Being predictable is a part of being human. Our brains are actually wired to embed habits, increasing the number of things we can do on autopilot. Our ability to operate on autopilot, to be aware of our environment and solve problems, has been the key to our survival. John Medina describes it this way:

“The brain is a survival organ. It is designed to solve problems related to surviving in an unstable outdoor environment and to do so in nearly constant motion (to keep you alive long enough to pass your genes on). We were not the strongest on the planet but we developed the strongest brains, the key to our survival.”

Each of us acquired the information we believed necessary for our survival by the time we were five or six years old. We moved through our physical environment, and each of our experiences further refined these ideas so that by the time we were adults (actually teenagers), our beliefs about what it means to be happy were firmly in place. And, we went about the business – most often in autopilot – of chasing happiness, or at least what we had conditioned ourselves to believe was happiness.

Autopilot in and of itself is not a bad thing – in fact it is an essential part of the human experience. We are not physically capable of always being “on.” However, it is important and necessary to check the gauges periodically to ensure that all systems are operating as they should. In conducting this systems check, it is definitely worth asking the question “Am I happy?”

Sonja Lyubomirsky, a psychology professor at the University of California, describes happiness as being meaningful and worthwhile because it “is one of the most salient and significant dimensions of human experience and emotional life, because happiness yields numerous rewards for the individual, and because it makes for a better, healthier, stronger society.” Research supports that there are six activities in which we can engage to increase and sustain our feelings of happiness:

1. Regularly set aside time to be grateful. Gratitude diaries and journals are great. The Heart Math Institute recommends going beyond just recalling people, experiences, and things for which you are grateful to actually taking time to really feel grateful in our hearts.

2. Think more positively about ourselves.

3. Being kinder to others. Being about the happiness of others has the remarkable benefit of increasing our own happiness.

4. Pursuing life goals. For maximum benefit, the goals should be inspiring, and we have to consistently take steps (even baby steps are great) toward achieving those goals. One reason the Results Coaching System is so effective is the 4-step goal setting process that gives people a big vision to work towards.

5. Affirming our important values. This requires being self-aware so that you can be clearer about what matters most to you and why – what you value. Answering the “why” question will help you to distinguish between your true values and the values that you don’t really feel personally connected to.

6. Fully experiencing, or savoring, positive experiences. This means being fully present for these moments and using all of our senses to relish every aspect of what makes these moments so positive. Jon Kabat-Zinn, an MIT-trained molecular biologist, talks about how being fully present for our lives has been scientifically proven to yield tremendous benefits. In his popular YouTube interview, he shares how we can get better at fully experiencing our lives.

Our default setting is to thrive, not just survive. Find your joy, in this moment right where you are. Stay connected with what makes your heart sing and your spirit soar – what makes you Joyfully You!

Author's Bio: 

Patrina Clark, President and Founder of Pivotal Practices Consulting LLC, loves reconnecting people with their passion and purpose.

She received numerous awards and commendations during her highly accomplished 25-year career in the federal government, including the Navy's Meritorious Civilian Service Medal and a Hammer Award from the Partnership for Reinventing Government.

Patrina is an artful consultant, coach, public speaker and trainer who excels at bringing order to chaos and facilitating insights to individual and collective greatness.

She serves on the Board of Experts for the U.S. Women's Chamber of Commerce and is particularly passionate about the Chamber’s Women’s Led Economy Initiative because of its potential to create an entirely new paradigm for women’s empowerment, leadership, and wealth.

Patrina has completed graduate studies and programs at Harvard, Cornell, Georgetown, George Washington University, and the University of Maryland. She has numerous professional affiliations and certifications, including the Human Capital Institute's Human Capital Strategist (HCS) and the HR Certification Institute's Senior Professional in Human Resources (SPHR), the Neuro Leadership Group’s Results Associate Certified Coach (RACC).