As summer comes to an end, we are all hoping to carry just a bit of the warmth and happiness of the sunny season with us as we settle back into routine. But, can we ever really find happiness? What is the real stuff made of? Not the illusion that disappears along with the last bit of sand you shook out of your towel as you left the beach for the last time. I’m not so sure that we find happiness, but I am confident we can cultivate it, make a place for happiness, and be ready to experience it.
Here are my top 10 tips for nurturing happiness.
1. Say Thank You
There is a reason we teach children to say Thank you. It helps them recognize the good people and good things around them. We would be wise to do the same. Start, end, intersperse your day with a bit of gratitude. What are you thankful for? Name it. Write it down. Tell someone – tell yourself. I’m thankful for my husband who makes me coffee each morning, for podcasts on long car rides, a workplace filled with interesting people…
2. Choose It
We are the active ingredient in our lives. This is our life and we get a say in how we want it to look and feel. Some things we don’t control, and that’s okay, or at least it is the reality, but there is a lot we do control. We get to choose our attitude and our responses. Life isn’t always easy. Most of ours aren’t; we all have our struggles and pressures. But our lives are mostly good and we need to do our part in making it so.
3. Fill Your Life with Good People
Who are the people who make you feel good? Who inspires you? Who lends you a listening ear? Who are the people who support you? Who makes you laugh? Who do you spend time with and leave encouraged to be a better person? We are not meant to do this thing alone. We need people. We need good people. And we need to have them close by. See others as partners in creating and experiencing happiness.
Josiah Gilbert Holland
4. Share Freely
Pass the happiness along. If you see something that moves you – say so. If you meet someone and you are pleased – tell them. If your co-worker eases your work load – make mention of it. If a friend said something that got you thinking – let them know the impact of their words. Share your smiles, your ideas and even the pain life gives. Try it. See how others respond and see how it makes you feel.
5. Have Fun
Work expectations, kids, aging parents, financial worries: the demands of life are endless. No matter how much we do, the list is never done. We have the choice to endlessly run, or we can take a bit of time to have some fun. Play a game, dance while making dinner, be silly, laugh a little and see if happiness makes an appearance.
6. Do Something for Someone Else
Volunteer. Help a neighbor. Buy a surprise gift for a friend or family member. Ask a co-worker if you can do anything to help. Look around and see what needs doing – and do it – even if it’s not in your job description. Offer what you can to support a bigger cause. Go the extra mile just because you know it will make someone else happy. Emotions are contagious. Give happiness and you are sure to get some in return.
7. Invest in Your Health
Eat well, exercise and sleep enough. Most of us know more about the value of eating well, getting regular exercise and ensuring we are rested than we actually implement. It is hard to be happy when we are run down and tired. When we take care of our physical self we make a place for our emotional self to experience the happiness around us. Let’s not miss out because we are too tired.
8. Give Good Gifts to Yourself
The holidays are about gift giving. Make sure you are on your own list. Being nice to yourself should extend beyond the holiday season. Intentionally plan something for yourself. If you’re up to the challenge, try doing something each week. Even better, include a gift to yourself each day. It doesn’t have to have a price tag; the best gifts are usually about time.
9. Feel Deeply
Happiness is a feeling. Feelings come and go. Being a happy person does not mean it is our exclusive emotion. It can permeate our lives, but sadness, grief, uncertainty and frustration are also a part of the human experience. We don’t have to fear any emotion. Unsettling emotions are often the appropriate response, and they do not chase happiness away.
10. Slow Down and Hear Your Own Voice
Don’t hurry. Don’t rush. Don’t ask, “What’s next?” Happiness doesn’t have a secret recipe. Ask yourself: what do I need to be happy, deeply happy, to be content and at peace? These are hard questions; give yourself time to reflect and time to consider. Listen to yourself. No one knows your needs like you. And when you experience a bit of happiness, pause, take it in and return to tip 1.
Trainer, Crisis & Trauma Resource Institute Inc.