Focusing on the things that make us happy diverts our focus in life from what we do not have to what we have, from complaining to appreciation, from negative to positive, from sadness to happiness
Happiness is the ultimate desire. Whether you are happy with your relationships, happy with your social life, happy with your health, happy with your job/profession/career, happy with your financial freedom or just generally happy with yourself, you want to be happy!
Happiness is a measurement of fulfillment, achievement and success, yet although most of us think it is important, we dedicate more time to other things than we do to studying the art of being happy.
It is as simple as this:
If you want to be happy, study happiness
One of the greatest shifting activities we do with our clients is called “100 things that make me happy”. Focusing on the things that make us happy diverts our focus in life from what we do not have to what we have, from complaining to appreciation, from negative to positive and from sadness to happiness.
Finding 100 things is not easy. At first, most people think of big things – a big house, a fast car or a trip to the Maldives (I am still dreaming of this one) – but when we get to the 10th item on the list, it is as if we go deeper into our being, into the magic land, where a smile, a flower, singing out loud, eating a mango or sitting on the beach can make us as happy as the big things would. In a strange way, our mind registers similar amounts of happiness whether the cause is big or small.
Making a list is a great way of defining happiness. One big lesson in happiness is that we need to know what it is if we want to get it. Your definition of happiness was probably formed with the help of your family, your upbringing and things you have experienced in life, but that definition may be making it very hard for you to feel happy.
Count the little things
Some people believe they will find happiness as a result of doing hard thing, so they feel like they will never get there. They say, “I will be happy when…”, but that time never comes. It is as if they have positioned a big obstacle in front of them so that small bits of happiness would not suffice.
Happiness accumulates, so having lots of little things that happen often quickly amounts to lots of happiness. So list things you do every day and require little or no money, like hugging, kissing, taking a hot shower, drinking hot chocolate or eating food you enjoy.
One of the greatest challenges of making the happiness list feeling your happiness depends on others, as in “I’m happy when Gal brings me flowers”. A situation like this gives Gal control over my happiness, when that control should stay with me. If flowers make me happy, I can choose to be happy when I see flowers in the shop, on the side of the road or when I buy them for myself.
Help from others
One of the best ways to complete your list is to ask other people for ideas. Not all their ideas will suit you directly, but they can get you thinking. For example, “Eating watermelon doesn’t make me happy, but eating mango does” or “Swimming doesn’t make me happy, but walking barefoot on soft sand does”.
In our relationships with our partners, children, parents, siblings, friends and colleagues we are trapped in a guessing game of how to make them happy. We tend to do things that would fit into our own list, because they are the happiness-causing things we know. Looking at other people’s lists can save us from guessing. A quick peek at Gal’s list showed me there was no point making him hot chocolate, but with the same effort I could make him coffee to make him happy. A quick peek at my list gave Gal the idea of writing me a note on the mirror and attaching a flower to it.
We have many clients whose focus shifted by making this list and sharing it.
A woman in one my first women’s focus groups said during our 1st session that coming that evening was a great challenge for her, because her partner did not like her leaving him alone with the kids. During the 5th session, however, she wanted to show the group the 100 things that made her happy. She brought a beautiful album, titled “Things that make me happy”, in which she had pasted 100 small pieces of paper with the things that made her happy. She went on to tell us how she had felt a bit down before coming, but her husband had pointed out to her things from her list she had done during that day. Looking over the list with her husband made her realize she’d had a great day, which was a big change of focus for her.
In the process, she also discovered her husband had secretly supported her personal development all along and wanted to be a part of it. He had spotted “Bailey’s Irish Cream” on her list and told her he had bought a bottle for when she came back from our session. That made her feel even happier.
Happy list and kids
Surprisingly, kids find it hard to write the things that make them happy. This is mainly because their definitions are limited by their short life experience. From a position of lack (they do not have their own money), they write many material things they want to possess in order to be happy.
Unfortunately, if this activity is not done early enough, kids may link happiness with getting presents and having material possessions. As with many other things, it is our job as parents to lead by example and demonstrate to our kids what makes us happy so they will learn the same.
Kids are naturally happy, but may not be clear about why or may not be able to define it clearly. Sitting with them and helping them verbalize their happiness will help them choose happiness whenever they need to.
100 things that make me happy
Download our 100 Things List (PDF) and use it to make a list of every little thing that makes you happy. Writing down is a good way of putting order in the load of emotions.
The thinking process can bring you to one of two conclusions:
- This is very hard. I have only 25 things. No wonder I do not feel happy – please see my tips below
- Wow, I have so many. I actually have a lot of happiness in my life – great! Keep going and list another 100 things
At the end of one of my workshops, my daughter Eden (who was 15 years old then) told me I was very cruel. She said that finding 100 things that make us happy is too hard. I told her it was really a hard task, but if people did not have thousands of happy things to list, they were actually pretty miserable.
How to find lots of things that make you happy
- Write a list of 100 things that make you happy. Do not just think them – write them down
- When you get stuck (and you will get stuck a few times), take a deep breath and keep thinking. Pressure blocks creativity and memory, so relaxing will get you going again
- When you are out of ideas, ask family members and friends for ideas. You always have the freedom to change or choose differently, but this should be good food for thought
- Go over your daily, weekly and even annual routines and ask yourself “What parts make me happy?”
- Think of food and drinks that make you happy
- Think of people that make you happy
- Think of your hobbies
- Think of feelings you like to feel
- Think of thoughts that contribute to your happy feeling
- Write responsible things, i.e. things that are within your control to do or to get
- Write simple things that can make you happy without having to spend too much money, time or effort
- Look for things you can experience often. On my first list, I wrote “Traveling around the world and getting to know new cultures”, which is the ultimate source of happiness for me and fits nicely on the list. However, it is something I can only experience once every few years, so it is not suitable for the first 100 list. Make sure you can experience your first 100 happy things often – every hour, every day, every week or even whenever you want
- Post your list in a visible place and show it to others
Once you have the list, do these three things:
- Look at your list every morning to motivate yourself
- Look at your list every evening to realize you have had a happy day
- Add happy things to your list. The more you have, the happier you life will be
Be happy in life!
This post is part of the series Make a List:
- Make a list: List Making
- Make a list: About Myself
- Make a list: Friends and Friendships
- Make a list: My Lifetime
- Make a list: Things I am Happy about
- Make a list: Childhood Memories
- Make a list: Ways to say “I love you!”
- Make a list: What I like about me
- Make a list: Birthday Presents to Ask for
- Make a list: Improve My Life
- Make a list: Things to tell my parents
- Make a list: Beliefs about Money
- Make a list: Feelings I Want to Feel
- Make a list: If I Could Live Forever
- Make a list: Beliefs about Kids
- Make a list: Beliefs about Kids cont.
- Make a list: Events that have shaped my life
- Make a list: Ways to be kind
- Make a list: Be More Productive
- Make a list: Mistakes (and what I can learn from them)
- Make a list: Expectations
- Make a list: Beliefs about Traveling
- Make a list: Rules I Follow
- Make a list: Good Parenting Qualities
- Make a list: Excuses
- Make a list: Quotes to live by
- Make a list: How to use my time better
- Make a list: If I were Santa Claus
- Make a list: If I had one year to live
- Make a list: Things that Make Me Happy
- Make a list: Movies I loved
- Make a List: My Fears
- Make a List: Find your Happy-ism
- Make a List: Inspiring People
- Make a List: Books that have changed my life
- Make a list: Inspiring Movies
- Make a List: Things to be Grateful for
- Make a List: Ronit’s Gratitude List
- Make a list: Life Lessons Learned
- Make a List: Self-Kindness
- Make a List: 100 Ways to Be Kind to Myself
- Make a List: 100 Things I Want People to Think of Me
- Make a List: Judgment of Right from Wrong
- Make a List: 100 Reasons to Be Wealthy