THE BLOG

Think Happy, Be Happy: My Path to Beating the Blues

17/01/2016 17:40 GMT | Updated 17/01/2017 10:12 GMT

Feeling a bit blue? If so, you're probably not alone. Statisticians calculate (although many dispute it!) that Monday 18 January is the most depressing day of 2016 - the result of it being more than three weeks away from the joys of Christmas, yet a week still to go until January payday.

So if you're feeling a bit down, you may well not be alone. Seven years ago, I too would have joined you, full of the woes of winter, and the post festive blues. Life had got the better of me, or so I thought. The passing of my boyfriend, poor health, periods out of work and a cancer scare for my mum - what else could the universe throw my way? As I lurched from one crisis to another, I'd reached the point where I would wake up daily wondering what was next, and my bed felt the only safe place in the world.

I'm not one to be beaten, and I knew in my heart it was time to make change. So I googled, "happiness" and my journey began. I'd spent much of my life believing that my happiness was dependent on external circumstances: whether I was in a loving relationship, if my job was rewarding, and my family was content. So when I stumbled across the research of Sonia Lyubomirsky, I simply couldn't believe it. Her claim is that half of our happiness is determined by genetics; 40% our daily experiences and choices, including how we see the world; and only a meagre 10% is based on life's circumstances. How could this be? I certainly seemed to have been dealt an OK bunch of happiness genes my early life would suggest, so if only one tenth was based on external goings-on I could no longer blame being single and childless for my ongoing malaise. Very quickly, I discovered a large body of evidence suggesting that people have a strong capacity to determine their own happiness (even if genetically they are 'glass half empty'). So it was time I took the plunge and did just that.

I read and I read: from self-help books to the work of spiritual gurus; scientists to doctors and academics, I'd no idea there was so much research out there. It became clear to me, I needed to look inside not out, and the starting point was the mind. So over the next five years I embarked upon my own personal journey to happiness. Everything seemed so simple conceptually. "Choose to be happy". But when you are ill and down, the reality is it's pretty tough. Still, I persevered, and I tried, and slowly but surely shift occurred. Meditation was integral, just ten minutes a day, but every day. It stopped much of the negative mind chatter. Yoga helped. But it was really taking hold of my thoughts, and living in the present, that was the springboard to success. I began to be grateful for what I had, not focusing on what I hadn't. I started to stop all the 'mind-wandering' and 'comparing' to others. I looked at ways I limited my happiness and stopped doing them, and at ways I made myself happy and filled my life with more. Exercise after exercise, self-observation to self-awareness. My mind started to function differently. My happiness levels increased. Then finally, my health started to improve. It was mental improvement first, physical second.

It was not easy, and it wasn't a 'quick-fix' - but the results were incredible. I went from a three out of 10 on my happiness score, to an eight out of 10; and despite the ongoing challenges of daily life that the world delivers us all, I can genuinely say I am truly happy. A part of it is doing what makes my heart sing: I set up a not-for-profit online resource called the happynesshub, allowing me to share everything I've learned with people across the UK, and the world - and empowering them to make a positive difference to their lives, as I have done.

So thanks to everything I've learned, I plan to be smiling throughout 'Blue Monday'. And I hope you will be, too.

Sallyann Keizer is the founder of the happynesshub. Find out more about her free 21 Days to Happiness package at http://happynesshub.com