According to positive psychology research Joy is a temporary emotion – something brought about by a singular moment or situation that sparks a momentary lift in emotional satisfaction. Whereas happiness is more sustainable, an emotion we can prolong for a stretch of time. We can feel happiness over minutes rather than just seconds. In order to prolong happiness we must first prime the pump, or get into the habit of feeling happy.
To feel happiness more regularly we must first familiarize ourselves with the experience. When we get comfortable and aware of what makes us happy we ready ourselves to engage, experience, and eventually prolong happiness. We begin by noticing and paying attention to what makes us happy so that we may attune our attention to it.
Often when we talk about happiness we remember brief moments in time. It could be a night out dancing with friends, a child’s laugh, the euphoria of dating someone special. These are all delightful and serendipitous events that we can’t necessarily plan for – simply because all of these moments are joy. Happiness however, that more sustainable sensation, can be created through deliberate choice making and attentiveness.
We are attentive to our happiness when we stay in it. We don’t distract ourselves or “forbade joy,” which Brenee Brown describes as staring at a peaceful child sleeping or watching an idyllic scene from a movie and anticipating something horrible happening. To be clear, foreboding joy is a natural inclination and something that we all experience. We do it because our happiness in that moment is so great that we fear loosing it. Therefore, we imagine the end of that happiness. Despite that preparation being of no use to us and costing us the loss of the very real happiness of that moment. To avoid slipping out of happiness and into fear, anger, or any other strong emotion the key is to first stay in gratitude.
Staying in gratitude when things are good is the first step to sustaining happiness. Gratitude allows us to linger in that blissful sensation of peace and serenity. As we experience prolonged happiness or even just a burst of joy it is important to notice what is happening. Are we talking to a good friend or preparing a homemade meal we enjoy? Being aware of our bodies and selves in those moments helps us notice the signs.
Think back over the last week and write down the moments that brought you the most joy. Maybe you bought a new sweater or made a fresh batch of cookies for dessert. These don’t have to be major accomplishments. Sometimes our favorite song comes on the radio and that’s enough! When that happens write it down. When you have a list of five or ten moments of joy review the list. What, if anything those moments have in common?
Now that you have your list, you have a place to start. How can you create at least one more moment of happiness in the next day, week, month? These are simple opportunities where you can incorporate happiness into your life. If all of your moments are around food, could you make a meal at home and amplify the sensation? If your happiest moments are around friends, could you schedule a gathering monthly so you not only enjoy fun in the moment but also the happiness of looking forward to gathering? Come up with your own ideas and give yourself the gift of happiness.
Incorporating happiness and prolonging happiness improves the quality of our days and lives. How can you enhance the quality of your own life today? If you need more ideas on recognizing happiness, we have some other creative happiness tips here.