Happy Monday everyone!
What a better way to start the week than with a new series of interviews! Over the next few weeks we'll be chatting with loads of super interesting people about our favourite topic- Happiness!
First up is Susanna Halonen, the Happyologist®. Susanna is a happiness coach and author of the book "Screw Finding Your Passion: It's Within You, Let's Unlock It". She has an incredible wealth of theoretical knowledge on the science of happiness in attaining a Master's in Applied Positive Psychology and for the past 5 years has practically applied all she knows to help countless others achieve happiness in both their careers and life.
Sam: To you, what is happiness?
Susanna: Happiness is made up of two things: pleasure and purpose. Pleasure is all about you being able to experience momentary positive emotions throughout your day. Purpose on the other hand is all about you understanding why you do what you do and seeking meaningful connections in your day to day. When you create both of these in your life through your actions and thought processes, you will have sustainable, fulfilling happiness.
We hear a lot in the news about how we've got more than ever, are healthier than ever, more educated than ever, and yet we're arguably more unhappy than ever. Why aren't we as happy as we should be?
We aren't as happy as we should be because we don't actually understand what happiness is. First, we think happiness is a destination. We think we reach it when we reach our goals - like getting that degree, securing that promotion, buying that house, or getting married. Those things are all great things to celebrate and be proud of - but they are not destinations that give you happiness. Instead, it's the journey towards them that does. When you learn to enjoy every step of the journey you start to live a daily life of happiness. Second, we also think happiness is being happy 24 hours a day 7 days a week which is adding an extra pressure of having to be happy. As the Happyologist, it's something I used to feel very heavily too! But, in reality, happiness is about experiencing all the human emotions - both the good and the bad. The good ones naturally make you feel good and empower you to keep going. The bad ones shine light on the fact that something is wrong and needs to be fixed. They are like a compass in your life and you should embrace them for that. Because happiness isn't the absence of negative emotions but your ability to deal with them.
In the end, we forget that happiness is a daily choice. It's you choosing to see life through a lens of gratitude, to seek meaning in the things you do, and to see challenges as opportunities to grow and learn. In the end, it's a mindset you choose to practice, regardless of what you are faced with.
What makes you your happiest?
Being with the people I love, riding my horse Mickey, writing my articles and books, and working with my clients to help them to be more fulfilled.
What's your reset button after a bad day or setback?
To take a breather and to walk away. To calm myself down and to reconnect with myself. To remind myself why I do the work I do and to get some perspective - because one bad day or one setback isn't the end of the world. Sometimes I do this through meditation or yoga, other times it's through journaling or taking a walk in the park. It's always something that takes me out of my head and into my soul.
Who is your "happy hero" and why?
Honestly, my family dog Chico who has now passed. As a dog he was so good at living in the present moment and not overthinking things like we humans do. He also knew how to prioritise the important things in life - to love unconditionally, to play loads, to eat well, and to sleep a lot.
In the UK, the average onset age for depression is 14. What advice on happiness and well-being would you give your 14-year-old self?
Practice gratitude daily, learn to love yourself fully and wholeheartedly, and be kind to yourself. Don't push yourself so hard, and take care of your body and mind. Stop comparing yourself to others and start seeing your imperfections as the things that make you beautiful and unique.
Do you think the digital age and social media has a negative impact on our happiness? If so, what can be done to tackle this?
It's not the social media that is the problem but our relationship with it. First, realise that people's social media streams are their highlight reel, not the full story. Everyone has their own challenges behind closed doors so stop thinking other people's lives are more perfect or better than yours. Second, don't replace real face-to-face interactions with social media. There is a whole different energy change that happens when you meet people face to face. And, most importantly, when you are with people face to face, put your phones away! Be fully present and enjoy the moment mindfully. Finally, third, create some social media rules to prevent yourself from getting addicted or letting it affect your mood in a negative way. For example, you should never go on social media when you're feeling stressed or low because you're much more likely to feel threatened by what you see. Instead, only go on social media when you're feeling upbeat and positive as then you'll see things as inspiration. Also avoid looking at your social media (or any screen for that matter) for the first 30 minutes of your day and the last 30 minutes of your day. That enables you to start your day with a more positive step (like exercise or journalling or simply relaxing), and also helps you to wind down in the evening so you're more likely to get a good night's sleep.
Have you ever been surprised that something you expected would make you very happy, didn't- or vice versa?
Yes for sure - especially in how my preferences have evolved. I used to love going out to meals and to the cinema, yet now I prefer cooking my own fresh food and watching some feel good things from Netflix. I also thought reaching goals would make me happy - which they do for a short period of time - but then you simply return back to your usual happiness set point. I learned that the joy was in the journey of working towards my goals not in the destination of reaching them. Finally, I've also learned that the more challenging the journey, the more rewarding it is. Now, when I am faced with a challenge, I know it will help me to grow and to become the best possible version of myself.
What's the best happy hack you know of and use?
The gratitude journal. Every day, finish your day by writing three specific things you were most grateful for in your day. Make each thing very specific to something that you did or something that happened in your day. For example, don't just say "I'm grateful for the sunshine" or "I'm grateful for my mom". Instead, say "I'm grateful for the 15 minute break I had outside in the sunshine as it made me feel positive", and "I'm grateful for the nice heart to heart chat I had with my mom about my future." Do this practice every day for 21 days and you start to shift your perspective into a more positive one. When gratitude turns into a habit, it also makes you more optimistic, creative, and resilient overall.
If you could implement one change to the education system to boost student happiness what would it be?
An hour of happiness studies every week. This would teach children invaluable life skills that you simply don't learn from books. Every week you could introduce a different happiness boosting exercise, from journaling to meditation to simply hanging out in nature. This would give them a toolkit that they could always go back on and reuse themselves when they wanted to up their mood and feel more fulfilled.
You can connect with Susanna at the following