What does being happy mean? Does it mean smiling all day, floating through life without a care in the world? Does it mean to be wealthy, have the newest car, expensive wardrobe, fancy vacations, or being married? Not necessarily.
Happiness is defined as feeling contentment or satisfaction with a person, place or situation, but how can you cultivate this feeling?
- Start with Gratitude Being thankful for everything. Your health, your home, your pet, your family, anything. Need more ideas? How about the sun, moon, stars, weather, clean drinking water, your shoes and clothes, the internet, your bed, your transportation whether it be a bike, the subway, or a car, think about life’s simple pleasures we take for granted. Start small by writing a list of 10 things you are grateful for, then every morning, read that list, really READ it. Think on those items and how if you didn’t have them what your life would be like. Pull out the list before bed and add new items you thought of during the day, that way you see it twice a day. You will wake up being grateful and go to bed being grateful, let the transformation begin!
- Choose Positivity – and surround yourself with it! This means people, your job, and your environment. Do your friends lift you up? Do they encourage you to become the best version of yourself? Does your boss complement your work? Do you come home to negative roommates or a condescending spouse? You cannot live in a 100% negativity free world, but you can choose your environment. By actively choosing your situation you can greatly change your mood and overall happiness. Listen to an uplifting or up beat song on the radio while you get dressed for work or ride the bus. Simple and small things can have a huge impact. Assume positive intent when you get a one word text or short sentence email instead of reading it with an attitude, respond nicely or even call and speak to them before jumping the gun and going into defense mode.
- Stop Complaining – Seriously just stop! If your social media feed is 75% negative comments, complaining about this restaurant, talking about a bad movie, a product you wasted your money on, or blasting a religious or political group, please stop. Instead of complaining about your food, talk about the fact you are going to try a new place and broaden your pallet, or how the server replaced your meal for a better one and the great service. Try suggesting a solution to a problem instead of complaining about the issue. I understand we all have bad days and misery loves company, but you are part of the problem when you bring others down. Make a point to stop yourself before you criticize. On the other side of this coin, if you are scrolling through Facebook and you only see others constantly whining, you should pay attention to the groups or people on your friends list you will need to begin a serious cleanse by unfollowing and unfriending. If you are struggling for happy thoughts and then only see and read them, you are fighting a losing battle.
- Better Yourself – however you can. You should spend time meditating, doing breathing exercises or find you spiritual center. You can also focus on reading a positive or self-help book every daily. Just 10 pages will only take a few mins, or find a pod cast you can listen to on your commute or while in the shower; no time is not an excuse. I recommend these for a starters:
- Girl Wash your Face – by Rachel Hollis
- The Miracle Morning – by Hal Elrod
- The Slight Edge – by Jeff Olson
- The Happiness Project – by Gretchen Rubin
- Happier – by Tal Ben-Shahar Ph.D.
- Big Potential – by Shawn Archor
5. Make Changes – This is mainly the long game, some changes can be quick fixes, but changing is the hardest thing to do. You have to want it! There are some things you can’t control like the weather or a car accident, that is merely an attitude change but those things you are able to control, focus on those. If you hate your job, your boss, your pay and so on, you can’t quit today, but you can make strides to change it. Dust off your resume, apply for new positions, or even go back to school. If you are still sitting in that same desk 5 years later, that is your choice, your fault and you have lost your right to complain. If you are unhappy with politics, get informed and VOTE in your next election. If you are unhappy with your relationship, work on it. Go to counseling, take a trip, communicate your feelings, but if nothing changes, get out, again it’s your choice to stay unhappy or make a change. Realize you have less in common with your group of friends, make new friends, save up for a newer car that won’t break down so much, exercise if you are not happy with your health or weight, the list goes on. Sit down and think about what you are unhappy with, then make a plan to change it.
Making happiness a habit will not happen overnight and will take willpower to achieve. Take it one day at a time for a full month, then reflect, write it down even. Then again at 60 days and again at 90 days and I guarantee that you will feel overall happier. The days of thinking, “I will be happen when…” are over. It is the exact opposite, you need to be happy first before you persue the dream.