How I Learned To Be Happier, and How You Can Too
Over the last few weeks, we celebrated the Jewish Holidays, which start with the Jewish New Year. Between the family gatherings and many (many) meals, I always like to take some time to reflect on the year that ended and what I would like the new year to bring. This year I couldn’t help but reflect on my personal journey with happiness and how it led me to start my own company, Happy Things.
First, let me introduce myself.
I'm Talia Soen, the Founder & CEO of Happy Things. I'm 35 years old and have spent most of my life feeling like I wasn't happy enough. For years I was on a quest for happiness, believing it was right around the corner; if I just finished my degree, got a better job, ran a 10K marathon, got married… I would find it. As I'm sure you can guess, I did all those things - but happiness wasn't waiting on the other side.
There was, however, a good side to this search: my interest in mental health, happiness, and well-being led me to get a degree in psychology, become a yoga teacher, take various courses (in coaching, fitness, nutrition, and more), read books, listen to podcasts… and essentially, learn everything I could about happiness and most of all try to understand - what was I missing?
You Can't "Achieve" Happiness
After years of over-achieving, the main thing I learned was that, ironically, happiness is not a goal to be achieved. This statement is backed by academic research: Happiness is a skill. Just like learning a new language or practicing the piano, we can practice happiness and learn how to live a happier life. Happiness doesn't lie in these big goals we set for ourselves, nor does it require a complete lifestyle change. Happiness is made of small, daily things.
For example, here are a few happy things you can do to start practicing:
Give someone a compliment
Listen to a song that brings up a happy memory
Clear your inbox
Unplug from all screens for at least 10 minutes
Call or text someone you haven't spoken to in a while
These five easy acts are scientifically proven to increase our well-being. But it’s not that simple - like any other skill, happiness does require consistency of practice.
The Forgotten New Year Resolution
As I realized I have the ability to increase my happiness with very simple daily actions, I felt so motivated that I sat down and made a list of the various things I could do. Today, a few years later, I have absolutely no idea where that list is. My busy life got in the way, and since I didn't have the framework to practice happiness, that list was easy to forget.
That’s the second thing I learned throughout my journey: practicing a new skill is hard! In our busy, hectic life, it's hard to stay on track and make time for new habits. That's why 80% of people don't keep up with their New Year resolutions.
So, Now What?
After learning, researching, and scribbling notes about two years ago, I found myself, yet again, feeling unhappy. I remembered that list I made. While looking for it in the drawer where all forgotten things find a home, I thought to myself: there must be an app that could help me practice happiness (after working in tech for over a decade, you always think there must be a technical solution for everything!).
And yes, there are many apps to help you track your habits. But as I was searching for one, something else occurred to me: I've spent a big part of my life researching happiness and still couldn't make it a habit and maintain it. But most people don't have the time and resources (and possibly obsessive tendencies) to do the research, so simply using an app to track specific habits wouldn't be enough.
I realized there should be an app that takes it one step further, or deeper if you will; an app that teaches people HOW to practice happiness and provides the frameworks, tools, guidance, and motivation to actually do it.
That's how Happy Things came to life.
By combining my passion for psychology and technology, the desire I've always had to start my own company, and the lessons learned from a lifelong search for happiness, I envisioned the solution I wish I had 20 years ago. Together with my team, we made that vision a reality, and there is nothing more satisfying than hearing from our users how the app helps them lift their mood, focus on self-care and happiness, and overall just improve their life.
My wish for the new year is simply to do more of that - create a movement of happiness as a way of life, reach more people and help them maximize their happiness potential. And, of course, to keep working that happiness muscle myself, every day