“People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be.” ― Abraham Lincoln
Increase your happiness and well being. By following the steps in this “How To Check-list”. These steps deal with your: 1. Happiness from pleasure, 2. Happiness from gratification, 3. Happiness from the Past, 4. Happiness about the Future, 5. Happiness in the present. As outlined in the work of Seligman (2001).
Under each of these five headings it lists the actions for you take. These actions build on each other to form a cohesive learning experience. And you can tick off each of the actions you take as you work though the list. Which allows you to keep a record of the progress you make. And note where you left off and need to start again.
Why use a checklist?
Pilots use checklists to fly aircraft. Construction engineers also use them. As do surgeons. And I use them for personal development. Where I have found them very useful for those people who want to work on areas like their happiness.
Read/Do Checklists are good for self-help. You read the instruction and then you do it. Each instruction is a learning step. When you have completed it you tick the box. And you move to the next instruction. Each instruction builds on the previous one. To create a learning experience for you to work your way through one step at a time.
Happiness from pleasure
☐ Draw up a short list of little pleasures you like to enjoy once in a while. Pleasures that are instant, experienced through your senses, and are fleeting. Ones that you don’t have to think too hard about. Simple things that give you a sense of happiness.
☐ Schedule as many as possible of these happiness pleasures into your weekly timetable.
☐ Plan a day each month in which you enjoy all of these pleasures. Or as much happiness as can possibly manage.
☐ Accept that we all enjoy moments of short-lived pleasure. We can’t get enough of them. And we envy those who enjoy more pleasure then we do. We see them as having more happiness than we do.
☐ Accept that these momentary pleasures will not in their own right make you happier in the long run. You need to add some gratifications to them to achieve a real sense of happiness. (Seligman, 2002)
Happiness from gratifications
☐ Short-list those activities that engage and absorb you. You lose your sense of time passing while doing them. Seligman claims these are different from pleasures. So to help us tell them apart he calls the ones that absorb and engage us gratifications. Like for example my gratifications of reading, writing, gardening, conversation and listening to classical music.
☐ Check if each of your gratifications has the following components: It is challenging and requires skill. You have to concentrate. It has clear goals. You get immediate feedback. You become deeply, effortlessly involved. You have a sense of control. Your sense of self disappears. Time stops. (Csikszentmihalyi, 1991).
☐ Plan to spend time doing the things that gratify you. By nature they need large chunks of time. If possible spend a couple of hours each day working on one or other of them. You will soon notice how well and happy this makes you feel.
Happiness from the past
☐ Accept that to experience happiness you need to feel satisfied, content, fulfilled, proud and enjoy peace of mind about your past.
☐ Recall one of the more pleasant memories of your past life. Spend 20 minutes reflecting on it. To start the process visualise the setting of the event. Focus on the people involved. Engage with them. Feel true happiness and content at the memory of these events. Resolve to think about these happy memories at least once a week.
☐ Identify the most pleasant memories you can recall from the past. Three from each decade of your life. Plan to think regularly about each of them. Keep a record of how good they make you feel. And make a note of the memories you find most pleasant. The ones that give you most happiness.
☐ Keep a gratitude journal. Just write down the things you are grateful for. Do this once a week. It will make you happier about the past. And enable you to make more progress towards achieving your personal goals.
☐ Forgive someone who hurt you. Do so as objectively as you can. Don’t let yourself think the other person is evil. Avoid self-pity. Breathe slowly and calmly as you visualise the event. Feel empathy. Try to understand the point of view of the person who hurt you. Was their survival threatened. Were they afraid, worried or hurt.
Happiness from the future
☐ Accept that to feel happy you need to feel optimistic and hopeful and to have faith and trust in the future.
☐ Visualise a day in ten years time. See it as a beautiful day. Lovely weather, great people and a lovely ambiance. Everything is going your way. You have achieved most of what you want. You are happy. Identify the things that are making you happy. Tick them off on your fingers. Take time to savour them one at a time.
☐ Think of yourself as eighty years of age. Feeling happy and content with your life. Look back at the good times. Have a few words with each of the people who have made your life worthwhile. List off the things that have made you happy. Let go of any regrets you may have. And things that saddened you. Forgive those who hurt you along the way. And forgive yourself for hurting people. Both those who deserved it and those who did not deserve it. Rejoice and feel good about life about the people you have known and about yourself.
Happiness in the present
☐ Accept that you need to feel happy and content about the present. About your life and the people in it. About the things you enjoy and about the problems you have to solve.
☐ Enjoy flow inducing activities. Such as gratifications because they make you feel good. Get very involved in them. Experience the ecstasy of being totally involved in them. The sense of great inner clarity you experience. Your knowledge of what needs to be done. Your confidence that you can do it. The lack of anxiety and boredom. The serenity and absence of worry. The great inner clarity. How you transcend yourself. How time no longer matters. How you are completely focused on the present. How you don’t notice time passing. How the activity motivates you.
☐ Identify your strengths. You can do this by taking the VIA Strengths Survey at www.authentichappiness.org. You will get a rank ordered list of your strengths when you do this questionnaire which takes about twenty-five minutes.
☐ Savour these strengths. Spend time working on them every day. If you can use them in your job that is great. If not make sure you pursue them in your leisure time.
References and URLS
Seligman, M. (2001) Authentic Happiness, Boston: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.
Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2002) FLOW, New York: Random House.