The Surprisingly Simple Things You Need To Be Happy

No cash required.

It's easy to imagine that wealth equals happiness, but to put it plainly -- it doesn't. And we're not just saying that because we're not rich. Plenty of research actually bears this theory out.

Take the 2018 UN World Happiness Report for example. The report, released in March, shows that money and quality of life are linked -- but far more tenuously than you might have imagined. You see the report ranks the level of life satisfaction in 156 countries worldwide based on Gallup polls and here's the thing -- the happiest country in the world is Costa Rica.

To put this into perspective, Costa Rica has a GDP per capita of roughly US $17,000 but is five places ahead of the USA where the GDP per capita is $60,000. See? Big money doesn't equate to big happiness. This comes as no surprise to Bernadette Fisers, author of The Little Book of Big Happiness.

Bernadette has done plenty of research on this topic and she knows exactly where happiness can be found. Here, she introduces the three steps she believes will bring all of us closer to our happy place.

Get happy - no cash required! Image: Getty.
Step One: Know Yourself

We all have a fantasy idea of who we are. But sometimes it doesn’t match up to the true reality. It can be surprising sometimes to hear how other people describe us, taking a few minutes to understand, ‘Hang on, they’re talking about me.’

I would love to think I am a talented athlete but that is pretty unlikely considering my highest sporting achievement was winning the under-nine shot-put event. It’s a far cry from the tears, podium and national anthem.

How many of us know ourselves? I’m not sure if describing myself would come anywhere close to how my friends would describe me. Probably not. Some of my friends would describe me as confident and tough but often enough I feel about as strong as a melted marshmallow. Most of us don’t want to acknowledge our own possible faults; it’s far easier to gloss over them.

It takes years of learning to be objective about yourself -- and I’m certainly no expert at it. Applaud your strengths and observe your weaknesses, notice where you could be doing better. Be kind to yourself.

If you’re unsure of what your strengths and weaknesses may be, then ask your friends or family -- I’m pretty sure they will be very happy to help you out.

Try to have a heart-to-heart talk with yourself on a regular basis and see where you’re at. Honesty is key. Remember: no one is perfect. There is a feeling of acceptance that comes with this kind of knowledge, and that only increases happiness.

Happiness is friends and lovers apparently. Not cold-hard cash. Image: Getty.
Step Two: Think Positive

Every day, we have choices: we can either think negatively about something or someone, or we can think positively. I always try to think positively -- it’s a conscious choice. I don’t have the energy to be down in the dumps all day. I would rather be upbeat and happy. Being positive helps: it gives me more energy and simply makes me feel better.

I’m certainly not saying that everything is awesome all the time ... I just have slightly tinted rose-coloured glasses on most days -- I’m not wearing a blindfold.

People want to be around positive people. It’s exhausting dealing with constant negativity, so why do it to yourself and others?

To get in the habit of being positive, first try monitoring your thoughts for a day and put them in the negative or positive pile. You might be surprised at what a beating you’re giving yourself. Becoming aware of what you’re thinking is the first step to turning those negative thoughts around. So catch yourself. When your head is talking trash, change your outlook -- for example, instead of ‘I’m not important’, it’s ‘I’m just as valuable as everyone else’. Believe it because you are.

It might take a few adjustments in the beginning, but it will quickly become a habit. Happiness is contagious, have you noticed that?

'Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.’

It’s a line from a poem called ‘Solitude’ by a nineteenth-century poet called Ella Wilcox, but it remains true today -- some things never change.

Love and laughter = happiness. It's that simple. Image: Getty.
Step Three: Aim High

It’s amazing what we humans can achieve when we put our minds to it. Look at all our incredible advances in medicine and technology, our world exploration. We are capable of truly fantastic things.

Did you know that Benjamin Franklin was one of 17 children and that he was forced to drop out of school at the age of ten in order to work? Pretty humble beginnings for such an amazing historic figure.

I am forever telling my daughter that she can achieve anything if she puts her mind to it. This advice is applicable to everyone. It’s easy to doubt ourselves or not believe in ourselves.

Think about what it is that you want. We are all unique. Possibly you want to travel around the world, maybe you want to write a book. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you are being true to yourself. It’s very hard to aim for something that you don’t believe in because you will not last the distance.

Once you’re on your own right track, maintaining focus plays a big part; not getting distracted from where you are headed. The pace of life is pretty fast and moving on to the next popular thing is a common thing to do -- but sometimes that may not be the best answer. Visualise yourself doing or being what it is you are aiming for. I find that if I can ‘see it’, I am more likely to get there. Every time I feel myself tempted to veer off course I will stop and visualise where it is I eventually want to be.

Focus on and enjoy the journey, it’s not about rushing to the destination. In other words enjoy every moment, don’t wait to feel happy.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is to persevere. Nothing succeeds like persistence. Most things are possible, so aim high. It just takes will and determination and sometimes thinking outside of the box. Open your mind up to that possibility. You’ll be happier for it.

This is an edited extract from The Little Book of Big Happiness by Bernadette Fisers (Penguin Random House), $22.99.