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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 hands – 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? 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

Random thoughts for a Monday

  1. The best gift you can give someone is an experience. 
  2. Love is most important thing.
  3. Standing in someone else’s shoes is a very difficult thing to do.
  4. Listening isn’t easy, but often that’s all that anyone needs you to do.
  5. Something as simple as a smile can completely change someone else’s day.
  6. Boundaries are important, and it often takes decades to figure out where you should put them.
  7. Enjoy as much of each day as you can. Even the sad, angry, and terrible moments are worth a lot.
  8. Perspective constantly changes… try to look at every situation from more than one standpoint.

Getting over the wall

As per usual, I’ve been thinking. Not only that, but I’ve been trying to simplify things for myself, in hopes of finding a more simple answer to a lot of questions, issues, and problems that seem to be recurring for me.

Why do we feel bad, sad, upset, angry, or anything negative? Aside from physical ailments that make us feel down, it occurred to me that all of these things (and more) have a common denominator.

Uncertainty. Insecurity. Fear.

A closer look:

I did a good job at something and nobody said anything about it, so insecurity sets in. I feel unappreciated and begin to second-guess myself. I wonder if I did a good job and why no one noticed. Maybe I start questioning what people think of me.

Someone puts me down and makes me feel insignificant. Insecurity sets in and in some cases snowballs, making me notice more ‘faults’ that I may have. Subconsciously (or consciously!) I become afraid that people won’t like me.

I’m not sure what to wear to a party and I’m stressed because I want to look good. I’m feeling insecure because I’m worried about what others will think of me when they see me.

I have a fight with a loved one and amongst the feelings of anger, hurt, and upset – I fear that the relationship may be affected, or even end because of this fight.

My thought process:

I’ve been analyzing situations like these as they happen to me, and they all boil down to fear; Fear of what others think of us. Why do we place so much value on how others see us? And why do we place so little stock in how we see ourselves?

On a daily basis, I try to live by one of my own credos “Stop caring so much what others think of you!” This is easier said than done. Fear creeps in. It’s irrational, and often gets blown out of proportion. I try to keep reminding myself that in any and all of these situations, everything will be fine. I try to check with myself to see what I think of me. As long as I’m doing the best that I can and living up to my own code of ethics, that’s all I can do. That’s the BEST I can do. I can’t change how others outside me act and react.

I concluded that the importance must be placed not on what others think of me, but what I think of me. In order to not lose my perspective, the thoughts and opinions of others should always be included in the mix… but I think it’s time to keep my opinion of me in the forefront.

Work out the muscles you don’t even know you have

In my day-to-day life, I’m constantly supported. Friends tell me a joke to cheer me up. My mom sends me an email to tell me she’s thinking about me. I get a text message that reminds me I’m loved. I make plans with the love of my life and go out. When things go right, the people in my life always seem to be there for me. When things go wrong, they are there along side me too. It’s a wonderful thing.

Image: westfieldcomics.com

All our lives, we come to rely on the support of others. This isn’t a bad thing. What becomes a bad thing is those few times when you’re left to your own devices, and start feeling a little lost. It’s almost like your self-reliant muscle gets weak from having such a strong support system. Like a day when you’re feeling particularly sad, and there’s no one around to distract you. Or perhaps an afternoon where you really want to do something, but no one’s available. It leaves you feeling lost, alone, and often pretty crappy. Because that self-reliant muscle is feeling too weak to carry you. That’s because we’re so used to our loved ones being there for us.

When moments or days like that happen, it’s not easy to remember that you’re not alone. There are so so so many loved ones in your life that may just be thinking of you the EXACT moment you’re feeling down – they might just be out of reach! Don’t forget that they will be within reach before you know it. If you’re unsure – reach out to them. Send out a text when you’re thinking of someone. Fire off an email to someone you haven’t heard from in a while. Or just say I love you for no reason. (I’ve found that all of these things are contagious!)

Failing all that, I’ve come to realize that there is absolutely no one I can ever rely on, like I can rely on myself. I am always going to be there for me. I am all I’ll ever always have. And that’s not a bad thing either. It’s not easy to rely on yourself when you find the unbelievably amazing support system that you rely on to be absent for a few hours, a day, or longer. No matter what, the only person that I’ll always be able to fall back on is ME.

Flex that self-reliant muscle: enjoy spending time alone! Don’t worry if you find yourself feeling a little disconnected – it’s a good thing, sometimes! You can always make the choice to reconnect. And be confident that when you need someone, if they’re not already there for you, that you can reach out your hand.

Mlarrrrrgrawrrrrrrgrrrrwaaaaaaaaaaaggggrrrr

A primal growl for first thing in the morning.

I haven’t been able to figure this one out. Intrinsically, we are all connected. We are interconnected. By nature, we are social and reach out to others. When someone is in a bad mood, you try to cheer them up. When people are smiling and happy, it’s contagious.  So what is this conductive nature of moods? And how do we keep the good ones and stop the bad ones from affecting us, and others around us?

My thoughts…

  1. Keep on truckin’ Do what you need to do. Do what you’d normally do. Moving forward keeps the cogs oiled and keeps your mind off of things (often things you cannot change or do anything about).
  2. Find a distraction Go to a movie. Call a friend. Do something out of the ordinary. Read a book. Changing the pace might snap you out of a rut, or keep you from channeling the moods of others
  3. Accept it Accepting what you cannot change (and even things you can change, but haven’t gotten to yet) is not easy, but definitely will help. It’s useless to worry about things you have no power over, but we all seem to do it.
  4. Let it out Talk to someone about what’s worrying you. They might not have a solution, but I always find that venting to someone who is willing to listen really does help.
  5. Let out a primal growl Relieving the pressure by growling, screaming, crying, or smacking a pillow can help too! It sounds silly, but feels GREAT!

While we often think of ourselves as so separate from others, so individual… we really are very connected to those around us. Moods of friends, co-workers, family, and loved ones affect us. It’s inevitable. As long as we don’t sponge up too much of the bad stuff, and make sure to bask in as much of the good stuff as we can, it’s all good. Unfortunately, we almost always let in the good with the bad (and sometimes we more readily let the bad affect us!). Try a primal growl on for size… and remember that only you can make you happy!

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