11 Habits for developing a Lifestyle of happiness


“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your actions.” – Dalai Lama, XIV
A few days ago I was watching this Ted Talk by Daniel Gilbert on The Surprising Science of Happiness.  He says that each one of us have psychological immune system and the innate capacity to synthesize happiness. He concludes that our longings and our worries are both to some degree overblown because we have within us the capacity to manufacture the very commodity (Happiness) we are constantly chasing for in life.
Friends, whichever part of the world you live in, whichever religion, caste, race or ethnicity you belong to, whatever language you speak, whether you have surplus material riches or not, the ultimate goal of every human being is to be happy and enjoy the few years of his spiritual journey on planet earth. Now being happy has least do with ‘achieving X goal’ because in that case happiness will be short-lived and your mind would look for ‘achieving Y goal’. As a matter of fact, happiness remains the most cherished yet elusive of all human desires even today.
I am always amazed by the way the almighty has made the human beings. We exist with a plethora of vividness- different culture, different lifestyle, different interests, different eating habits and so on.  When it comes to happiness while doing a certain thing may give happiness to one, it may feel completely awkward for the other. For example Peter may find happiness in partying with a bunch of friends while Ram finds happiness in reading in solitude. However at large and from my experiences in life over past one year (majorly spent in solitude) when I got the chance to think and research, I have come out with a list of 11 habits doing which spurs lasting-happiness in most human beings.  
Gratitude Journal

It is said that expressing gratitude is the sign of noble souls. A heart filled with gratitude is the home of pure grace and profound happiness. It is the healthiest of all human emotions and behavior. Legendary writer and speaker, Zig Ziglar says “The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” So it’s not the happiness that brings us gratitude but gratitude that brings lasting happiness.

What do I do to express Gratitude? I have maintained  this one-sentence journal, a five-year record for expressing my gratitude apart from the regular journal I have and would earnestly suggest the same for you.  No matter at what stage of life you are in, whatever is your bank balance, whether you own a mansion or live in a 1 BHK rented house, there is always something to express gratitude for. So what do I write in that journal? I write something in my life that I am thankful for in such a way that I do not repeat the same thing in 30 days. For instance I write I am thankful to almighty for every breathe that I take, for my heart beating properly, for my healthy body and so on. Then some other day I thank the people I have in my life and because of which I feel so complete and secured and so on.

Happiness comes from helpfulness. When you help someone with a pure heart and without expecting anything in return, you will experience happiness and joy that I find difficult to express in words.  It doesn’t have to be a big thing or relating to charity. It can be as small as giving up your seats to elderly citizens or children standing in a crowded bus, donating blood, donating your old books and clothes in proper condition but not in use and so on. 
Greatest service is the service to humanity

Sharing one of my experiences, a couple of weeks ago while returning from office, I found an elderly woman struggling to move with her wheel chair near Port Authority bus stand in New York. She was stuck right in front of the entrance gate for big buses that would lead to a traffic jam if she doesn’t move fast. She was quite obese and could not stand finding hard to move on her wheel chair that had got damaged earlier in the day. I offered help to which she humbly nodded. She was going to a nearby hotel. After I helped to reach her destination, she thanked and asked if she can give something to which I politely refused. I felt so happy in my heart doing this simple stuff. As an additional perk, I got a pat on my back from a senior hotel management staff. 

My Journal of last 3 years

Journaling has something special about it. Although I have been journaling for over 15 years now, it’s in last 2-3 years that I have been quite consistent about it and write almost on a daily basis.  Now apart from the obvious advantages of keeping a track of your daily activities, remembering your accomplishments and even your mistakes, meeting your goals, strengthening self-discipline, boosting your communication skills, it also helps evoke mindfulness which often has a strong connection with happiness.

It helps you connect with your consciousness and thus multiply your levels of happiness. When you pen down your doubts, your fears, moments of distress and self-pity, it is as if you talk to them and take back the power that you had given over to all your negative emotions.  Scientific evidences support the health benefits of journaling as it removes the mental blocks and allows all of your brain power to better understand yourself, others and the world around you. 
Narendra, how to get started with journaling?
It’s simple. First of all, I would recommend maintaining a dedicated diary or a notebook for journaling (as you see in the pic here) because over a period of time you get to read and analyze your state of mind, the progress you have made, what worked and what not and so on. Now, what to write in your journal?  Reflect over your life, ask yourself are you really happy? What is it that is keeping you from being happy? Then write what things you feel can do to become happy and also what habits you should give up. Slowly and gradually start doing the things.
 Apart from this on a daily basis for 20-30 minutes in the morning or evening time before going to bed (whatever works best for you) you may write the goals for the day, reflections for the day which includes your experiences, memorable moments, and even the forgettable ones, write about what went well and what could be improved upon. You may even write your state of mind, your doubts, your fears, and your anxiety. Also you must write about the things you are thankful for on a daily basis. I personally maintain a dedicated Gratitude journal as mentioned earlier. 
A walk in the woods

Walking in the woods (or a park or any place which has lesser traffic and noise) has magical powers. Walking is a gentle, low-impact form of exercise that’s most easy to do and suitable for people of all age-groups. Walking by all means is good for your physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being and growth.  When you walk in solitude, you think, you observe things and people, especially the children, you see their innocence and truthfulness, you listen to the beautiful birds chirping and singing, you feel Mother Nature and its beauty, you sense the ripples formed in nearby water bodies and eventually you connect to your consciousness. All this triggers the happiness cells in your body and you feel happier and most pleasant.  Almost addicted to walking as mentioned in my one of my previous blog, I have categorized my walks into three types which I perform based on my levels of energy and state of mind:

1.   Brisk Walk:  I usually do brisk walking for long distances and when I am high on energy. On a personal record I have walked as long as 11 Kms in one stretch with a 5 minute break in-between. When you walk briskly, within 5-10 minutes you start sweating profusely and as a result there is sudden rush of endorphins, the hormones which makes you feel exhilarated and happy blocking any feeling of pain, and serotonin, hormones responsible for happiness, healthy appetite and a restful sleep.
2.  Moderate Walk: Sunrise and Sunset times are ideal for this kind of walk when you feel moderate levels of energy. As the name suggests, you walk at a moderate speed. This category of walk is good for distance ranging from 3-5 kms. You feel energized and happy after a moderate walk.
3.  Slow Walk (Strolling): I do slow walk when I want to relax, reflect, introspect and feel the nature. You may do it after a long tiresome day and preferably after your dinner in solitude or with loved ones. You go to Parks and spend some time there among the trees and children playing. Slow walk is fitted for distance ranging from 1-3 kms. You feel refreshed and at peace of mind after a good slow walk.
My Picture Printer
Yes, I am quite particular about printing (hard-copies) the pictures and making an album of memories. In the digital age where technology has an edge, while the number of moments we capture with our cellphone camera or digicam has increased compared to traditional camera roll with films, the time we take to cherish those moments has decreased substantially.  While it is good that we capture more and more moments but the irony is that most of the pictures taken sit in some corner of our compute hard-disk or memory devices. We rarely bother to enjoy and relive those moments which also generates happiness.
Book of Memories
When you assemble those moments with printed copies in an album, it is like an album or a book of happiness. Whenever you see the printed copies of your cherished moments, it brings smiles on your faces, no matter what state of mind you are in. The joy you feel when you see those moments with all your loved ones is inexpressible. Well, softcopies in digital age is obvious but when it comes to true happiness, in cherishing and reliving those moments it is the hard-copies. I have bought a picture printer for me which prints moments more valuable than money, my happiness. Would you bargain your happiness with anything? Friends, please go get a picture printer and multiply your levels of happiness. 

Eating together with loved ones
There is an old saying that the family that eats together stays together.  A family is anyone’s and everyone’s greatest treasure.  When I was growing up in the steel city of Bokaro, India, as a family we used to have at least one meal together each day with every member of the family sitting cross-legged on the floor of our apartment. I used to eat in the same plate along with my Papa (Father) which continued until I was in 5th Grade. As a result of this family ritual while the meal was gratifying, it was also filled with moments of laughter and happiness.
When you eat together with your loved ones while the bonding between family members increases, room for doubt or misunderstanding reduces considerably.  Your relationship with each member strengthens and you feel a strong sense of self-approval. As a result you are happier and even more productive in your professional pursuits.
Meditate for 20 minutes a day
In my previous blog on meditation, I had discussed the benefits of meditation and why meditation is so essential for well-being of the humans. Meditation and happiness are closely related. Through meditation we learn to manage our emotions better. With its constant practice we are able to reduce our negative emotions like anger, anxiety, depression, frustration, and complaining. Meditation multiplies your levels of happiness as you learn to detach yourself from all these negative emotions instead of being consumed by them.  Moreover consistent practice of meditation fosters sound health which in turn lead to causeless happiness. 
Exercise lead to Happiness
Everyone know the fact that regular exercise leads to a better physical and mental well-being.  I personally realized the importance of exercise and the impact it has on changing our negative state of minds to positive one in 2008 during my early days of professional life.  At a time when I was going emotional turmoil due to loss of my crush (not love) interest. I had least control over my emotions and I was literally depressed. One fine day, I decided to go to gym and things changed for the good. My mood, my levels of energy, my perspective, my productivity, and even my communication improved tremendously. That time I didn’t realize how it all happened but today with better awareness and after having read so many articles and a book called Spark by John J Ratey and Eric Hagerman,, I can tell you that Exercise is a healthy medicine for your health and happiness. During gym or intense exercise sessions, hormones like endorphins, estrogen, growth-factors, serotonin and dopamine get generated which results in the change of our moods, happiness and well-being.
Always Keep Smiling
Want instant happiness, Laugh and laugh out loud for no reason and within seconds you will feel happier.  Laughter has several health benefits. While it relaxes the whole body, it also boosts up the immune system. Laughter increases blood flow which helps us protect against cardiovascular problems. It is a powerful antidote to stress, pain and conflict. In addition to all this, laughter has social benefits. Laughter is contagious and people are drawn towards a happy, ever smiling person.  It enhances team work, helps defuse conflict, and even promotes group bonding.  Laughter makes you feel good and the feeling that you get when you laugh remains with you even when the laughter subsides.  Overall I would say that laughter is the shortest route to happiness. 
Love for Reading
The habit of Reading is one of the most precious gifts you could give to yourself.  Books are like boxes of treasure (wisdom) which are accessible only when you start reading it. While books provide you knowledge about civilizations, culture, history, people, and places, it also enhances your imagination and creativity powers.  Reading helps elevate your mood and even inspires you to be stronger in trying times. Through reading you begin to understand the world in a better way with increased levels of awareness.  Reading the right books often taps to your consciousness and invokes heightened self-awareness. All these things together incite happiness. 
Mother Teresa once said “If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other”.  Sharing is a powerful way to bring happiness. Be it the knowledge or the happiness, it only grows by sharing. While sharing brings us joy, it also teaches us to care for others. Sharing triggers other positive emotions like kindness, compassion and helpfulness which in turn makes you even more happier and fulfilled person. 
Okay, it’s time to reveal the greatest secret of happiness in the world: ‘Do anything and everything selflessly with absolutely zero expectation’.  Never ever look for anything, absolutely anything in return. If it comes on its own, it’s okay to except but never ever look for anything in return. Friends, it’s plain and simple, yet we do not seem to realize in our life. The act of selflessness creates happiness for your life. It is the selfishness that is the root cause of many problems. Whenever there is even a speck of expectation, it has pain associated with it. For instance whenever you do something for someone, you expect a ‘Thank you’ from that person. Now when the person does not say a ‘Thank you’ in return for your help, you often say ‘how rude of him, doesn’t have common etiquette’. This very feeling in you loses the joy and happiness of helping that person.  I have experienced it many a times. Whenever I share my learning through my blogs, I often visit the analytic to see how many people have read my post and when the number doesn’t crosses a thousand margin, I feel sad for a moment or two. By this very act I am losing the joy, the happiness of sharing. Well, It’s hard to maintain this habit of zero expectation, but certainly possible.
Practising these 11 habits will create the happiness factory for your Life where happiness is manufactured every single moment. Zero expectation and staying away from the evil triplets of jealousy, envy and people pleasing habits will further help you stay even more happier. Friends, Happiness is contagious. Happy people make others happy. Be happy for ever. Wishing you all a life-style of happiness. God bless humanity.
One Life!
Narendra Gupta