I was miserable, but I learnt to be happy – and you can too

Hunting for happiness can be easier than you think, and there are four proven ways to bring more joy to your life.

At 37, Fiona Redding was desperately unhappy.

Her relationship had broken down after having two children, and her other relationships were suffering too.

Almost daily she was struggling with anxiety and like plenty of Australians, she was regularly drinking as an escape.

But one day it clicked – something needed to change.

“I had been so unhappy for so long, I just decided the most important thing was to be happy,” Fiona, from Melbourne, says.

Almost overnight Fiona, now 44, kicked the booze, took up meditation and began focusing on her relationships. She quickly saw an improvement in her mood.

A lifelong change for the better

Having just launched a business consultancy, she found herself speaking with clients about the transformation and realised that she was not the only one searching for a better way of living.

“I was talking with them about what made them feel good, understanding what gave them purpose and how the way they were thinking was stopping them from experiencing better outcomes,” she says.

“I realised everybody is just getting through. Just doing what they can hoping things will improve one day and I knew that I could help them through that.”

That year, Fiona launched her life-coaching business, The Happiness Hunter.

Now through community events and workshops, as well as coaching programs, Fiona helps people overcome their personal challenges to achieve success. And she has never looked back.

Can you really increase happiness?

The good news for anyone looking for a lift is that taking an active approach to shifting your mood can work, says Centre for Positive Psychology associate professor Peggy Kern.

“Numerous studies show there are things you can do to improve your happiness,” Peggy says.

“But that does not mean feeling happy all the time. The reality is that there are ups and downs in life all the time.

“It’s not about totally eliminating the negative side of things but thinking how you can move toward having more ups and fewer of those downs.”

Four ways to become happier

1. Stop the negative thoughts

Stopping critical internal dialogue is vital, says Fiona.

“It’s a daily practice,” she says. “It’s about becoming aware and catching yourself before those thoughts grow legs and go on a rampage through your mind, and negatively influence how you are feeling.”

2. Be grateful

Gratitude for the little things will also help boost your outlook.

“Actually, taking time each day to think about what is good around you or what happened to you today that made you happy, can really help,” Peggy says.

“A lot of good things happen all the time and we take these for granted.”

3. Be sociable

For almost 80 years, researchers at Harvard University have run a study on human development.

They consistently find close relationships are more valuable than fame and money.

“Really make the time to connect with other people,” Peggy says.

“People just want to be heard and listened too, not only through technology but also face-to-face.”

4. Meditate 

Science shows that meditation and practising mindfulness can improve our joy as well as our how our brain functions.

“While the full benefit of these practices may require a lot of time and consistent effort, even taking a few minutes to just stop and breathe, can actually help calm our systems down and make us feel better,” Peggy says.

Written by Alex White.