In the daily scramble of running a business, it's easy to put your personal happiness on the back burner. Many entrepreneurs believe they'll be able to enjoy life when their company - or their bank account - reaches a certain level of success.
Highly driven people often sacrifice true happiness on the altar of achievement above all else. But research shows that postponing joy until conditions are perfect is a losing game.
Despite popular opinion, contentment is not dependent on a set of external factors, such as wealth, the right job, a fancy car, the ideal weight, a beautiful house, expensive clothes and exotic vacations. Happiness is an inside job; it doesn't happen when certain conditions are met, rather it happens when you cultivate it. The first step is deciding that happiness is a priority, then taking steps to make it happen.
The pursuit of joy is considered, by some, to be a trivial or even selfish goal. However, studies show that being happy not only benefits the individual, but society as a whole. Unhappy people are less likely to volunteer in their communities and more likely to be self-absorbed, isolated, angry and combative. Consider this quote from Robert Louis Stevenson: "There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous gifts upon the world."
If your goal is to experience joy, feel at peace and live a full and exciting life... read on.
It's Not All About the Money
While having enough money to support your family, afford adequate nutrition and live in a safe community is extremely important to most people, once your income reaches a particular level, it becomes a tradeoff and you may experience diminishing returns. A study by Nobel-award winning scientists found that day-to-day happiness is related to income, but only up to a certain point (approximately $75,000 in the U.S.) This amount helps cover life's necessities and comforts, but other stressors come into play such as demanding hours, compromised time with family and friends and additional pressure and responsibilities. This particular study found no evidence that happiness declines as income increases.
Invest in Relationships
Enjoying strong bonds is the single biggest factor in overall happiness levels. The Harvard Study of Adult Development, which has followed the same men for nearly 80 years to monitor their physical and mental well-being, found close, positive relationships to be the biggest influences on happiness and even physical health. Study participants flourished in life when they had strong ties to family, friends and community. In their later years, study participants reported that the most meaningful parts of their lives were the times they spent with others.
Make Physical Health a Priority
Many studies link unhappiness with poor physical and mental health. Sadness and stress negatively affect your body's immune response, which is another reason to place a premium on cultivating a positive state of mind. In addition, happy people are more likely to take care of themselves by exercising, eating well and getting enough sleep. While there are some activities which involve a financial investment and the need for boats, skis and air travel, there are plenty of other options to stay physically fit on a tighter purse string. Strap on your tennis shoes and take a walk, play tennis at your local high school or organize a weekly walking or running group with friends.
Look On the Sunny Side
Entrepreneurs often have a stubborn streak of persistence, tenacity and focus. It's an overall belief that positive outcomes are within reach. Having an "I can do" rather than "I can't" attitude programs your brain to respond positively rather than negatively to any given situation. Negative thoughts become a self-fulfilling prophecy and you will limit yourself from experiencing endless and abundant opportunities. Plenty of successful people have failed, but they don't give up.
Clean Your Closet and Make Your Bed
It may not seem significant in the grand scheme of things, but cleaning your desk and decluttering your home and office can have a positive impact on your joy, energy and productivity. Happiness researcher Gretchen Rubin maintains that "outer order contributes to inner calm." There's a sense of peace, freedom and ease that comes from having orderly surroundings, so take the time to tidy up and get organized. Get rid of items that no longer benefit you and keep only things you love. That includes getting rid of clothes that don't fit in the hopes of losing weight someday. Be selective when acquiring new things which will start to clutter your home, desk and mind.
Retired Navy SEAL and Chancellor of the University of Texas extols the value of making your bed. Starting out the day by making your bed will give you a sense of pride, encouraging you to do another task, and another - reinforcing the fact that the little things in life matter. According to the Chancellor, making your bed has the power to change the world. If you haven't watched the commencement address yet- don't delay.
Find Your Peace
Whether you practice an organized religion or are on your own spiritual journey, connecting with a higher power can produce a deeper sense of meaning and well-being. The 2017 Harris Poll Survey of American Happiness found that 71% of Americans say their spiritual beliefs added positivity to their lives, up from 66% in 2016. If you don't already, devote some dedicated time and thought to your own personal belief system. Even a few minutes of quiet meditation each day can have a big impact on your peace and ability to handle life's challenges. Countless research findings suggest meditation can relieve anxiety, ward off depression, and minimize pain.
People reap a multitude of benefits when they help others, from reducing depression to lowering blood pressure. People who make charitable contributions are happiest overall, according to a Harvard Business School survey. Being kind to others engages the brain's reward centers, which means generosity to others is actually a gift you give yourself.