I was one of those people that when asked what they want in life, would say, “I just want to be happy…”
In my past, I suffered from debilitating depression. There was a period when getting the dry-cleaning and buying toilet paper was difficult enough.
So, I made it my mission to study what happy people do to stay happy and I started doing what they were doing. My happiness increased until I became one of those people I used to be envious of.
Here’s a list I use now on a daily basis as a reminder to increase my happiness:
1. Give permission.
Permission to be who you are; permission to laugh big, to cry when you need to, to fail brilliantly, to make stuff; permission to fall apart, breakdown, and get back up again; permission to be different and unique; permission to go too far and reach your dreams.
2. Don’t take yourself so seriously.
Hold yourself with a “light hand.” Laugh at your foibles with amusement.
When things get tough or stress arises, lift your shoulders with an “oh well…” Know that it’s never as big or life devastating as your mind thinks.
Happy people trust that whatever glitch happens will work itself out.
They give a “Ha! Ha!” and a “So what? Who cares? Big deal! Why not?” when met with judgments.
3. Don’t self-ruminate.
I remember a friend of mine from Mississippi saying, “Lynn, when are you gonna stop starin’ at your own belly button…?” (Insert: Southern drawl.)
I learned happy people don’t fixate on themselves and their problems. They don’t over-analyze the issue du jour.
When they start to get stuck on a problem or in their head, they put their attention on something else.
4. Don’t compare.
Comparison has been compared to a little death. When we compare ourselves to others, we harm ourselves.
Happy people know that they’re no better or less than another person. Someone will always be at a “more evolved place” and someone will always be “less-evolved.”
Note to self: Be concerned with only how to do your best and that’s all.
5. Make adjustments.
When something isn’t going your way, when your mood dips, or when you feel “off,” stay curious and self-aware. Fine-tune the energy in your body by making adjustments.
If you do something that makes you feel poor, why do it? Pay attention to the places you lose your focus and energy.
When you’re feeling stuck or heavy do something different than your normal routine. Shake it up.
6. Be of service and take care of yourself.
Happy people want to give back. They have plenty to share. They volunteer, take time out to help a friend, offer to connect people to others for their betterment, and aren’t in need of getting anything back.
Commit to service, while also staying aware of caring for you. When your energy gets depleted, gently return your focus on your own emotional/mental/physical/spiritual health.
Have loving boundaries to care for yourself so that you have more to give.
7. Create uplifting community.
When we have friendships and conversations that are uplifting, supportive, and loving, with people mutually interested in our betterment we’re on a faster track to our own enlightenment.
If you hang out with someone and don’t feel great afterward, see less of that person and seek out other friendships.
Know which friends increase your happiness and nurture those relationships.
8. Be less interested in being happy and more interested in your peace of mind.
I used to think happiness was about being totally ecstatic. In order to overcome feelings of hopelessness and depression, it seemed natural that my goal would be to be maximally blissed.
But with every high there’s a low—we eventually come down from it.
When your life embraces peaceful aliveness, there’s a relaxed balance; and the chances of sustained happiness and contentment increases.
9. Use your senses.
As they say, the ordinary is extraordinary.
Happy people receive pleasure from enjoying the simple joys in life, and usually they’re connected to our senses. This subtle awareness creates significant moments of happiness.
I discovered the pleasures I receive in the warmth of a teacup, the taste of dark chocolate, dancing in my living room, the smile of a stranger on the street.
Mark pleasant sense experiences in your mind and carry them throughout your day to increase your spirits.
10. Don’t make your intimate relationships the end-all-be-all.
I used to think the person I was in a relationship with was there to give me my happiness rather than increase it.
Happy people understand that those they are in relationship with are an “addition to,” not a completion of them. They live full lives so that at the end of the day they have so much more to share.
A loving reminder: Don’t rely on your partner to shift your moods, heal you, or fill your empty spaces. And remember it’s not your responsibility to do that for your partner either.
We offer space for the other to discover his or her happiness, while we focus on creating our own.
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