When was the last time you felt truly relaxed, without niggling worries ticking over in your brain, or you secretly checking off a mental to do list? According to a recent study from the Mental Health Foundation, 74 percent of us have felt so stressed, we’ve been overwhelmed or unable to cope, leaving us striving to find happiness. It doesn’t have to be that difficult, however. According to one expert, the key to being happier is to stop trying so hard.
“Your natural state is just peace,” says Jacqui MacDonald, author of The Lost Art of Being – Secrets to a Calm, Happy, Easy Life (£8.99, Troubador Publishing, thelostartofbeing.com). “Out of this peace and contentment, arises happiness.”
So, how do you find your happy place without having to go out and search for it? Jacqui says, you don’t need to do anything and let yourself be.
Be, rather than do
Life is busy. Between family, work and social life, there’s hardly time to stop and take a breath, let alone do absolutely nothing.
“Human beings became human doings,” says Jacqui. “Sophisticated and successful. Stressed and self-destructive.”
Jacqui suggests taking a few moments each day to stop all the doing and just be. Instead of trying all the time – to get the washing done, that report finished and a dinner party prepared – take time to allow happiness to happen. Then, you can bring that calm feeling back into your day.
When you’re doing nothing, Jacqui believes that you get a sense of peace, because you’re connected to something that’s higher than yourself.
“If you imagine sunlight and visualise the individual sunbeams shining through; we’re all individual sunbeams and we’ve forgotten that we’re a part of the sunlight,” she says.
Whether you call it the Universe, your being, or something else altogether, getting connected is about taking a moment to feel like you’re a part of whatever’s out there and letting it guide you. Jacqui believes that you don’t have to find happiness, it’s already in you, and if you’re connected, you can let it shine through.
Take five minutes
“When I first wake up and I’m still in bed, for those first lovely five minutes, I just let go of thoughts,” adds Jacqui. Why not try it for yourself? Letting go for a few minutes is all it takes to make a dramatic difference in how you feel for the rest of the day.
7 happiness hacks
Try these easy uplifting tricks that Jacqui swears by:
1. Slow down
Life can be busy, but you don’t have to constantly be on the go. There will be things that you can say no to, and times when you can step back from the busyness. Rather than rushing through every moment of your day, choose to take a leisurely walk, a relaxing bath or have a long dinner with your family.
2. Eat calming foods
It’s tricky to feel at peace when you’re fuelled by caffeine and sugar. Jacqui recommends trying to eat less of the sweet stuff, caffeine, carbs and alcohol, and taking note of whether you feel less stressed.
3. stay in charge
“It’s the mind’s job to keep the body alive and it’s constantly looking for threats,” says Jacqui. However, you don’t have to believe your thoughts, especially negative ones. Taking a step back from your mind will help you to take charge.
4. Connect with nature
Spend some time with a pet or go for a walk outside. While you’re there, remember that the trees around you don’t worry about growing, and yet they are big and strong.
5. Notice your surroundings
You can do this anywhere, at any time. Jacqui says to note your field of awareness, which is as far as your senses can perceive. Spending a few minutes noticing your field of awareness might help you hear birds singing or see a blue sky in the distance. Even if you’re sitting inside, if you close your eyes you can be aware of the sky above you.
6. Simply observe
Breaking the habit of placing judgement on everything can help you to feel happier. Notice what’s going on around you without reacting or attaching meaning to it. Perhaps your friend was late for lunch or someone bumped into you on the train. Observing these things for what they are will allow you to move on without feeling unhappy about them.
7. Stop trying so hard
“Do less, to be more,” says Jacqui. Struggling for happiness is counter-productive. Instead of makinng happiness happen, let it happen!