Let’s talk about HAPPINESS!

Happiness is the feeling we use to describe a meaningful and purposeful life. It is not about the immediate gratification of having something that makes you happy. Sure, doing things that makes you happy will contribute towards your own happiness, but it is much more than that.

A baseline of happiness will explain everything.

Everyone has their own baseline of happiness over time. This baseline indicates how meaningful your life is. On top of this baseline, we have the line of everyday life with the ups and downs. When you have spent a lovely day walking your dog with your best friend, you will be above your baseline of happiness. You are happy and grateful for this moment. But at any time, something can happen and turn your day upside down.

This happened to me recently. After our beautiful walk, my best friend fell and was in pain. At that time my curve of the day was below my baseline of happiness. I had to get my friend to the hospital and be there for her. This was only possible because my baseline was high enough to cope with whatever life throughs at me.

This was not always the case! When you are feeling not well, anxious, stressed, or even depressed your baseline of happiness will decrease. It takes more than happy moments to realise you are having a good time and it only takes a very small amount of negativity to pull you completely down. When you are at your lowest, you cannot think of helping others or trying new things out. You just want to survive and be happy again. Now here is the dogma, the more you think about becoming happy and why you aren’t happy, the less it will make you happy!

The science behind happiness…

Happiness is not just all about life events. Scientists are dividing happiness into 3 factors: genetic predisposition (50%), life circumstances (10%), and intentional activities/ behaviour (40%). Overall, around 40% of your happiness is in your own hands. Remember my friend who I drove to the hospital? Well, she broke her back. You can only imagine that the pain and her immobility to do things will only decrease her happiness. Well, her overall level of happiness decreased slightly but it was not as bad as you think it would be.

Why? Firstly, her friends were showing signs of kindness. Making her soup, cheering her up by calling her, etc… Secondly, her gratitude towards her friends made her realise how lucky she is even in such an unfortunate event. And while she cannot sit, she managed to adapt her desk area to allow her to continue to do some painting which is one of her favourite activities now. Her resilience to cope with the broken back allowed her to enjoy an activity that she likes.

Therefore, to increase your overall happiness you need to increase your baseline of happiness. 

How do we increase our baseline of happiness?

We do that by using 10 evidence-based strategies to increase your overall well-being!

  • Good feeling toolbox: a box that includes things that should give you a happy feeling when looking/touching/or tasting it.
  • Flow activities: are activities that you like to do and where you can lose yourself in it. Losing yourself means that you lose track of time because you were so focused and/or concentrated on the task.
  • Physical exercises: Being active makes you feel good. Your body needs it, and it does not matter how you do it but you need to be consistent with it.
  • Building up resilience:
    • Putting in routines, structures and have a list of coping strategies to deal with sad/tragic events during the day.
    • Problem-focused coping strategies: getting a bit out of your comfort zone, have the experience that you can influence the situation and do something about it.
    • Emotion-focused coping strategies: although the flow and physical activities are already emotional coping strategies, there are other strategies that can help more such as relaxation. When we are relaxed, we can better regulate our emotions and going from a negative feeling towards a better feeling.
  • Positive thinking, the power of positive thinking has been extensively researched and does increase your overall feeling of feeling good.
  • Gratitude: help others, be kind. Write 3 things down that makes you feel grateful each day and you will see that there is more than enough to be grateful for if you only take the time to think about it.
  • Helping others by using your strength: helping other people in the areas that you excel at does not only give you a good feeling, but others also feel grateful for your help. Can you see how these people helping each other to increase both their happiness?
  • Personal project: Do something new! Get out there and try to do something you have never done before. Happiness is a process not a result and yes you might completely fail but by now you should have increased your overall baseline of happiness that you can cope with it! But can you imagine if it does succeed?

Happiness in neurodivergent people.

You might think that the above things are all reasonable and that you can work on it by yourself, great! But for neurodivergent people and particularly Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) people can struggle with all the above.

The good news is the H.A.P.P.Y.-PROJECT.

For them, we use those 10 evidence-based strategies in a visual, concrete way together with parents or caregivers. This is called the H.A.P.P.Y Project set up by Peter Vermeulen, Phd. I was lucky enough to be trained and guided by him to become a H.A.P.P.Y COACH and to create those workbooks for all individuals on the spectrum.

If you want to learn more about the H.A.P.P.Y.-Project, please check out my page about the H.A.P.P.Y.-Project or contact me directly.

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