The Happiness Matrix

Hello again! So happy that you are continuing with me on our journey to finding the secret to achieving happiness in both a practical and useful way. Today I’m sharing with you the second part to my series on The Happiness Matrix.

I hope you’ve already been thinking over what you’ve learned in part one. If you haven’t had the opportunity to read part one, it’s an important piece to explaining The Happiness Matrix. You can read part one here. And then return to this post to read more about implementing The Happiness Matrix in your daily life.

The Four Pieces of The Happiness Matrix

In my first post I shared with you the two different axes that make up The Happiness Matrix. The first axis is the proactive mode vs. the reactive/ receptive mode. The second axis is where we reduce our emotional and mental burdens by reducing the factors that make us unhappy and increase our happiness by increasing the factors that make us feel good.

With two parts to each axis, we have four parts within the matrix. These four parts are like four fitting pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. But before we can jump deeper into each piece of the puzzle, I want to share an important side note.

“The cause of emotional and mental burdens will vary from person to person. The same with happiness.”

First, I want you to observe yourself.

It’s important to note that happiness and sadness are extremely subjective and is different for each person. With that said, I want you to first take the time to observe yourself. How you do this is up to you. You can write your observations down, or you can simply make a mental note.

What usually causes you discomfort?

This is different for each person. For some people, getting criticized by their boss might not bother them as much as being criticized by their significant other. For others, getting criticized by their boss could cause them to stress out for 3-days, while being criticized by their family might leave them unbothered.

What burdens our mind is different for each person. Take a moment to observe yourself and note the things that bring you the most discomfort in life. What makes you unhappy?

What brings you happiness?

Repeat the same exercise, but this time note the things that make you happy. It can be simple things, and highly important things. We’re all different when it comes to what brings us happiness.

What brings you happiness might differ from what brings me happiness. For some people a successful career brings happiness. For some, having a loving family brings happiness. And for others, happiness means growing into a better version of themselves—a smarter, better looking, etc. version.

“Knowing what causes you discomfort and what leads you to happiness is an important first step”

As you can see, both sadness and happiness are very subjective. This is why I put a lot of emphasis on first, observing yourself so that you can become more self-aware and so you can better understand yourself and make better and happier decisions. Once you’ve completed this step, let’s dive into using The Happiness Matrix in your daily life.

Lets look at The Happiness Matrix

Like I explained earlier, this matrix is made up of two axes and four pieces. We’ve already talked about what makes up each piece in Part One. Now, let’s review how you can implement using The Happiness Matrix in your daily life.

1st piece: Being proactive in avoiding “happiness busters”

We can always choose how we want to take action. We can actively avoid the actions that leads us to feel bad – or experience emotional and mental burdens. But to do this, we need to better understand why we sometimes choose to take those actions that leads us to discomfort later on.

Once we understand what’s triggering those actions, we can then focus on being more mindful to not fall into the same pattern of behavior again. This can save us from feeling bad and being burdened.

Here’s an example – If your friends invite you to dinner, but you know you have an important task due tomorrow, you have a choice to make. Your choice has the ability to increase your burden. If you go to dinner and stay out late and have to come back to work, you might panic to yourself thinking, “This is very important, what am I going to do? I shouldn’t have stayed out this late!!” This will most likely cause you to feel stressed out and burdened.

If you find yourself in this situation a lot, you might want to review your decision making process and learn from it and be proactive going forward. This way the next time your friends ask you to dinner, you can think through the consequences. If you have another project due, you could ask yourself how long it would take to get that project done. If it takes two hours, you can go out to dinner with your friends, but make sure you return home at a reasonable time that allows you to finish your project without feeling stressed or burdened. But if you know you are the type of person who can’t bring yourself home on time when out and about, then saying no from the get go might be a wise decision. After all, there will always be next time for dinner. Right?

By doing this type of thinking through situations and potential burdens, you can be more mindful in your decision making so you can avoid setting yourself up for potential stress and emotional burden. Both of which are happiness busters.

2nd piece: Being proactive in cultivating happiness.

In a similar way, it’s also important to be proactive in taking actions that lead to your happiness. For example, if you are trying to lose weight, and you feel hungry late at night, but you stay strong by not giving in to that late-night cravings, you will likely wake up feeling good the next morning. That’s because you took a proactive action that gave you good feelings, versus giving in to that craving and feeling regretful.

You have the ability to create these feelings of happiness for yourself.  Once you pinpoint the moments that make you feel good, you can do more of them. The key message for this piece of the puzzle is that we need to be introspective and see which actions lead to happiness and do those actions consistently.

Think through what makes you feel good, what makes you smile, what brings you joy, and be mindful about doing more of these “happy factors” every day.

3rd piece: How do you handle the situations you’re put into?

When you’re in the middle of a situation, you’re already in reactive/receptive mode. But you still have control over how you handle it. For example, if your boss criticizes you, you can pause and rationalize the criticism. You can think through what caused the criticism, and ask yourself, “Was it because of me? Has my boss already warned me about this before? Did I repeat the same mistake again because I didn’t think it through?”

This is where you need to be honest with yourself and take ownership of how you handle the criticism. If you think things through and realize that you tried your best and your boss is just in a bad mood, you should tell yourself that you did your best and let it go. Shake off the criticism and don’t let it bust your happiness. (This is sometimes harder said than done, but with practice, learning to let things go can bring much more happiness to your life.) On the other hand, if you have not done your best, accept it and make a promise to yourself that you will be kind to yourself by doing better next time. And you won’t put yourself in this situation again.

The key takeaway from this third piece of the puzzle is that you need to honestly evaluate situations when they occur and find a way to mitigate and avoid them in the future when possible.

4th piece: Embrace more happy moments

 “Observe and see the composition of your happy moments; who are you with? What do you do?”

If you spend time with certain group of friends and you’re filled with lots of positive energy and laughter, keep spending time with those friends. For me, I feel great when I stretch after I get out of bed. So I do every morning. I also feel great when I read a book, or listen to mellow music before bed. So I do those things regularly!

We have the ability to continually surround ourselves and put ourselves in situations that make us happy. The fourth and final key takeaway from this piece is that we can mindfully set ourselves up for happiness by being in the right surroundings.

In Summary

Lastly, I don’t want you to expect too much of yourself. It’s impossible to always make the right decision and to always be happy. Even when you make the best possible decision, you might still encounter burdens and unhappiness. This is a part of life.

I personally make a point to look back at the past 5-years, or 3-years, or the last year, and I look for areas where I have improved, and where I need to work on a little more. I ask myself, “Have I saved myself from difficult situations more often than usual?” “What could I have done better?” “What can I do to create more situations that bring me happiness in the future?”

When I notice that I’m on a positive trend, I acknowledge my growth and celebrate it! It might sound a little silly, but who can stop you from being your own cheerleader?! I sometimes share these personal growth stories with my loved ones, whom I know genuinely care and love me. These sharing moments not only make me feel happier, it also deepens the bonds between me and my loved ones. Once I have filled myself up with gratitude and appreciation, these positive reinforcements enable me to improve further. To fill my life with even more happiness and less emotional and mental burdens.

These are the things that I’ve learned from practicing self-awareness and mindfulness in a practical way. I genuinely hope this Happiness Matrix will be helpful for you guys in navigating through challenges in life one way or another.

With Love,

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