It is easy to reward yourself with ice cream, the occasional visit to the cinemas or a short holiday. These experiences elicit feelings of euphoria: a spike in short-term happiness. Chocolate also triggers the release of happiness hormones, endorphins, which prompt a feeling of euphoria. Endorphins are also released by sex and regular exercise. Even spicy chilli, ginseng and vanilla are associated with greater endorphin production. As such, do not hesitate to indulge in a little piece of happiness from time to time. However, note that an individual whose demeanour is fundamentally unhappy and cynical will plummet back down to their previous level of happiness.
This begs the question of how we can recalibrate our long-term happiness to give ourselves a better chance at a happy and healthy life. Since all things are just a matter of perspective, even your own life, it is helpful to reframe or re-contextualise everyday mishaps. When faced with bad luck, a lot of people have the tendency to lament, ‘Why does this only ever happen to me?’ Of course, the notion that the winds of fate target only one particular individual is blatantly wrong. Misfortune strikes everywhere; it also strikes everyone. Moreover, there is the saying that ‘It could always be worse’. As is the case with all platitudes, this one holds a grain of truth, too.
It might be frustrating to walk into the garage in the morning only to find that your bicycle tyre is flat. However, this sort of situation could happen to any cyclist anywhere and at any time. Further, the tyre tube could have burst on the way to work, and this could have cost you a fall and even serious injury. So what is the big deal if you have to walk to work, take the overcrowded tube or even arrive a few minutes late? Dedicated optimists often try not only to take something positive out of a mishap, but also to add another positive aspect to the experience. If the bike won’t get you to work today but the sun is shining, why not take the scenic route to work, stroll through the dappled shade of a park on the way or even stop for a quick espresso at that café on the corner? If you are going to be late for work anyway, who said that you shouldn’t arrive in a good mood?
Making a big deal out of little dilemmas does not help you to survive the daily grind. And whilst making changes to your happiness benchmark can require a lot of time and effort, it is definitely worthwhile. Simple exercises allow you to detach yourself from events and experiences that would otherwise have caused you stress. If you strive to see both sides of every situation—both the positive and the negative—you will develop a more neutral worldview and be astounded by the solutions that present themselves to problems that once seemed insurmountable. Also take into account your environment. Make sure that you are surrounded by people who love and enrich you and who are good for your confidence and wellbeing.
Your partner, friends, social circle and of course your family have the potential to become a powder keg that grows until it eventually explodes. It is important to set limits in friendships and romantic relationships. If you set these out clearly, with the right tone of voice and well supported arguments, this qualification of your relationships is beneficial to the respect and mutuality both partners receive. Relationships without sufficient boundaries are proven to be dysfunctional or one-sided, and such relationships are detrimental to your health. A blooming social life is thus a significant component of your intrinsic happiness.