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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

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.

Getting lost in the problem

focus bokeh
Find your focus: the solution, not the problem

Something occurred to me the other day. Well, it has occurred to me several times before, but sometimes it takes a few occurrences before your thoughts really begin to take shape. I spend too much time focusing on problems, and not enough time working on a solution.

For example, you get in an argument with a friend. The argument ends and you are upset. You go home feeling distraught, wondering if the friendship is going to be ruined by this argument. You go over what you said, and what they said. You think How could they say that to me? and other various lines of questioning about the argument. Your mood worsens. Your day or week goes on and you worry over the details. You wonder if you should call them, and also why they aren’t calling you. You go through the argument again and again in your head. You worry about irrational things and what ifs: What if we never talk again? What if they think this is my fault? What if they are telling other people it’s my fault? In your mind, the situation can very quickly snowball. It makes it difficult to actually have a good day and enjoy anything going on around you. It consumes you.

How many times has this happened to you? I often wear my heart on my sleeve, and am sometimes overly sensitive… so I find myself going through these motions often when an argument or situation arises. Going over and over things in my head can last for days, and I know it bothers me to no end when a situation like this goes unresolved. I can’t concentrate. I can’t enjoy life.

Recently, when something like this happened to me, I tried something new. I went through the process and went over the details in my head. I think this is a healthy exercise, and helps me identify exactly what happened. But rather than dwell on it and relive it over and over, or worry about things that may or may not happen, I stopped myself. Each time after that when my thoughts got rolling out of hand, I stopped myself then, too. Not only that, but rather than focusing so intently on the problem, and what happened, I began to try to think of a solution. I said to myself, “What can I do to fix this problem?” It dawned on me that shifting my focus from the problem, to working on a solution is the only positive action I could take to move forward.

I had to remind myself multiple times to stop the snowball of thoughts from getting out of hand, and I didn’t come up with a solution right away, but this process definitely helped! I didn’t feel terrible for days, until I could resolve the problem with the other person. I was able to enjoy the company of others without being grumpy or out of sorts. Thinking of a solution to the problem was a much more positive way of resolving things than dwelling on what went wrong.

Finally, I am learning to be able to file a problem away until the appropriate time. I was spending far too much time wallowing, and even bathing, in a problem, and not enough time enjoying what was right in front of me. We have only so much time on the planet; Why spend it bathing in ill feelings and worries about what if and reliving something you can’t change? Spend it moving forward!

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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