Imagine this fictional story…
Janet is conscientious, which produces some anxiety. She studies hard and takes on a job with many responsibilities and, at times, becomes stressed from the long hours and expectations. She thinks this is because she’s an anxious person, however, using her conscientiousness, she starts an exercise program in the outdoors which helps her to think clearly and feel more calm at work. She realizes the stress isn’t solely genetic, but comes from the demands of her workplace which also affect her colleagues. She’s not alone.
In this example, Janet’s happiness comes from her natural self, her life situation, and actions she chooses to take.
This article is a 3 step strategy to boost your happiness by understanding who you are, what’s going on in your life, and the things you choose to do.
Living your life, not someone else’s.
Happiness is harder to find when we aim to emulate someone else. It’s great to have mentors and role models, but it’s important to know who you are for happiness to be achievable.
Life is more fun when we use what we have already so we can enjoy each day, even in our routine responsibilities, but to do this we need awareness of three inputs to happiness and how to activate them.
3 inputs to happiness and life satisfaction
- Who you are biologically: your genetic make up, natural temperament, strengths, and personality
- What’s going on in your life now and what’s impacted you in the past
- The actions you choose to take that are within your control and and aligned with your goals and values.
The above three contributors to our happiness are explained by Kira M Newman [see reference 1] .
Kira Newman explains;
By engaging in healthy mental and physical habits, we can still exert a lot of control over our own happiness.
genes can influence our tendency to engage in activities that will make us happier, such as exercise, acts of kindness, or pursuing goals.
Hence, she is saying we have the ability to control our environment to some extent, but our genetic tendencies impact on our ability to take action in ways that benefit us.
So let’s understand our natural selves better and use these strengths to build the lives we want and feel happier.
3 ways to use self-awareness to feel happier
Understand your temperament, personality, and thought processes.
These three things warrant three separate articles and I will cover these in more detail soon. For now, I encourage you to accept yourself as you are.
In the fictional example I gave, Janet realizes she is a loud extrovert (temperament) and sometimes she says things she regrets. But she’s friendly and generous with people and conscientious at work (personality traits). She knows she’s prone to thinking the world is ending when she makes a mistake (thought process), but she chooses to accept herself and set positive goals.
Look back and look around: 4 questions to build your awareness and feel happier with your current life
- What has happened in my past to impact my happiness now? Try this mindset exercise: recall a stressful memory and imagine placing it in a balloon and tying it to a tree. Watch it blow in the wind. It’s there and you’re curiously observing it as an outsider. It’s not going away but it’s not attached to you. You’re observing it but not making changes to it or evaluating it. This exercise creates awareness and acceptance which slows the fight against your emotions. I’m not suggesting you accept painful things as being ok or justified, but in this exercise you accept the memories and curiously observe them.
- What is causing me stress right now and which aspects can I change or not change?
- What is working well for me right now?
- What am I grateful for? This becomes a source of encouragement in moments of stress.
Choose three actions you can take this week to feel happier and make progress in your week
- One action for physical health. For example, take a walk 3 times a week.
- One action for your mental health. For example, write a gratitude list each day or do something kind for someone. For example, share a valuable resource with a colleague or thank them for their kindness.
- One activity for socialising and connecting. For example, who can you talk with this week?
Temperament and personality are more stable than changeable, but you can grow your self understanding so you can choose actions and thoughts that boost your wellbeing.
- Which moods or characteristics do you tend to show consistently? Are you calm and quiet? Or emotionally expressive and extroverted? (These are just two examples)
- Write a few lines about one of your traits you are proud of. For example, you persevere in hard times or you extend kindness to most people.
- What difficult experience did you conquer by using your strengths?
- Plan three manageable goals for your coming week that will add to your wellbeing.
Reference 2 below from Science Direct defines temperament as:
“differences in behavior between individuals that are consistently displayed when tested under similar situations (Hausberger et al., 2004; Kagan, 2005; Plomin and Daniels, 1997; Zentner and Shiner, 2012)”