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happiness

How to be happy?

Life stinks I’ve struggled with this question several times in my life. Sometimes there are little pockets of unhappiness that come and go. Sometimes there are big pockets, that can last months or years. But how can one be truly happy?

In the past, I’ve actually been in a place where I Googled “How to be happy.” Surprisingly, it was a good place to start, and from there I began formulating what works for me. I read self help books, studied spiritualism, and followed recommendations from friends and family about how to be happy. I tested all kinds of things, and continued doing what worked for me. I went on a ten-day silent retreat to try and look inside myself and find a path that worked for me. I’ve fought against sadness, despair, anger, frustration, loss, grief, and depression. But the underlying theme in all this: I took action, and I found happiness.

So, what have I found?

I’ve found that if you’re unhappy, that it’s up to you to fix it. If something is wrong at work, in a friendship, in a relationship, with money, with a job, or in life – if you ignore it, it won’t go away. Things don’t just get better on their own (unless you’re healing physically, but that’s the magic of science and biology!). Change is always in our handsย – but it’s good to remember that sometimes change takes time.

One of the first steps to being happy is figuring out what makes you happy, and what is making you unhappy. Then, it’s simple… be honest, and get rid of or seriously limit those things that make you unhappy. Take the time to enjoy and appreciate what does make you happy, even if it’s the smallest thing; revel in it.

Sometimes it’s hard. You find yourself in a rut. You can’t get up in the morning. You don’t want to go to work. You don’t feel like leaving the house. You’re too tired, or have no motivation for even the smallest thing. If you want life to get better, then you can only rely on yourself to make things better. No one else is going to do it for you, and happiness isn’t just going to ring your doorbell and ask to come in for coffee. Happiness takes work.

The only thing that got me moving was forcing myself to move, to change, to make choices. Doing nothing only sweeps problems under the rug, and you WILL have to deal with them eventually. If you find yourself so lost you can’t seem to get anywhere, talk to someone – anyone. Ask for help, or for that little booster of love or laughter can give you even the tiniest morsel of motivation – sometimes that’s all you need.

You have to decide to be happy; You can’t wait for it to come to you. Once I figured that out (it all started with that Google search) I found a root to hold onto. I told myself what was going to happen by setting goals (even if I didn’t believe it). I got up and forced myself to do the things I needed to do (even if I didn’t want to do them). Sometimes, that’s the only way to get the ball rolling. Fake it ’til you make it. Eventually I got used to the routine I had set for myself and began building on it.

face_sad

What do you do if something’s bothering you? Tell them – especially if it’s a particular person or their actions who is bothering you. Just be kind in your delivery, and be honest. Getting it out in the open will make you feel better, and once the problem is identified, you can start to find a solution – hopefully together.

money_100dollarWhat do you do if money’s tight? Set a budget, no matter how depressing, and stick to it. Always ask yourself – do I need this? Or do I just want it?

 

shopping_bagWhat do you do if you feel like a bag of dead kittens and don’t want to even move in the morning? Force yourself to get up. Go watch the sun rise. Play with your pets. Read a book. Call an old friend. Go to a coffee shop and people watch. Go for a drive. Do something different. Because doing something is important, even if you only take action for few minutes a day for the first little while…

big_gray_shoeWhat do you do if you’re in a situation that you can’t just step out of – a job, a relationship, a living situation?ย Take steps to set up how you’re going to change your situation. Set goals. Start saving. Do research. Because when the time comes you’ll be prepared, and that first step will be much easier knowing there’s a safety net you’ve already built for yourself.

What do you do if you’re having a crappy day? I’ve found that often it’s the little things that make a huge difference:

  • Look at the stars (you don’t have to know what you’re looking at, just enjoy the beauty of our planet and the universe!)
  • Go outside
  • Get some exercise (even a walk to the store)
  • Look at or read something funny – laughter (even if you’re laughing AT someone :D) will boost your mood
  • Do something completely out of the ordinary for you – rock climbing, target shooting, knitting
  • Eat a meal and savour every bite – you’d be surprised what an experience eating is!
  • Call, text, or email your Mom, Dad, Sister, Brother, Best Friend, Estranged Friend, anyone
  • Think of someone you love, and send them happy thoughts
  • Smile
  • Do something nice for someone else

There is no one key to happiness. But it starts with taking action, getting moving, setting goals, and appreciating life. It snowballs from there…. Anyone can be happy. I had to choose to be happy.

I choose happiness

Partly Cloudy

It seems as if no matter where you go, who you’re with, or what life is like there are ups and downs. I’m finding that the more positive and open my mind-state is, the less drastic these ups and downs seem to be. But I’m a ‘wear my heart on my sleeve’ kinda girl. I’ve never really been able to minimize the fallout of emotions when I’m upset. I’m only able to minimize how long the fallout lasts… which is better than nothing. When emotional fallout happens, I’ve long been in the practice of reminding myself of all the amazing things in my life, and how sometimes things change. Most of the time, these thoughts are helpful in quelling the tsunami of emotions. Sometimes it doesn’t exactly do the trick.

Then on days like yesterday, when I’m feeling pretty up, it’s altogether impossible to reign myself in. I was on a walk with my lady and the dogs, and the weather was absolutely perfect. The sun was out and hot. The wind was blowing at a medium-low clip through my hair. I could smell fresh-cut grass. I was having an amazing walk. And it’s in moments like these that I get an overwhelming feeling of just how awesome it is to be alive. I can’t even describe it. I guess it’s kind of like peace mixed with happiness.

But back to those roller coaster lows – reminding myself that ‘this will pass’ and ‘everything will work out just fine’ and the like are helpful. And yes, I do realize the value in these moments – without sadness, stress, unhappiness, and anger we wouldn’t fully be able to understand how wonderful peace, happiness, love, and triumph feel (bla bla bla). But wouldn’t it be nice just to have fantastic days? Wouldn’t it be nice to just ALWAYS appreciate what we have, and how lovely our lunch tastes, and how delicious the sun feels on our skin without having terrible moments so we can more accurately compare? I think we’d appreciate the happy, peacefulness of our amazing lives just fine without the crappy, sad, angry times.

But this is life. These ups and downs are constant. I pride myself in being an optimist. People always tell me that they love how I always look on the bright side of life. I assure you, it’s not always so… but I always pick myself up, dust myself off, and keep moving.

What do you do to boost yourself when the sun isn’t shining brightly in your world?

Another lesson that I have taken a long time to learn

“You make me happy”

“What you said made me feel like crap”

“I didn’t end up going because of what you said”

All of these statements, and statements like it are 100% false. It’s taken me a long time to get to the heart of this lesson. Of course, I still say things like this, but I now know the true meaning behind my words.

When you say to a loved one “You make me happy,” or something similar, what you really mean is “The things you do and say give me a feeling of happiness.” It’s a subtle difference… but an important one. The only person who can ever make you happy is you. What?!?

What I mean is that everyone has their own reality, and their own way of processing things. To one person, “that thing” you said could be absolutely annoying. To another, it could be bliss. Conversely, YOU have the power to change how you think, what you think, and what your reality is. You simply have to have an open mind to yourself, and be flexible. If someone says or does something that’s annoying or “makes you feel” a certain way (upset, for example) – have a look at WHY it gave you that feeling. After all, you are choosing to feel a certain way based on what someone said. You have the power to choose otherwise ๐Ÿ˜‰

dress
Image: dan | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For example, someone tells you they don’t like your dress. Automatically your brain starts racing: Does it make me look fat? Is the material hideous? I must look terrible! Everyone must be looking at me! I never should have bought this dress… Lets reel everything back in and hone in on the one most important thing: do YOU like your dress? In all honesty, it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks. Herein lies your CHOICE: If you are comfortable, and you like the fabric, you can choose to feel good about your dress despite anyone’s opinion. Also – take into account that maybe that person just doesn’t like red… or would never wear that particular cut ๐Ÿ˜‰

When we say things like “I didn’t end up going to the party because of what you said,” blame is being unfairly placed. No matter what anyone ever says or does, we ALWAYS have a choice. Sure, the things people say and do can influence how you feel, and therefore influence your choice – but in the end the choice is ALWAYS YOURS. Everything in your life is ultimately up to YOU. Choose to DO or DO NOT… there is always an option.

What I’ve learned is that we often don’t literally say what we mean. Language is a funny thing, but now that I have opened my eyes a little more, I try to be more careful with how I say things. On the other hand, I also take the words of others less personally. When someone tells me that I make them angry, I know that they mean that something that I have said or done has caused them to feel angry and I keep in mind that it’s their interpretation. In that situation, I do my best to apologize and clarify what I meant. Also when someone tells me that they did or said something as a result of my actions or words, I no longer take this personally either. No matter what I say or do – the choices of others remain just that: THEIR CHOICE.

choice
Image: nattavut | FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Same goes for me! My choices are my own, no matter what the situation is. ย My only responsibility is to myself and of my words, my actions, and my thoughts. I can choose to be happy – and I do!

Then again, this is just what I think. Take it as you will โค

Non-judgement day

I read this awesome article 15 Things You Should Give Up To Be Happy,ย and it’s gotten me thinking about a lot of things. The latest topic on my mind has been judgement. I’ve been noticing my own judgements more, and it makes me feel awful inside when it happens.

We all do it. “She looks awful in that shirt,” “I’d NEVER do what he just did!,” “He smells bad, he should try showering more often,” and so many others. Often, we are judging people or situations without even realizing it. We even judge ourselves on a constant basis. Not only that – but we’re often worried about other people judging us, and what they are thinking about us. Why do we do that? Because WE are constantly judging, and our own thoughts and behaviours are projected BY US onto others; Hence we constantly believe that others are judging us.. because we are constantly judging!!!

It’s not easy to become more conscious of your own judgements. Lately, I’ve been trying harder to think about all the stuff going on in my head, the words that cross my lips, and my reactions to things and people. Judgement often happens automatically without us even realizing. Our brains are so used to it, it just *happens*

I’m hoping that by being aware of my judgements, that I’ll be able to start cutting them away. Judgement is essentially the practice of putting myself above others, and that’s not how I want to be. That’s not who I want to be. I’m guessing that other things will soon fall in stride – like a lot less stress, less heartache, less worry, and the reduction of negativity in general.

I’m hoping that this practice will help me* on my path of things I’d like to give up to be happy:

  1. Give up your need to always be right.
  2. Give up your need for control*
  3. Give up on blame*
  4. Give up your self-defeating self-talk*
  5. Give up your limiting beliefs.
  6. Give up complaining*
  7. Give up the luxury of criticism*
  8. Give up your need to impress others*
  9. Give up your resistance to change.
  10. Give up labels*
  11. Give up on your fears.
  12. Give up your excuses*
  13. Give up the past.
  14. Give up attachment.
  15. Give up living your life to other peopleโ€™s expectations*

Too positive?

Recently, certain commentary has been recurring that has spurred me to wonder – but not for long ๐Ÿ˜‰

In the past 3 or 4 months, I’ve had a good amount of people comment on how happy and positive I am. There’s been a lot of good stuff happening in my life, mostly self-development, that has drastically changed my attitude, and how I look at things or approach situations. Since this change, I’ve also had a good sized sample of people (friends, acquaintances, strangers) offer me a whole different set of comments that I wasn’t expecting.

While I have enjoyed the comments from people appreciating my positive spin on bad situations, and my generally cheery nature – I have been puzzled by the following comments (and others, this is an abridged list):

  1. You are too happy
  2. Why are you so positive all the time?
  3. Can you please stop being so cheerful?
  4. Must you always find the glass half-full?
  5. Don’t you ever get upset or sad anymore?

For a while, I let these comments and questions percolate. I wondered about them, and about myself. I pondered the changes in my life and my overall outlook, and took the time to check myself against this particular line of questioning. And I have come up with answers for all of these.

  1. I am not too happy, I am exactly the right amount of happy ๐Ÿ™‚
  2. I am positive, because I have learned that there is good in everyone and everything… somewhere. Sometimes you have to look harder. Sometimes you just have to sit back and laugh at an insane situation. But what it all boils down to is that it’s easy to be positive when you don’t take things personally, and you keep your mind open to things.
  3. No. I refuse. Being cheerful is fun! And generally speaking, I think that people prefer to be around cheerful people rather than grouchy ones.
  4. It’s not imperative for me to see the glass half-full all the time, it’s just the way I happen to see it first. Sometimes my instincts have me seeing the half-empty scenario first, but it doesn’t take long for the positivity to swoop in. It’s all about perspective, and knowing how to properly prioritize how bad a certain situation is – or could possibly be ๐Ÿ˜‰
  5. Yes. I do get sad. I do get upset. Particularly around that time of the month (let’s be honest, the hormones do rage). Things do upset me, but it’s so much easier for me to take a step back and have some perspective. I do get angered or impassioned about certain things, but I have begun to take my time and approach things with an educated stance, rather than simply setting things on fire and stamping my feet. BUT these instances of sadness and upset and anger are fewer and further between each day.

There have been other questions and comments about my happiness and positivity, but these 5 pretty much encapsulate the main themes of what I have been questioned about. It’s really easy to find happiness, to live it, to breathe it, to bask in it. And I’ll be honest, it all started about 18 months ago, when I Googled “How to be happy.”ย  I didn’t gain much from that search, but simply wanting it was the first step on my current (fantastic) path.

So get happy! Be happy! Find the glass half-full! Stop expecting the worst! Stop assuming that people are out to get you!

Life is good – and only you can make it that way ๐Ÿ™‚

single Synonyms: distinguished, especial, exceptional, exclusive, individual, isolated, lone, loner, odd, one, only, original, personal, private, rare, restricted, secluded, separate, simple, singular, sole, solitary, special, specific, unalloyed, unblended, unique, unitary, unrivaled, unshared, unusual, without equal

I’ve been single for a year now. Over the past year, a few friends have asked me “Have you met anyone yet?”

Early in the year, it was easy to simply reply “it’s too soon,” and not be pressed on the subject. I got advice from lots of people:

  • You should just start dating to get a feel for what’s out there
  • Do what you feel is right for you
  • Make sure you’re cautious and date for a while before jumping into anything serious
  • Have some fun – get out there!

All of these pieces of advice (and more) are valid, and wonderful. I received them all and filed them away.

I’m 32 going on 33. I’ve been in and out of a few relationships. I think I’m entering a really cool phase in my life where I’m starting to think about and BE about me… in a good way. For the first time I’m living on my own (I’ve always had a roommate or partner to live with). I’ve been reconnecting with old friends and connecting with new, as well as reconnecting with myself. Now that I’ve finally moved to a new place on my own, I’m really starting to enjoy single-hood.

For one thing, there’s a lot more time. More time to do the things I want to do. More time to read. More time to work on projects (of my own!) I have so much more time for me, and it’s becoming a big benefit ๐Ÿ™‚

I’ve also been doing a lot of inner construction work. I’ve gone through a lot of changes in the last 18 months. I’m happier… much happier. I’m enjoying life. I’m stressing less. I’m smiling more.

What aren't you interested in? Love? A relationship?So, when recently another friend of mine asked me “Have you found yourself someone yet?” and I replied “No, I’m not really interested,” it was easy to defend the following question: “What aren’t you interested in? Love? A relationship?” I simply replied “I want to make sure that I’m happy before I expand my boundaries to include another person in my life.” It was short, and to the point. I didn’t have to explain myself any further ๐Ÿ™‚

I love my friends. They are protective of me. They are concerned. And I love that they question me, prod me, push me, and support me. I wouldn’t have it any other way ๐Ÿ™‚

At the ripe age of 32 years and 10 months, I have finally realized that I do not NEED a partner. The only thing I need, or will ever need, is me. It’s a concept I’m exploring and cultivating. I don’t need to be in a relationship, but it is definitely a wonderful thing to be able to share your life with another person. Removing that imperative makes the entire concept of a relationship so so so much lighter.

I’m sure that, eventually, I’ll be ready for another relationship. Right now, I’m honestly not worried about it. I’m happy being me, and I’m happy with my life. I’m really enjoying single-hood. That’s not to say that I think it would be excellent to have someone to share things with, but for the first time, I’m really enjoying just being me and having only me to worry about. Once I get really good at single-hood, and at being me and being fantastic and being happy, then I’ll take a step towards sharing myself with someone else.

Draw-licious

I have prepared some delicious drawings for this week’s post of artistic tasty-ness! I have sketched these in my sketchbook, and filled in the happy coloured-ness in Photoshop on my computer. It has been such a long time since I have posted drawings that I forgot how long it takes from start to finish! After some hard work with pen and paper, and then my trusty computer, I present to you this week’s meal of art!

Esmerelda the many toothed lady
Esmerelda the many toothed lady
Medication full of happiness
Medication full of happiness
Box Car
Box Car (This one reminds me of pretending when I was a kid)
Emotional Guidance System
Emotional Guidance System – your heart’s GPS
Tooth ferry
The tooth Ferry… Shipping teeth across the ocean since 828 A.D.

2011 – New opportunities await!

Maybe I’m entering a new stage of my life….

empty-university-lecture-hallWhen I was a kid – I was always absorbing, asking questions, and kind of going with the flow. Parents and teachers were guiding me, telling me where to go, how, and when. Once I entered high school, I had a taste of knowledge, and began the typical teenage pull away from authority, from parents, from teachers. I wanted to be independent – but still depended so much on all of these people for answers, for support, for… well… everything. Then university started – and my REAL taste for independence occurred. I got my first chance at staying away from home and making my own decisions: if I was going to class, if I was going to do a reading, what money I was going to spend, and where… I really beginning to get a grasp on adulthood.

Then adulthood began. My first thought was :This sucks! I want to be a kid again! Doesn’t just about everyone have that moment? In any case, I plowed headfirst into adulthood – doing the things that were expected of my: getting a job, finding a place to live, exploring relationships. My mid- to late-twenties was really an information gathering time for me. Once I hit thirty – it felt like all of that absorption (from day 1 to my 30th birthday, really) had finally all come together and started forming a picture.

Up until my early thirties, I didn’t really feel like I had a full and complete view of myself, of things around me, of life in general. Now, at 32, I am finally really seeing into myself for the first time. I have finally come to a place where I accept so many things from myย  history.

Regrets are falling away like sandcastles into the tide – as I am realizing that they do not serve a purpose. My past has become a history of valuable learning experiences. It is no longer a place to bathe. The future is unknown to me – and I am still learning how to not play the “what if” game. I think after thirty-some-odd years of experience, I’m finally realizing what’s important: NOW, this moment!

I feel like I’m finally on the right path. Forgiveness is so much easier. Happiness is always close at hand. Sadness seems to crumble more quickly than I remember. Why? There’s so much less to worry about! The two mottoes that I have had for at least the past 8 or so years are finally really becoming crystal clear to me. They are both very simple, but usually one or the other helps to solve problems or puzzles I am facing.

One: Never Give Up! This motto should be taken with a grain of salt. There are some who might take this to the extreme and possibly apply it to projects or problems that might end up simply giving a negative ends. But it’s important in some places: never give up on loving those around you, never give up on forgiveness, never give up on yourself!

My tattoo: It says "Never give up"
My tattoo: It says "Never give up"

Two: No matter what, everything will work itself out. This motto, I have found, is always 100% true. No matter what you are going through, things will work themselves out (either you will work them out, or something will happen to help the process). You might go through some real crap in the interim, and feel some real pain (which usually equals REAL GROWTH), but in the end… that’s right… it’ll all work out!

I’m seriously considering adopting a new motto that I learned in my latest meditation experience: This too, will change.

What does that mean? you might ask. To paraphrase S.N. Goenka: No matter what you are facing – be it a pain in your hip, or the loss of a loved one – this will change (either the pain will pass, or you will!). It’s very difficult to keep this in perspective when you’re in the middle of suffering, but it helps to provide a light at the end of the tunnel. There’s always hope ๐Ÿ˜‰

So here’s to an amazing 2011 – filled with love, compassion, opportunities, adventure, and a NEW and FANTASTIC stage of my life!

Forget regret – or life is yours to miss

The only one who can make you happy is you.

When we feel like crap we tend to think about what is missing from our life, the things we have done wrong, opportunities we have let go by, regrets we hold on to, and so on. But we often forget…. that the only time that counts is now. Sure, we may have screwed up in the past, but it’s in the past. The only thing we can do is take a lesson from our mistakes and apply those lessons to our present (and future!). Forget Regret!

The only person who can pull you out of the abyss is you. Sure, you could be “inspired” by the weather.. A friend could give you a smile and maybe that’s all the motivation you need. But when it comes down to it – no matter what inspiration or motivation is coming from where-YOU are the one that has to make the choice to be motivated and inspired ๐Ÿ™‚

My plan is to begin practicing (among other things) a present state of mind. I cannot change my actions from the past, I can only learn from them. Dwelling on my past or regretting things will not help anything. This energy would best be applied to making an effort to have a fantastic present and future!

And when I see a beautiful landscape, hear a funny joke, get licked by a puppy, or smell the scent of the changing seasons – I will accept that inspiration and use it as FUEL. This fuel is too valuable to let pass by!

So don’t forget – you can choose to be happy ๐Ÿ™‚ You can choose to be inspired. You can get past the things you cannot change from your past. The mind is a powerful thing – learning to harness that power takes our whole lives!

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