With tips, advice and guidance gathered from happy states across the globe, and from books and podcasts on wellbeing and joy, this is the essential Kintsugi guide to every day happiness…
“The most important social relationships are close relationships in which you experience things together with others, and experience being understood, where you share thoughts and feelings, and both give and receive support” Meik Wiking
From Scandinavia to Japan, those cultures that invest in family and make time for being together always report higher levels of happiness. Family can be large, or it can be small, it can be made up of relatives or of people you have befriended along the course of your life. Whoever they are, make time for them. Use your holiday allowance to spend time with them, get home early from work to have dinner with them, organise regular weekend lunches with them, tell them how special they are, and when you’re with them, give them all of yourself, turn your phone off, be open and interested, warm and welcoming. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and this is true. If you’re a parent, build the village and keep it close. And if you’re not, embrace the village that supports you as an adult. Find your family and invest in them with both your heart, and your time. Take Action: Create a new family tradition, something you can all agree on and look forward to – this could be something you do at the start of the weekend, a regular homecooked lunch with everyone, or simply learning a new skill together.
Be in Nature
“In every walk with nature one receives far more than he seeks.” John Muir
Getting outside, amongst the forests and the fields is good for the body and good for the soul. It also makes you move – ensuring you’re using your body and making time for fitness, and benefitting from increased endorphins. Sitting still ages us, it’s not good for our bodies and it can end up isolating us. Getting outside, to walk, run, meet people and breathe fresh air naturally makes us feel better. It ensures we get more Vitamin D, vital for healthy skin and happy hearts; the right amount of melatonin to help with a good night’s sleep and enough fresh air to help regulate serotonin levels and promote happiness and wellbeing. Being out in the open can encourage our creativity and disconnect us from digital interferences. Crucially, though, nature forces us to be more present, centring us and reminding us how vast and infinite the world is, and the small part we play in our own lives. It can be both levelling and transformative. Take Action: Find time once a week to take a walk into the local landscape, be mindful about what you can see, hear, smell, touch. At home, go into the garden, is there a space you could improve to give yourself somewhere to sit with friends, a chair you could curl up in on a fresh morning to have a coffee, a shady spot for a table to share dinner with friends? Look at how you could live your life more connected to nature, and make it happen.
“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” Winston Churchill
It is true that money can’t buy happiness, unless you spend it on others. Research has shown that we are far happier when we are giving than when we are receiving, and making a conscious effort to help others is a vital part of a happier lifestyle. Whether it’s donating to a charity, helping out a friend, volunteering locally or visiting an elderly neighbour, doing nice things for other people is one of the simplest ways to make yourself feel good. And, if you can build this into your every day life, even better. Take Action: Contact a local charity and commit to a way you can help out each month – whether that’s with your time, or your money. The best way to give, is to give what you can, because then you will always do it gladly.
Enjoy the Moment
“Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day, than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom.” Benjamin Franklin
The Danish art of hygge has become a buzzword for happiness, but the concept of making comfort and cosiness a priority is actually linked to a deeper sense of joy, and is relevant worldwide. This idea is about being truly present in the moment, not wanting something, not chasing some unrealised future happiness, but focusing on making little moments of happiness every day. Lighting a candle is just one way to make you stop, to centre yourself and acknowledge the moment you are in, creating a warm, welcoming, happy space to sit, read, talk, eat. Playing beautiful music is also one, so too is choosing careful lighting, soft cushions and comfy chairs for your home. It’s also about reading books, watching films or looking at art. It’s even about dinner with friends, picnics with family, coffee with colleagues. It is about what you love, what feels good and connects to yourself and those around you. Those little gestures and moments that make life beautiful, comfortable and pleasurable. Take Action: Write a list of the moments in your day that brought you happiness – don’t be surprised if they weren’t what you expected. Take some time to acknowledge the happy moments in your day that weren’t about chasing a dream, but were about things happening right now. Tomorrow, see if you notice these happy moments as they’re happening.
Rewrite your Story
“Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be.” Abraham Lincoln
Getting to understand yourself and your life better, and knowing what your story is, is really important. Creating a narrative from the events of our lives brings clarity, and helps us understand how we became who we are today. “We don’t always realize that we’re the authors of our stories and can change the way we’re telling them,” explains writer Emily Esfahani Smith. “Your life isn’t just a list of events. You can edit, interpret and retell your story.” Changing your story is about seeing your life and the events in it differently. It is about seeing the loss of a job or the ending of a marriage as an opportunity, not a disaster. It can also mean seeing your life right now in a new, happier light. Sitting at the dinner table with your family, for instance, and just taking a moment to drink the experience in – even if it is noisy, or busy or messy. Hear that noise as evidence of joy and life, see that busyness as evidence of people and connection, see that mess as having food to eat, plates to serve it on, a table to sit around. Take Action: With a therapist – or on your own – chart the story of your life back, and see if you can change the meanings of some events. Reflect on your life, asking how your defining experiences have shaped you, and see if there is a different interpretation than the one you have always accepted.
“It is not how much we have, but how much we enjoy, that makes happiness.” Charles Spurgeon
It is true that comparison is the thief of joy. The more you worry about what others have and what you do not have, you miss the rich, glorious beauty of your own life. So, focus on yourself more, on what you have and what you can be grateful for. Stop worrying about your neighbour’s car, your neighbour’s house, your neighbour’s marriage, your neighbour’s job. Get off social media and look at the beautiful, varied, loving life you do have. Do you feel happy when you get home? Take time to delight in your own space, in your own patch of earth, in the world you have built around you. Stop worrying about what anyone else has got – and start enjoying what you have. Take Action: Start a gratitude journal, write in it every night, just three things that you are grateful for. Once a month, look back over it and acknowledge all the incredible moments in your life.
Believe in Something
“True happiness… is not attained through self-gratification, but through fidelity to a worthy purpose.” Helen Keller
The world is bigger than us, we are simply not all that there is. We all need something that keeps us grounded and allows our sense of self to fade away, to be replaced by something awesome and infinite. Find something that transcends the day-to-day and allows you to reach out and build pathways to a deeper understanding. This could be a connection to God and spirituality, but it could also be found in books, art, travel or music. However your find your spiritual awakening, allow yourself the space to feel connected to a higher reality – and to mark the time either in prayer or pursuit of a passion. “My spiritual practice is unique to me, as I think each person’s is,” explains life coach Jude Temple. “What I eventually stumbled upon is…a collection of truths, observances, and touchstones that unswervingly lead me back to peace, that encourage me to live with an ever-opening heart, and that consistently fill me awe and wonder. Take Action: Start your journey to spirituality by exploring some of the questions in your soul. Jude Temple recommends both Soulcraft by Bill Plotkin or Care of the Soul by Thomas Moore, which she says are great primers for fostering sacredness in your everyday. And, talk to people, ask for recommendations, feed your inquisitiveness. “Knowledge and curiosity are the cornerstones of a truly rich spiritual journey,” says Temple.
“Don’t wait around for other people to be happy for you. Any happiness you get you’ve got to make yourself.” Alice Walker
You are responsible for your own life and you are the answer to all your questions. Prioritising yourself is not selfish, but a radical act of love and self-compassion. Your happiness lies in your own commitment to yourself. Self-care is an important aspect of a happy life – and it covers everything from eating well and staying fit and healthy to nurturing your mind with meaningful work and things that excite and inspire you. Even in a busy, chaotic world it is vital that you make time for you. Take Action: Find a way to create a sanctuary somewhere in your house – the corner of your bedroom, a bathroom, a small study area – a space that is just yours, designed how you would like it, with the right lighting, the cosiest armchair, the most delicious scents, the softest blankets. This is where you can dim the lights, listen to music, meditate, journal, think, pray, write. Own this space, don’t apologise for it. You are just as important as the other people in your life, and you deserve a space that is somewhere you can go to feel safe, supported, happy.