We tend to believe that happiness is conditional. It is based on amassing the things we want, or on achieving XYZ. However, most of us are operating under mistaken ideas about what actually makes us happy. And down the line, these errors can have negative consequences. 

What Sparks Joy?

Consider how you normally spend your days — your habits, your routines, your crutches, your distractions, your little ‘treats’. Now consider which of these things, if any, make you happy. Do they actually spark joy?

Here are some examples to make it a little clearer; 

Work: at the start of each day we always aim to get a lot of work done, to tick all the boxes, and cross off that to-do list. However, the way many of us work in the modern world, this is rarely achieved, with email, Slack, and similar work tools meaning that we are never truly ‘done’ with work at the end of the day. 

Social Media: social media has become many people’s premier form of entertainment and distraction. After a long day it is comforting to curl up in a ball, with your phone clutched in your hand, and scroll, scroll, scroll. However, it is important to take into account if this actually leads to a better or worse mood for you. For many people social media actually leads to worsened mental health, and therefore less happiness. It also has a significant ‘opportunity cost’. This is when you choose to do one thing over something else that could potentially be more enjoyable or productive. 

Photo by ROBIN WORRALL on Unsplash

Messaging: Whether it’s text, Whatsapp, email, or DM, consider how much time you spend responding to people. There’s nothing wrong with that per say — connection is important — and sometimes there are things you must respond too. However, the urge to constantly respond to everything immediately comes from fear, and a lot of the time, imagined pressure. Take space for yourself. 

TV etc: whether it’s Youtube, letting Netflix ‘play next episode’, or just watching whatever’s on, watching TV actually has diminishing returns. Sure, to relax with an episode, or even occasionally binge a show is enjoyable, but if all you’re doing in your free time is passively consuming content then it might be worth reassessing. Studies have also shown that binging a whole series actually reduces our enjoyment of the show, as well as retention of what actually happened. 

Eating: eating is great! Easting is the best. Of course, we must eat to live, but good food is one of the great joys of life. However, on the flip side, you may find yourself eating as a distraction, or in an attempt to self-soothe when you feel sad, mad, or bad.. This rarely makes us actually feel better, in fact often, once the moment has passed, we can actually feel worse. If this begins to affect your health it may be worth trying to work on this behavior. 

Drinking alcohol: sure, we don’t need alcohol to live, but like food, for many people it is a source of pleasure. However, when the urge to have a drink stops being a choice — rather something we have to do to cope with a situation — therein lies a problem. 

Shopping: aah retail ‘therapy’. Sure buying the things we need, and the occasional treat, is fine. However, if you tend to get your kicks from compulsively shopping online for things that, on arrival in your house, have you wondering what you were thinking? — maybe it’s a problem. After the initial rush of enjoyment, the thrill of ‘attaining’ something, it usually dissipates pretty fast, and drains your wallet too!  

Does any of this sound familiar? If so, you may be thinking, “alright then, so how do i get happy?”

Well, happiness needs to come from two directions. Outward and inward. 

Outward Happiness

So, outward happiness crosses over with many of the activities we listed above. As we said, many of these activities actually do spark joy. It’s just about being the driver rather than the passenger when it comes to your desires. 

via Unsplash

For example, seeing happy photos of a friend you haven’t seen for some years, or receiving a kind comment from someone you like — these kinds of interaction with social media can lead to happiness. Finishing our to-do list and closing our laptop — this also feels good. Watching a good movie, or sharing a home cooked meal with friends — yep — it all sparks joy. 

However, the key here is how you do these activities. Are you mindful, are you appreciative, are you satisfied without having to have more, more, more? If you can come to activities this way, then they can contribute to your happiness. 

Some Examples of Outward Activities That Can Spark Joy

  • Rather than just liking the occasional post, why not connect with long-distance friends on a deeper level by putting aside an hour for an actual phone call?
  • When you are walking somewhere, take the scenic route, and actually look at the world around you. 
  • Spend time on your meals. Cook something for scratch. Go to a restaurant and savor every bite. Get an ice cream cone in your favorite flavor and slurp it in the sun!
  • Start a good tv series, and limit yourself to one episode a week, like the old days. Studies actually say you will enjoy it more this way. And you’ll have something to look forward to!
  • Take care of yourself — have an early night in fresh sheets after a hot shower. Let yourself have a lazy morning reading a book. Meditate, do yoga. 
  • Express yourself through creative activities.
  • Do something nice for someone else

Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list, but maybe you can see how these activities can contribute to happiness and spark joy. The point is to be in the moment and mindful when we do these things.

Inward Happiness

As you may have noticed, the outward activities we listed happen to spark inward experiences. For, even if we’re outwardly doing many enjoyable activities, it won’t really mean anything if we’re not feeling happy inside. Sure, these outward activities can contribute to cheering us up, but the glut of power comes from within. 

Sometimes with all the noise around us it is hard to actually listen to our inner self. There are various methods to check back in however. Firstly, mindfulness and meditation are a key way to bring us back to ourselves. Taking some time to relax and listen to your body, and the glimmers at the back of your mind, helps us to focus in. Another method is through the careful use of psilocybin. Psilocybin is the psychoactive compound found in magic mushrooms and truffles. 

via Creative Commons

How Can Psilocybin Help Us Hear Our Inner Self?

  • Microdosing psilocybin (taking tiny, sub-threshold doses every few days) has been shown to make us feel happier, more focused, creative, and open. 
  • Larger doses can cause the temporary quieting of the ego, helping us to connect with our psychic core, and remind us of our true priorities and desires. 
  • Using psilocybin is connected with feeling closer and more connected with nature, something that increases our sense of happiness and wellbeing. It also encourages us to spend more time in nature, thus helping us to partake in outward happiness activities. 
  • Research has shown that microdosing psilocybin can make you feel more ‘authentic’. Being able to live in a true, free, and authentic way that reflects your personal morals is an important factor in predicting inner happiness. 
  • Psilocybin has also been shown to foster feelings of connections with our fellow human beings. At a time when loneliness and isolation is one of the most significant causes of unhappiness, this is more important than ever. 

These are just a few of the benefits of psilocybin. Sure, it is not a silver bullet, but enhancing the qualities listed above in yourself will greatly contribute to your happiness journey. Psilocybin is great at highlighting what we need, something that is often cocooned in our subconscious mind. Connecting with — and being kind to — your inner self is far more achievable if you have the right tools at hand.