a situation we hate and thinking about the negative aspects is somehow helping us, that focusing on what’s not there but wish was is somehow going to help us change the situation – but it’s not!

Focusing on the abundance rather than the lack isn’t about giving in. It isn’t about  just accepting the situation and desperately trying to be happy about it. It’s not about accepting it’ll never change; it’s about changing your inner thoughts which, in turn, will gradually change your level of happiness. It’s when you’re in this better state of happiness that you’ll be in a better state for moving forward and inspired action will present itself to you – that perfect job will suddenly appear in the strangest of ways!

So next time you find yourself focusing on something you don’t have like a relationship, perfect job, perfect house or enough money, try to change your thinking to that of abundance – the love of your friends and family, a job that pays the bills for now, a roof over your head (maybe a small one but a roof all the same!) and the money to buy you what you need.

Remember focusing on abundance is about putting that monkey mind at ease and allowing it to enter a more positive state that will go towards opening up paths to new opportunities that frustration, apathy and depression from focusing on lack can block.

So perhaps try noticing how much you focus on lack and change your perspective to that of abundance. Make it a conscious, consistent habit and start seeing the positive changes to your happiness 🙂

 

Why Making Comparisons Is Ruining Your Happiness

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How many times have you compared your life to those around you and felt that panic or overwhelming dissatisfaction for your present circumstances? You feel like you’re not at the stage you were meant to be or you’ve somehow fallen behind in life while they are exactly where you want to be.

I believe no one is alone in feeling this. With current social media exposing us to every nook and cranny of people’s lives, it’s hard not to notice and compare our journey to others.

But comparing ourselves to others hinders our happiness in so many ways.

Remember that everyone is potentially going through a battle we don’t know about. Don’t judge or compare your life to someone else’s seemingly ‘happy and perfect’ life because you don’t know what they are truly going through. They may have it all or have what you want to have but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are happy.

Don’t take social media at face value. People are extremely willing to put up the best bits of their life on social media especially Facebook or Instagram which gives the impression on the outside that this is the sum total of their life – happy and carefree. What you don’t know is the possible depression they are secretly battling with or their own dissatisfaction with life. This is why we can’t ever take social media at face value as we’re only seeing people’s highlight reels – it’s not a true representation of reality.

Always remember that our negative thoughts and feelings aren’t real. When you get these feelings when comparing yourself to others it’s kind of illogical – you can’t compare yourself to someone else because they are on a completely different path to you despite what you may think.

The comparison game never stops. The main reason we compare is because we are unhappy with our own lives. The key to combating comparison is to simply be more relaxed and happy with the way our lives are because even if you achieved the life others have, there will always be something else to be unhappy with.

Comparison just kills your focus and own happiness. Comparison is just a distraction from your own wonderful journey in life. So what if it’s not the same as hers or his? By focusing on others you aren’t focusing on yourself which is far more important.

See your unhappiness as a stop on your journey to happiness. Making comparisons are a sign of our own unhappiness. It happens to the best of us but just trust that this is where you’re meant to be in the present moment. Everyone is at different stages in both life and happiness and you are where you’re meant to be. Trust you will get where you need to be to be happy when it’s your time.

Finally, you don’t know what happiness means to other people. Just because being successful in your career is your definition of happiness doesn’t mean it is for someone else. Always keep this in mind when making assumptions of other people.

It’s so important to focus on your own happiness and stop being concerned with those around you. Yes, it’s not always easy to do, but taking steps to concentrate on the appreciation you have for your current life – no matter what stage you’re at –  will attract the things you want into your life and be happy with them.

Remember, your happiness is personal to you and no one else 🙂

How Does Nature Increase Our Happiness And Well-Being?

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Ever been for a hike into the mountains and felt renewed afterwards or felt refreshed after walking your dog in the woods or by the sea? This is probably nothing new to any of you – that taking ourselves outside and taking in the nature around us boosts our mental well-being and happiness levels.

In today’s modern world, we are forcing ourselves more and more indoors and online resulting in less exposure to all that feel-good natural energy we have access to. Or perhaps you’re someone who lives to be outside on a constant basis and can’t go a day without immersing yourself in mother nature.

There have been many scientific studies that have gone towards investigating the true effects that being in nature has on our happiness levels but what exactly happens to us when we’re exposed to a natural environment?

Our Stress Levels Decrease. While the physical act of taking a walk or going for a run will definitely lower your stress and anxiety levels, doing this outside surrounded by nature can actually emphasise this even more. This has been compared to people walking in built-up areas such as cities where there has been a significant difference in heart rate and anxiety levels. Those that walk surrounded by nature are more likely to be relaxed and at peace than those walking in places where little nature is found.

Our Negative Thoughts Lessen. Have you ever been for a walk in the forest or by the sea to ‘clear your head’? Afterwards you feel immensely more calm. Well, studies have found that being in nature affects our mood for the better. People are found to experience more positive emotions after being in nature such as excitement, hope, happiness, calmness and just a general positive outlook on difficulties or problems.

Rumination of negative thoughts which can lead to depression and anxiety are lessened – in fact simple exposure to nature can shut sown parts of the brain that are associated with depression.

Our Tiredness and Mental Fatigue Defuses. ‘A breathe of fresh air’ has become quite a common saying and has maybe lost some of its true meaning but being out in nature (and especially near water) we are breathing in much more pure oxygen and negative ions which are good for our well-being and ultimate happiness.

We are completely bombarded with information on a daily basis and it’s more than our brains can really handle without getting mentally and physically drained. Being outside surrounded by trees, plants, water – whatever it may be – can give our minds the mental energy boost we need in this day and age. Not only that, but studies have found nature can increase our ability to restore our attention which is good if you find yourself zoning out after information overload.

We Become More Kind Towards Others. Research has found that after spending time in the great outdoors, you are more likely to feel more kindness, generosity and trust towards others because you are experiencing more positive emotions.

It Evokes Awe Within Us. If you really think about how amazing mother nature really is and how intricate, complicated, exceptional it all is then you will experience awe. Awe allows us to contemplate and acknowledge just how small we are, in comparison to nature, as individuals. Nature-inspired awe involves a “diminished self” and the “sensed presence of a higher power” and you definitely don’t have to be a spiritual person to experience this! Awe is actually a powerful feeling that can contribute to your happiness.

So try to get yourself out in nature as much as possible. Not only will it be good for you physically but also mentally with many reasons for it to contribute to your happiness and well-being 🙂

I didn’t talk much about the different ways being around water can have a massive positive effect on our happiness levels, so here’s an article I wrote about the wonderful power of water – whether oceans, lakes or rainstorms – and the effect it has on our well-being 🙂

Science Explains How Staying Near Water Can Change Our Brains

Do We Get Happier As We Get Older?

Today is my birthday…hurrah! It got me thinking about happiness and age – specifically do we get happier as we get older?

Happiness tends to be positively linked with age and there has been a plethora of scientific research that has delved into the answer to this question.

It seems happiness is intrinsically associated with youth and youth means opportunity, excitement, health and the start of the life journey. Yes, we have more energy and future hope but I don’t think this necessarily equals being more happy. Youth brings more mistakes that cause us to feel lost and confused. Societal pressure to have your life going in the right direction can cause stress and feelings of failure if it doesn’t work out the way you expect.

We’re happier when we’ve accomplished our major goals. Many studies have shown that happiness becomes more prevalent in our lives when we’ve completed the goals we’ve set ourselves. This causes us to float along in life more contently and happily because we no longer have to strive for the big things we want out of life. This isn’t to say we stop working towards goals but we do this in a more laid-back, ‘along for the ride’ attitude.

We appreciate things more when we’re older and appreciation plays a huge role in happiness. Gratitude and appreciation is a major factor in the achievement of happiness and with the increase of age comes the increase in appreciation. It’s been found that although identity in youth is formed through experiences such as travelling, falling in love (several times), and general thrill-seeking, as we get older we find identity is found in everyday, simple pleasures and with this comes more contentedness.

With wisdom comes happiness. Every year we get older we add our lifetime experiences to our sense of self. We learn from what we’ve done and fine-tune our ideas, beliefs, understandings and apply this to life going forward. The wisdom we develop adds to our happiness as we realise others opinions don’t matter so much or how much money we make isn’t ultimately as important in making us happy as loved ones do.

We have a greater sense of acceptance as we get older. We resist less as we get older. When we’re younger we tend to want to control circumstances that are mostly outside of our control. With this brings frustration and sense of failure if it doesn’t go our way. Age allows us to accept our situations for what they are and being happy with them. This is where appreciation and feeling content with how things are ups our happiness levels.

So turning a year older, whatever your age, shouldn’t be approached with apprehension and reluctance. Be safe in the knowledge that your happiness is most likely going to rise to whole new levels 🙂

If you’re interested, here’s a great TedxTalk about age and happiness:

 

 

International Day of Happiness!

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Today is International Day of Happiness! The 20th March every year is the day that the United Nations have officially elected to be a day of happiness and to acknowledge that every person has a right to be happy and to experience happiness in their life.

Of course, happiness shouldn’t be experienced on one day just like all the other official or unofficial days throughout the year but it is a lovely reminder that happiness is out there 🙂

I thought I’d list the objectives listed on the U.N’s website as I think it sums up what the Day of Happiness represents 🙂

  • Do What Makes You Happy

Smile, share, eat healthily, exercise, be grateful, give back, think positively, spend some time with friends and family, spend some time alone, be mindful, dream, listen to music, say thank you and mean it, compete, be charitable, say “all the more” instead of “nonetheless” – you get it. Do what makes you happy.

  • Spread Happiness

While you’re doing whatever it is you do that makes you happy, don’t forget to do whatever you can do to make others happy! Happiness is contagious. A simple smile can make even a stranger’s day much brighter. You’ve seen the Coca-Cola commercial, right? It’s not a gimmick. Watch it; you will smile! Spread happiness.

  • Tell Everybody

There are more than 7,300,000,000 (that’s 7.3 BILLION+) people on this planet. Each one of them has the right to happiness, and not all of them know it. Tell them. Tell your friends, your family, your neighbours, your co-workers, and your boss – hold your government accountable for securing your happiness. Tell yourself, and remind yourself: happiness is a fundamental human right, and happiness for all is a fundamental human goal. Tell everybody.

  • Celebrate The International Day of Happiness

Article 2 of UN Resolution 66/281: International Day of Happiness

Invites all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations, as well as civil society, including non-governmental organizations and individuals, to observe the International Day of Happiness in an appropriate awareness-raising activities.

Celebrate the International Day of Happiness.
Every March 20th, forever.

  • Support Campaigners

Since the International Day of Happiness was established in 2012, thousands of happiness initiatives all over the world have emerged to celebrate and promote its values. Happiness Day’s annually increasing success is due in every way to the organic uprising of mission-based organizations including NGOs, government programs, private sector marketing campaigns, and community-based movements. Support our campaign partners.

 

So go out today and do at least one thing that makes you happy and if you feel inclined, let me know what that is 😉

 

The Happy Norway Way: What We Can Learn From The Norwegian Mindset

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The hot, smoggy metropolis of Beijing (a far cry from Norway – a quiet and cold country with a very small population) was where I encountered my first Norwegians. I was teaching English in China and I was pleasantly surprised by their friendly nature and near perfect grasp of the English language. Fast forward a year and I found myself living in the city of Trondheim on the west coast of Norway. For the next three years I was immersed in the Norwegian culture, making Norwegian friends and attempting to learn their language (albeit badly!)

For the past 12 years, Norway has been voted the best country to live in and Norwegians being some of the happiest people in the world. From what I’ve learnt about my time living there and the observations I made, I want to share why I think this is and how they’ve seemingly got it so right in the happy stakes.

Many people would say that yes, it’s easy to be happy in Norway because they’re such a rich country but this hasn’t always been the case. The Norwegian culture has been carved out of a history of survival; living in difficult, isolated landscape and working hard to live in these extreme conditions with little money. All the while fostering basic principles of fairness and equality that lives on today.

Norwegians are big on their equality both with gender and society. There are almost no social classes which, in contrast to the UK where I’m from, is a breath of fresh air. There is something called the Law of Jante, a concept created by Aksel Sandemose that critises individual success, and expressions of achievement are deemed inappropriate – basically you should see your achievements as a collective not as an individual. Although not taken to an extreme in Scandinavian countries, I think this has enriched the quiet modesty that is ingrained in the Norwegian character. A rich Norwegian is seen as on the same level as someone relatively poorer. This pretty much eradicates the prejudice and social problems that occur in many other countries.

Gender equality is high. It is not unusual to see women builders, bus drivers, carpenters and engineers – roles that in many countries are seen as dominantly male. Norway was also the pioneer in paternity leave for men. Men and women have 48 weeks paid leave that both are encouraged to take.

There is a strong emphasis on teamwork. Especially in the smaller villages and towns, you regularly come across local groups coming together and volunteering for community projects just from the joy of it and sense of community it brings.

Nature plays a huge part in the lives of Norwegians. With stunning mountains, fjords and northern lights there is no end to the beautiful nature around them. Because of this, their lives are revolved around hiking, skiing and trips to their back-to-basics cabins in the mountain or the forest where a Norwegian is probably at his happiest. They don’t just make this an annual thing, they make this a way of life and regularly indulge their time doing what makes them the most happy.

The weather in Norway is not to everyone’s taste. The winters can be ferocious and even in Trondheim, it could get down to -25 degrees. As a foreigner, I can’t say I found this the most enjoyable time but it’s pretty rare to find a Norwegian that complains. Snow is what they look forward to for 6 months of the year and when it comes it’s welcomed with open arms. Kids at school happily go out to play in minus degree weather all kitted out in their snowsuits and thermals. You may have heard the Norwegian saying there’s no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing and I think this is something I took away with me. No more will I be a complaining Brit wearing next to nothing in the middle of winter and wondering why the hell I’m so cold. And no weather will interfere with a Norwegian’s day, whether it’s sun, rain, ice or snow they will still be out walking, exercising and enjoying it.

Norwegians themselves are very friendly, humble and laid-back people. Although they can come across quiet, serious and maybe even unfriendly to our standards when they encounter people they don’t know, once you break past that, you can guarantee they will become a great loyal friend. Ask any favour and they will be happy to do it. I can honestly say, some of the nicest and most genuine people I know are Norwegian.

So what can we take away from this? A sense of community, an appreciation for nature and surroundings, family values, equality and a genuine humble character are all attributes that can make up a happy society and a happy life. The Norwegian mindset is ingrained and has been transient through a time where Norway has been relatively poor to oil-rich. Yes, they have more money and the standards of living have increased dramatically over the last few decades but their sense of hard work, appreciation of their humble beginnings and proudness of their country both as a society and a thing of beauty, has barely changed at all.

Obviously, there will always be positive and negative elements to living in a country but I think Norway has managed to outweigh the bad with the good. And culture is deep-rooted and developed over time so we can’t, as a society, change quickly and mimic that of another but we can take elements of the Norwegian mindset and apply it to our own lives. At the heart of it, they just seem to be truly grateful for the simple pleasures in life and appreciate their surroundings, friends, family and community which I believe we can all incorporate to create a more positive and happier life 🙂

 

The Attitude of Gratitude

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It’s funny how we tend to only be grateful for things when we get them. We think we will be happy or at least happier once we receive the things that we want in life and only then the gratefulness and appreciation will follow. This is a natural tendency we have but it doesn’t have to be that way.

In positive psychology research, gratitude is linked strongly with greater happiness. Being grateful and appreciative in the here and now leads to more positive feelings, which in turn leads to better health, stronger relationships and an ability to deal better with any hardship presented in our lives.

So how do we get into the habit of being more appreciative? A lot of people (for example) want more money in their lives and yes, you may be happier once you get more money although that isn’t always necessarily the case, but I digress. It’s hard to feel grateful in the here and now when you’re struggling to pay the bills or wanting to go on holiday but not being able to afford it. We want the freedom that money will give us and we don’t feel like we can have that freedom until we get that cash.

The negativity surrounding the idea of lack in our lives make us more miserable than we think. Wouldn’t it be better to live a life of abundance even if we don’t yet have what will make us ‘happy’? Wouldn’t it be better energy spent acknowledging the things that we do have right now?

It’s really very simple. Just sit down and think of ten things that you are grateful for in your life. It could be the roof over your head, the food in your fridge, the great friends and family you have, the hot shower you get to have every morning…..the list can really be endless and whatever you have on this list, appreciate the crap out of them! These are things we do and have everyday yet we take them for granted and are so overlooked.

Recognising what we have and feeling positive about them will reap numerous benefits but it’s something that we need to make a habit of. You may have heard of making a Gratitude List which is a great way of really getting you to think and notice what you’re truly grateful for. Each night, make a habit of listing everything you’ve been grateful for that day. Every morning, wake up and appreciate that warm bed and the hot shower you get to take. It really is a mind shift and one that will really make a huge difference in your daily outlook. You’ll feel brighter and more optimistic which will attract better things into your life.

People are important. The relationships we have within our own networks, whether at home with our families, our friends, colleagues or communities, play a huge role in our lives. The bonds we form with others bears a massive impact on our happiness and one way of strengthening these is to express gratitude and appreciation.

We are all conditioned to say ‘thank you’ from a young age which is culturally a positive thing. But does this become an automation rather than an emotional appreciation? Do we really express true, deep gratitude towards someone who has done something kind for us or is it a conditioned thanks void of feeling? This isn’t to say we always do this but we should really step back and think about how the other person will feel receiving the gratitude.

Christopher Peterson, a psychologist who worked extensively with positive psychology used the term ‘other people matter’. We tend to talk about positivity in terms of ourselves and how to make ourselves happier (which is great) but actually our quality of relationships with others makes a massive impact on our happiness. And one of the best ways to do this is to express appreciation. Not only does it make you feel good, it obviously makes the other person feel good too. It’s powerful stuff.

There are good ways of expressing gratitude and there are even better ways. When you are truly grateful towards another person because they did something nice for you, you make the appreciation about them. We can have a tendency to say ‘thank you’ and say how much it means to us but we should also maybe add how we notice they do this a lot and what a beautiful trait it is. This becomes more about them and highlights the fact that they are a wonderful person and you acknowledge this.

And studies have shown that being more grateful allows you to cope better with everyday stress and even boosts your immune system so even more reasons to show a bit of appreciation!

So don’t buy into the idea that not having the things you want right now in your life is a reason to not notice what you do have. It will make you feel more abundant which is a feeling that really most of us crave to have. Make sure you really appreciate the people in your life not just to make yourself feel better but to benefit the other person – make it about them. Better relationships lead to a more positive and happier life. Focusing on the abundance rather than the lack is all a state of mind so why not choose to make that a more positive and happy one? 🙂