What makes you happy?

Do you know what makes you happy? The big things and small fleeting moments that make you jump for joy, bask in the feeling of pure, unfiltered happiness?

I think these are questions we hardly ever make to ourselves. It is easy to just go with the flow and jump to perform a sudden impulse that makes us feel or un-feel things. Impulses that give us quick fixes or try to numb the ticking voices whispering behind our ears. How often we catch ourselves brooding or mindlessly turning on Netflix to fill in blank spaces? However, how often we find ourselves smiling, silently laughing or feeling relaxed? Knowing what actions, things, places, people or situations make us sigh with satisfaction, we also can deliberately make them part of our daily lives – thus umping up our levels of happiness.

Staring at flowers. Yay or nay?

From Gollum to Kittens

I recently sat down to write a list of things that make me happy. After a hardy mind-mapping session, I just wrote dancing, coffee, and hugs. (And suppressed my frolicking desire to write: raindrops on roses, whiskers on kittens…) But truly, getting my favorite things on that little piece of paper had me scratching my head for longer than it should have. This made me wonder if this list was hard for others too.

If the question would have been: What makes you unhappy? Or: What is wrong with the world right now? I would have been crouched over that notebook like Gollum filling up the pages with endless lists. Social psychologists call this phenomenon: the negativity bias.

We love to focus on things that go wrong. And that is not all bad. For us to learn and become better, we need to know where our weaknesses lie. However, celebrating our wins and having small nooks of happiness are needed to balance things out. A healthy ratio is around five positive aspects to one negative. And for some, these positive factors are harder to keep in focus. Here is where the list of positive aspects comes to our aid.

Taking photos make me happy! All of these flower portraits are from my FLOWERPOWER project.

The LIST: what makes YOU happy?

  1. List 10-15 things that make you happy or satisfied. You can list people, objects, situations, actions, places..whatever it is that give you the feels. The items can be as small or as big as you want. Just keep in mind that they should be easily doable in your everyday life. 
  2. Make it a habit of either scheduling these things in your calendar or put them into your daily to-do lists. Do at least 2 things per day.
  3. Enjoy. When you are doing things from your list, truly revel in the satisfaction it gives you. Notice every little feature and try to solidify the feeling of happiness in your mind. I like to imagine taking a multi-sensory photo of the moment, making sure I will remember each tiny aspect of it.
  4. Notice other small moments that give you spurts of happiness and add them to your list. Finding yourself enjoying your commute listening to 70s funk? Yes. Please. Next.

This is a deceiving little process. With the intention of broadening my list, I have a new-found presence in my days. I focus more on capturing spaces filled with satisfaction – and by doing so I have involuntarily decreased the time I spent worrying or stressing. Even though it is not a magic quick-fix, it has made me oriented towards happiness.

A sandwich with edible flowers… my kind of daydream.

Here is what I wrote in my list:

  • Dancing
  • Coffee
  • Hugs
  • Snuggling in bed with a steaming cup of tea and a book
  • Taking photographs
  • Writing while commuting
  • Walking in nature
  • Wandering in the city
  • Going to sauna + self-care
  • Staring at art
  • Going to the library
  • Making art
  • Live music
  • Talking to a friend
  • Listening to the wind/rain

When you know what makes you happy, you will find more moments of being happy. Weird, eh?

If you try this happiness list -technique, please let me know what it worked out with you!

With warm woolen mittens and schnitzels with noodles,