Happiness has been, at times, like the green light in The Great Gatsby – an illustrious prize off in the distance that I could never quite reach.
That is until I became far more observant about what influences my state of being, pulling apart variables and finding the factors that affect my happiness the most.
For over seven years, Hugo Huijer, founder of Tracking Happiness, has tracked his sentiment levels every day. Through this meticulous study of his own emotions, he discovered ten core factors to his happiness.
“Feeling happy leads to good life outcomes.” (Happiness Lab)
Each individual may have a different top 10 factors of happiness, but I found these to be good points of discussion to briefly walkthrough.
The love of another makes us feel valued, so we can infer that we are something to be respected.
Furthermore, a more profound love as one may find with a lover creates a raw, transparent bond that will consistently reveal who you are and the obstacles that may stop you from experiencing happiness.
“Happiness is correlated with better relationships later in life.” (Happiness Lab)
We can observe love as a reminder, affirmation of what we possess to help ourselves maintain an equilibrium that produces the most consistent flows of happiness and joy possible.
If not in a relationship now, or are one who chooses not to engage with another in such fashion, the question is simple: What am I doing every day to love myself? How am I showing myself that I appreciate being here?
Valuing our existence is key to happiness. It is trusting that we bring light out into the world. If this is a looming question in our mind, our value, we must first look to what we are doing to value ourselves.
Daily affirmations, reciting back our wins for the day, reminding ourselves of the positivity we provide others, mantras are just a few methods we can employ to stir up a feeling of self-love.
Self-love is a perfect foot into our second factor, exercising.
The body is the temple of the mind.
Helpguide.org says, “(Those who exercise consistently) feel more energetic throughout the day, sleep better at night, have sharper memories, and feel more relaxed and positive about themselves and their lives.”
On a cold and rainy day, one might feel hard-pressed to go out for a stroll. We don’t need a gym membership to keep up physical activity; let that not be a block to progress.
Part of designing a life that places joy first is keeping up the habits that will get us there. How about implementing stretch breaks every hour when in the office?
With exercise comes burning off excess energy, which can help us relax.
Over the past couple of years, relaxation has been one of the most significant pieces of my journey toward joy. Recently, I had a task list for myself of work that I needed to get done during the weekend (an audacious start to a thought). I did some thinking – why am I robbing myself of time to relax?
My solution was to hyper-schedule out the week ahead, optimizing hour by hour, so I could make room for the weekend’s objectives within the week to come. Scheduling my week led to me enjoying a Sunday lounging back, eating Sushi in my bed, and not getting out of bed until 5 pm.
Time management is a simple and powerful tool to carve out room for relaxing.
Relaxation is a breath of fresh air for our minds. It grants us a moment to drift into reflection.
When life pauses, we can press play on understanding how we got to where we are.
Laying back, reading a book, watching a television show, or going out to sit back and listen to some music, I’ve always noticed that afterward, it’s far easier for me to walk through what in life might be getting in the way of me feeling well.
Intentionally relaxing to rest ourselves so that we have the energy to confront challenges in our lives is critical.
So that means that along with relaxation and exercise comes the factor of rest.
Respecting your body with the gift of a good’s night rest allows us to step forward toward Joy. Being well-rested means, we can think through scenarios more clearly, identifying the issues we might be facing that hinder us from grabbing hold of joy and happiness in our lives.
Imaginably, if one is exercising and keeping a healthy work-life balance, one is likely getting more sleep.
I can say a place of challenge for myself used to be in my career pursuits. Conditioned by culture and society (which can be factors of happiness and joy in themselves), I had succumbed to the notion that working more was working smart.
Redefining what success means for you can lead to joy.
I asked myself what I was doing 80-hour work weeks for – I began to look at my goals, my extensions of myself to the edge, and shape them toward something more reasonable.
I’d discover that I am more than just a musician or one who builds departments for a company: I am a writer, a speaker, a poet, an artist, a business person, a counselor, a volunteer – many things.
Releasing ourselves from external pressure liberates us. Glamour and vanity do not have to be the judge and jury.
A practice here can be budgeting – yes, boring as it may sound, budgeting can bring us joy by helping us come to a number that sustains us without pushing us over an edge.
Freeing myself from a limited perspective of success meant that I could uncover my full potential as a human being, and what a joy that is!
Not everything has to be monetized and run through an entrepreneurial filter.
In the United States, many signals tell us to put a dollar sign beside our hobbies, those activities that purely bring us happiness.
Play keeps the child within us alive – through imagination and curiosity, we can pluck joy from the stars and bring it to our table.
For friends and family, with realigning career expectations comes more time to enjoy the company of others. Virtual or real-life, making time for others is vital for positive well-being.
We can obtain wisdom, culture, and perspective from our close friends and family, which can shape our perception of joy and happiness.
Travel, as Hugo says, can help us get out of our comfort zone (just like our friends and family can.) Traveling can offer lessons that enhance our lives.
Stepping out of our routine can shake us up to open our eyes and take hold of all we have to be grateful for, elevating our happiness and joy.
“Positive mood leads to catching fewer colds.” (Happiness Lab)
Our health is a crucial indicator of happiness, from eating right to doing right by our minds (i.e., therapy.) We ought to keep our systems functioning if we hope to keep hold of a positive state of well-being.
Keeping a daily journal and tracking our sources of happiness daily, or as often as possible, can help us design a top ten list of our own.
If one feels far from a place of joy in their lives, one ought to dedicate themselves to the pursuit of better standing – which could be as small as a step as simply writing for 5 minutes at the end of each day. After thirty days, you might begin to see patterns and trends, factors that are popping up more than others.
Take away the mystery. It’s all about testing and learning.
As Dr. Laurie Santos of Happiness Labs says: “There’s no quick fix for happiness. But science shows there is a fix if you put in a little time and effort.”
Balance and intention. Will you choose joy?
About the Author
A dance music producer, singer, and songwriter, Alex Wagner (known by his music project ASW), was called an emerging artist to watch by DJ Mag in September of 2021. Currently signed to Tommie Sunshine’s Brooklyn Fire Records, he has also had multiple releases on Atlantic Records, remixing artists such as Galantis.
As a crisis counselor for Crisis Text Line and certified peer counselor with the state of Washington, he has organized multiple mental health awareness events leveraging the power of music and the arts. He is launching his company Grooving for Good this year. He currently resides in Seattle, Washington. You can follow him on Instagram at @asinglewave.