Want to be Happier?

What to be Happier? Here's How.

Happiness. Do you chase it? Do you wait for it? And do you know when to fall into its warm, woolly arms and enjoy.

There are a couple of reasons for the elusiveness of happiness:

  1. Although people think they know what will make them happy, their predictions are often inaccurate.
  2. People tend to follow the same path towards happiness over and over, despite not getting the result they want. Mistakes are repeated and when things get hairy, they go back to familiar behavior, regardless of how well that behavior has worked in the past.

New research by Stanford University has found that there is something you can do if you want to be happier – and it’s powerful. It’s all in the way the goals are set – make them concrete rather than abstract. For an extra boost setting and achieving prosocial, benevolent goals will increase happiness even more. 

Setting concrete goals reduces the discrepancy between what you expect around the goal being reached (when, if, how) and the reality. The smaller the gap between expectation and reality, the greater the satisfaction, happiness and well-being.

People tend to have inaccurate expectations about future outcomes, which means that the gap between expectation and reality are often quite wide. The secret to happiness lies in minimising the gap.

When goals are concrete, you’re more likely to know exactly what needs to be done to reach them and when they have been met. Success is measurable.

On the other hand broad, abstract goals will set unrealistic expectations and a confusing, perhaps overwhelming, path towards fulfillment.

When considering how to reach a goal, an abstractly framed goal (‘I want to be healthy’) encourages a focus on the why of the action whereas a concretely framed goal (‘I want to exercise four times a week’) turns the focus more on the details and logistics – the how. 

An abstract goal can be more difficult to assess than a concrete goal. It’s easier to measure how many times you’ve exercised than it is to measure whether you’ve lived a healthy life.

So How Does it Effect Happiness?

The ‘happiness effects’ are due to smaller gaps between the expectations and reality – the expectation of achieving that goal and the real result. A clearly defined goal is easier to achieve than a vague, generalized goal.

It’s more difficult to know when and if a goal has been met if the goal is couched in abstract terms.

Try this:

  • Rather than, ‘I want to improve my marriage’, try ‘I’ll organise a date night once a week.’
  • Rather than, ‘I want to look after the environment’, try ‘I will recycle.’
  • Rather than, ‘I’m going to eat healthier,’ try ‘I’m cutting out sugar from 2pm,’ (because you’ve still gotta live, right?)
  • Rather than, ‘I’m going to be happy,’ try ‘I’m going to have dinner/coffee with at least one friend once a week,’ (because connecting with your tribe amps up happiness)
  • Rather than, I’m going to get to know more people,’ try ‘I’m going to do a cooking class/learn Italian/join cycling group’ (or whatever works for you).

Reframing prosocial goals in more concrete terms allows for more realistic expectations and a greater likelihood of those expectations being met.

In the eternal quest for happiness, the way goals are framed is a critical one and one which, with thought and a small amount of tweaking, can turn the happiness quest from a ‘Lord of the Rings’ style journey to one less daunting and more rewarding.

What will be your goal(s) for the new year? Anything goes. We’d love to hear so feel free to leave a comment down below. You never know who you’ll be inspiring …

[irp posts=”923″ name=”Hardwiring for Happiness. How We Can Change Our Brain, Mind & Personality.”]

One Comment

lynne

Another excellent article, up lifting and very informative, clear, well written and well received.

Sometimes you just have to read something and you go “oh yeah, thats so simple”…l will be making my gaps smaller…..Thank you.

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One of our rituals was in the week before Christmas, we’d go shopping and each kiddo would choose a keepsake decoration for the tree. This would forever be their decoration. To make sure we’d remember who owned what (a year is a long time!) I wrote their name and year on the box. The idea is that when they leave home, they’ll have a collection of special decorations for their own tree, plump with throwbacks (‘Oh I remember when we bought this!).

Then of course there was Christmas morning. Santa would leave a note on the table and bootprints on the front path, which smelled remarkably like talcum powder. So magical the way the snow was under the boot and never melted, even in an Australian summer! But that’s the magic of Christmas, right?!

We often put so much pressure on ourselves to make Christmas magical. Rituals can make this easier. They get the special memories, you get to make the ‘magic’ without having to come up with something new and different each year.

It’s very likely that there will already be Christmas rituals happening in your family, even if you don’t realise it. Ask them what they remember most, or what they loved most about last Christmas, aside from the presents.

They might surprise you with things you’d completely forgotten about, or which at the time didn’t seem to be a biggie. It can be the simplest things. Maybe they loved the way they were allowed to have ice-cream with pancakes at breakfast last Christmas. (Ice-cream at breakfast?! Told you Christmas was magical!!). 

If it’s what they remember, and if it lights them up, let it become a ‘thing’. Maybe they loved the magic ‘neverending carrot’ sprinkles you put on the scrawny carrot you found in the vege drawer (remembering reindeer groceries can be so hard sometimes!)

You’d be surprised what they find special. It doesn’t have to be big to feel magical.

What are your Christmas rituals? Let’s share ideas in the comments.♥️
We're having a sale! For a limited time, books and plushies are 25% off. 

Because sales are the best, and Christmas is the best, and helping kiddos find their brave is the very best of all! So, to celebrate the end of the year (because truly, it's been a year hasn't it), and to help you settle brave hearts for next year, or night times, or separations, or, you know, all the things, we're taking 25% off books and plushies in the Hey Sigmund shop.

There's no need to enter a code. The books and bundles are already marked with their special sale prices. You'll find them all there - plushies, books, bundles - doing shopping cartwheels, beside themselves excited about helping your young ones feel bigger than anxiety, and shimmy on to brave. 
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It can feel as though the only way to strengthen them against their anxiety is to make sure they have nothing to worry about, but when their worries are real this might not happen quickly. 

Instead, we need to focus on helping them know that even though those worries are there, they will be okay. ‘Not worrying’ isn’t the antidote to anxiety, trust is. This will start with trust in you and your belief that they will be okay, and trust in your reaction if things don’t go to plan. Eventually, as they grow this will expand into trust in themselves and their own capacity to find their way through challenges to a place of hope and strength. 
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Strong steady breathing will reverse the fight or flight physiology that causes nausea, butterflies, or sick or sore tummies during anxiety. BUT telling an anxious brain to take a strong steady breath will potentially make anxiety worse unless strong steady breathing feels familiar. Practising during calm times will make it familiar. 

During anxiety we’re dealing with their amygdala, and it wants short shallow breathing to conserve oxygen. It doesn’t want strong steady breathing and will work hard to resist this. 

An anxious brain is a busy brain and it will be less able to do anything unfamiliar. A few minutes of strong steady breathing each day will set up a strong neural pathway to make strong breathing more automatic and accessible during anxiety. 

In the meantime though, you can do it for them. This is the magic of co-regulation. When you do strong steady breathing during their anxiety, it will calm your nervous system which will eventually calm theirs. You will catch their anxiety, and this will feed into their anxiety. Your strong steady breathing is the circuit breaker. They will catch your anxiety, but they will also catch your calm. Don’t worry if this takes a few minutes (and maybe a few more after that). Anxious brains are strong, powerful, beautiful brains working hard to protect. Breathe and be with. This will open the way for that distressed young nervous system to find its way home. And you don’t need to do more than that.♥️
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Needs and behaviour can get tangled up and treated as one. When you can, separate the need from the behaviour. Give voice to the need - let it find a way to breathe - and redirect the behaviour. 

The need might always be clear, especially if it’s being smothered by angry shouting words. If we stifle the behaviour without acknowledging the need, the need stays hungry. Help usher it into the light by making it clear that you’re ready to receive it. Then wait. Wait for the big behaviour to ease, for bodies to calm, and angry voices to soften - but keep the way to you open. ‘You’re a great kid and I know you know that behaviour wasn’t okay. Talk to me about what’s happening for you.’

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