What makes you happy?


By Erika Heslop Martin

Growing up with a caring mother definitely had its positives: she was incredibly patient, a supportive listener, and always gave the best advice. Even though my mom is retired, she continues to help others by sharing her years of wisdom on what it takes to be truly happy. She's told me time and time again that while material things might make me happy in the moment that feeling eventually goes away. I have learned that people who are the happiest don't have the most money or are not always the most attractive, but they all share one thing in common:

Happy people practise gratitude every day.

While this may seem simple enough, our minds tend to focus on what we're missing out on instead of being grateful for everything we already have. Our generation has it even harder because we are living in a social world where we are constantly connected. It's easy to feel like you don't have enough when everyone on your social feed appears to be doing cooler things than you.

Good news: there are ways to practice gratitude each day to live your best life. The following strategies could be used:

  1. Meditate

Starting your day with five minutes of silence has been proven to increase brain power, making you more resilient against life's hardships. However, there are a lot of misconceptions when it comes to meditation. I used to think you had to think about absolutely nothing during your practice. But really, meditation is all about being present and not focusing on what you're going to have for dinner or that you forgot to pick up something at the grocery store. The purpose of meditation is to take time for yourself to set an intention for your day and be grateful in that moment.

  1. Create a gratitude journal

A gratitude journal is different than a regular journal because it makes you focus on only the good stuff rather than venting about your worries or writing down everything that went wrong in the day. Each day, you should write down at least three things that you're grateful for. By doing this, you can actually rewire your brain to be happier. It's kind of like the "camera effect." When you have a camera, you're constantly looking for interesting things to capture. Instead of hating the graffiti, you might shift your way of thinking and try to make it aesthetically pleasing in your frame. That's how the gratitude journal works for your disposition. Instead of focusing on pessimistic thoughts, you're going about your day looking for positive things to add to your gratitude journal.

  1. Surround yourself with positive people

Reflect on your mood and outlook, after you spend time with certain friends. Do you feel inspired and connected or do you feel drained and dissatisfied? If it's the latter, you might want to reevaluate your friendship. We only get one life to live, so why waste any time surrounding yourself with negative influences? It's not easy to cut certain people from your life, but it's even worse to feel unhappy because of the people you are surrounded by. By positioning yourself around inspirational and positive people, you're setting yourself up for a more sunny outlook and successful future.

  1. Talk back to your negativity

You know that inner dialogue that says you're not smart enough, pretty enough, or cool enough? While those nagging thoughts are completely normal, the trick is to talk back to them with positive affirmations so they don't get in the way of your happiness. It may seem silly at first, but it works, trust me. If I catch my mind going down a dark rabbit hole, I counter it with logic and positivity. It's normal to have bad thoughts, but what's more important is how you react to them and to make sure they don't take over your life.

  1. Focus more on your community and others than yourself

When you're down in the dumps, it's easy to get lost in "me, me, me," which can lead to self-pity and depression. However, when you take yourself out of the equation, you'll start to feel happier because you're helping other people. Try volunteering; you should consider joining the Young Entrepreneurs Association of Jamaica. You may also try writing cards to loved ones or cooking dinner for a friend in need.

If you practice gratitude each day, you will slowly start to see a positive change in your disposition and overall outlook on life. Remember, that happiness is not a destination, it a journey and a journey that is influenced by your mindset and the choices that you make.