January is a dark, blah month for many people.
We are having a literal and metaphorical ‘sugar crash’.
Our bodies are burnt out from the increase in sugar and carbs, the extra alcohol or eggnog, and exhausted from the many late nights that December brings. At the same time we also experience an emotional low.
We are either coming down from the hype and excitement of Christmas or January magnifies and intensifies our feelings of loneliness and grief. January also has some of the longest, coldest, and darkest days.
This is exactly why I chose January to be the month of Rediscovering Happiness in order to encourage a month of mental health, wellness, and healing.
Are you happy? What defines happiness for you?
Do you ever feel like happiness is always just out of reach?
Unfortunately as a society we have created a backwards formula for reaching happiness. We have placed happiness on the other side of success. But, as many of you know we don’t always reach ‘success’ or we change our measure of success along our journey and therefore never reach happiness.
What if happiness was something that wasn’t determined by our external world but was instead something we each harness from within? Wow… how the world would be a different place! Often our greatest barrier to happiness is ourselves; the negative thoughts we let take over our minds.
Shawn Achor does a fabulous and humorous Tedx Talk on the Happiness Advantage which is fascinating and so important in our journey of rediscovering happiness. I invite you to watch this funny and engaging video as we are going to use his ‘simple steps’ as the basis of our 30 day challenge.
The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Achor
According to Shawn Achor’s research and many others there are a couple small things that you can do to create new neuropaths in your brain – ones that encourage positive, happy thoughts.
Shawn gives us 5 simple things we can do each day to rewire our brain to see and experience the positive in the world. And guess what… his research shows that at 2 min a day for 21 days we can start this rewiring process and rediscover happiness.
Shawn’s 5 small changes include:
- 3 Gratitudes
- Random acts of kindness
Let’s look more closely at each one of these small changes we can make.
The Power of Gratitudes
“Through the work of leading researchers like Robert Emmons and Martin Seligman, we know that this virtue is more than just saying, ‘thank you’”. (positivepsychology.com)
When we express things that we are thankful for we not only feel appreciation but we also reduce stress, increase optimism, and change our brain. Did you know that research is starting to uncover even more health benefits from expressing gratitudes such as decreasing the inflammation in your body? Say what??!?
I encourage you to review this article on the 28 Benefits of Gratitude & Most Significant Research Findings to learn more about this phenomenon. Some of the other benefits of expressing gratitudes include:
For the individual:
- increased happiness and positive mood
- more satisfaction with life
- less materialistic
- less likely to experience burnout
- better physical health
- better sleep
- less fatigue
- lower levels of cellular inflammation
- greater resiliency
- encourages the development of patience, humility, and wisdom
- increases prosocial behaviors
- strengthens relationships
- may help employees’ effectiveness
- may increase job satisfaction
If you are interested in seeing all the health, wellness, and gratitude at work research I encourage you to read this truly insightful article 14 Health Benefits of Practicing Gratitude According to Science. The article even includes 3 free gratitude exercises.
“I don't have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it's right in front of me if I'm paying attention and practicing gratitude.” Brene Brown
Rediscover Happiness Through Journaling
There are many different types of journaling. However for the purpose of this study, Shawn is talking about journaling one positive thing that happened to you in the past 24 hours.
This journaling practice, similar to expressing gratitudes, helps us to scan the world for the positive and to embed those positive experiences into our memory.
Let me clarify that this doesn’t mean crappy, sad, or hard things won’t happen. And it is really important to acknowledge and feel those big emotions too. When we rediscover happiness we don’t ignore or push aside our other emotions.
Because research also tells us that isn’t healthy either. But what it does mean is that in the midst of the hard stuff in life that we choose to focus on the things we are thankful for or the positives even if they are small and seem insignificant.
Produce Happy Chemical with Exercise
Oh man this is a big one and I can’t even express how important exercise is to our health and wellness.
Now when I saw exercise I don’t mean you need to go and ‘pump iron’ at the gym.
You can if thats what is best for you, but what I mean is just moving your body. The Nagoski sisters talk about this in their book called Burnout (read more about it here). Moving your body may includes going for a walk, yoga, stretching, weight lifting, pilates, or cranking on your favourite tunes and having a dance party.
The Beauty of Meditation
The hustle and bustle of our society combined with the instant gratification we receive from our devices and social media has caused our brains to be completely overwhelmed. Our mind, body, and soul is completely overstimulated which actually triggers our stress response system.
When our stress response system is triggered our body is flooded with stress hormones which wreak havoc on our bodies and brain. Meditation allows us the time and space to find rest, peace, and focus. When we give our brain space to rest we become more creative, and have more emotional energy for all that life throws at us.
Random Acts of Kindness
Let’s be honest, when we try to make the world a better place and respect the humanity in each other we find happiness and we gift happiness to others. I think that is pretty simple and straightforward and something we are called to do as human beings.
The 30-Day Rediscovering Happiness Challenge
Research shows that it takes about 21 days for a new thought pattern to become the preferred pathway (aka to create a new habit or routine). That is why we are going to complete a 30-day challenge in an attempt to create new pathways in our brain that encourage and support happiness.
I invite you to join me on this 30 day journey to rediscovering happiness.
January 1st, the first day of a new year. New beginnings ahead. A chance for a fresh start. And the end of all the Christmas and New Year hype. On this day, life will return to ‘normal’ or ‘as usual’. As I mentioned above, January is often a hard month for people. This is why we are going to participate in a 30-day gratitude challenge toward rediscovering happiness together.
(ps. you can also do this challenge any time of the year when you need a restart or refocus)
First you need to find a journal. Here are a few of my favourite ones
Secondly, you need to download the Rediscovering Happiness 30 Day Challenge Printable.
Lastly, for 30 days I encourage you to commit to faithfully participate – the only person who gains from this is you!
Whether you are reading this in January as the new year begins or you need a mid-year fresh start, implementing these practices into our daily lives will make a big impact!
Once we have rewired our brain to see the positive in the world and have likely established an abundance mindset, we need to create goals and a vision for our life that embodies and aligns with these new values or lifestyle. I encourage you to come back after the 30 day challenge and check out this ‘coming soon’ blog post all about establishing goals the right way!
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