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Nicky Marshall

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Three ways to bring more happiness into your life

Bring some happiness to your life this winter with these tried and trusted tips from wellbeing expert Nicky Marshall.

Have you ever said: “I’ll be happy when…” When I get to the weekend, when the kids leave home, when I finish my studies, when I get a new job…” It can feel like happiness is on the other side of the next thing that takes our attention.

Being happy has lots of great benefits: better relationships; more productivity; greater health and longevity and less stress. Not only are we better to be around but happy teams are more productive and creative.

Being around negative people, or spending too much time in isolation can be mood hoovers

When we walk into a room and someone is smiling, the mirror neurons in our face react and we find that we are also smiling. Conversely, when people around us are stressed or anxious, it just doesn’t feel good.

So how do we find happiness?

Well firstly, I can tell you what won’t work. Trying to impress others, trying to ‘crush it’ or ‘striving’. This will zap our energy and lead to exhaustion and comparisonitis. When we are fearful, dwelling on the past or worrying about the future these are guaranteed to reduce our happiness. Similarly, being around negative people, or spending too much time in isolation can be mood hoovers.

Extrinsic and intrinsic happiness

There are two types of happiness: extrinsic and intrinsic. Extrinsic happiness relies on something outside of us happening. Perhaps it is the environment we spend time in, the relationships we have or the activities we involve ourselves with. It can also be due to a life event: a promotion, getting married or completing something.

Extrinsic happiness is great, but it’s finite. There will come a point where the euphoria will subside when we either look for the next shiny thing, or we start to feel unhappy.

Intrinsic happiness may be seen more as contentment, fulfilment or peace. It’s long-lasting, as nothing reduces it and we don’t need to ‘do’ or ‘be’ anything to have it.

Internal happiness occurs when we are living on purpose, creating the elements we desire in our life by our own actions. It also comes from feeling healthy and well. We have the power to bring in more of it and we can also lose it if we let elements slide.

I know personally that when I swim twice a week and get to my dance classes I am more likely to have a good week. Similarly, in the past when I expanded my comfort zone by learning to ski, I noticed how I loved physical movement. During lockdown, as our freedom to get outside was restricted, I realised how much I needed to be outside for my own mental calm.

Understanding the elements you need to create more happiness now, can lead to years of contentment

Do you know what makes you happy?

Perhaps there are certain activities that you enjoy? Maybe you notice a dip in your mood when you don’t do them. Does your happiness increase when you spend time with people? Or do you relax more in your own company? Are there certain seasons that make you smile? Do you like life to be busy? Or do you prefer a slower pace?

Understanding the elements you need to create more happiness now, can lead to years of contentment. Perhaps take some time now to contemplate the key factors to your happiness. Track back through times when you were happy and unhappy – what was present and what was missing?

Tips for creating a happier life

1. Tend to your wellbeing

Make sure you sleep well, stay hydrated and eat good nutrition. A bad night’s sleep can reduce your mood by up to 30% and sugar can also affect your mood. Think about boosting the feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine by laughing, sleeping and rewarding yourself at the end of each day. Feeling gratitude or meditating are great mood boosters.

2. Find your community

We are social beings and, even if we do enjoy alone time, we thrive when we find our tribe. Perhaps it’s a band of friends or a group with a shared interest. Perhaps it’s work colleagues…or maybe it’s time to find a new community that will give you a new social life

3. Know how to bounce back in hard times

What elements do you need to keep you happy? Perhaps it’s art, reading, or good music – whatever good is for you! Perhaps you love to learn or to give back by volunteering. Create a vision of what good looks like and notice when an opportunity arises to take that first step.

If you are struggling to be happy today, be gentle with yourself

Take those baby steps

If you are struggling to be happy today, be gentle with yourself and know that baby steps reap big rewards over time. Share your quest with someone, you may find that they encourage you to go to that first meeting (that’s how I returned to ballet after a 30-year break!).

Ask yourself every day what would make you happy and try to do at least one thing from this list. You may find that in a few months’ time you are the one giving out the happy tips!

Interested in this topic? Read Why learner happiness is essential from the outset.

One Response

  1. I thought I’d leave a comment
    I thought I’d leave a comment as too few people give feedback on here and because I thought this was really good. Too many people think that happiness comes from chasing other people’s dreams and we can waste a lot of time chasing other people’s (or a sort of societal norm) vision of success. Real happiness comes from recognising what makes you happy as you’ve said and making time for it. I really liked the distinction between extrinsic and intrinsic happiness. 🙂

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Nicky Marshall


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