There are plenty of books and talk about happiness and how to have more in our lives. Speaking from experience, the less I seek happiness outside myself, the more happiness I encounter. And since happiness is subjective, what makes me feel happy may not remotely resemble your experience of happiness. So it’s important to examine your past and where you felt the most joy.
Remember happy moments and create more in the present and future. While we can all find reasons not to be happy – a huge tax bill, chronic body pain, our loved one decided to leave, the kids are out of control – these are stories our mind creates to justify wallowing in sadness or complaining. While healthy and normal to go through stages of grief, it is not healthy to make a lifelong habit of holding on to your sadness, anger, or worries. Why? Since it doesn’t change anything, you’re not going to get better results.
Why do people succeed and accomplish much in spite of illness, death of loved ones, or the endless sufferings that inevitably happen to everyone? Frida Kahlo, the Mexican painter who suffered chronic pain and was essentially bedridden after a terrible traffic accident as a teenager is the perfect example. Instead of succumbing to despair, she created great works of art as an outlet for her agony. If complaining and self-pity are a habit, flip the coin. Talking about the good in your life, feeling grateful for your blessings (and they are endless), and doing what you love in spite of challenges you may face are healing balms to your soul’s suffering. And while we are not capable of changing the past, what matters is how we handle the present.
Use the following suggestions to begin your own pathway to happiness:
1. Be grateful. Either the minute you wake up or as you drift to sleep at night. Count your blessings, even if all you can think of is that a challenging day has ended and you didn’t murder anyone. Congratulations!
2. Lose yourself in a hobby, whether it’s making handcrafted cards for your friends, fishing, or creating the best mac & cheese anyone has ever tasted. Let your actions shut down negative mind noise for good.
3. Do a good deed, big or small. The wonderful feeling of making a difference in someone else’s day is a huge payoff and takes the spotlight off minuscule worries.
4. Write yourself a happy ending. Visualize what you do want. Taking the focus off what you don’t want is the first step to manifestation on the outside.
5. Indulge in play that satisfies your inner child. This one is easy if you have kids – join their make-believe games. Otherwise, get out some crayons or dust off your bike and explore the great outdoors like you’ve never been out there before.
6. Start planning now for a great adventure. Often, doing the small steps it takes to reach a major goal is the most satisfying part of the journey.
7. Move your body. Dance, run, try a new yoga class, rent a stand-up paddleboard with a friend and forget about bills, illness, and (ugh) cleaning the toilet.
8. Maintain perspective. Swap your so-called problems with someone else’s in the world. Chances are you would take all of yours back in a heartbeat. Simply watch a news program for a few minutes and you’ll begin to appreciate your incredible good fortune.
9. Meditate like a monk. Take a class or listen to a meditational CD. Clearing your head regularly of self-defeating thoughts clears the path for inspiration and inner peace.
10. Seek help – from a professional, trusted friend or family member. Practice asking for help. Too many of us don’t know how to ask and it’s time to change. When we share our vulnerabilities, we connect in a deep way and release the burden to do it all on our own steam.
Life is too short to fret about all that is not going well in our lives. Take control of directing the movie of YOU, before the closing credits roll. May deep happiness and a big, silly grin on your face follow.