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This article was written by Tania Bhattacharya on behalf of Sherley Altidor.
Edited by Melody Simpson
I have often casually asked people what they wanted from life. In most cases, I got the reply: happiness. Come to think about it, isn’t it sad that so many people want to be happy – because you want something that is essentially currently missing from this life. Maybe I am overthinking this, maybe the people that I asked were not thinking about their answer from that perspective. But the fact remains—all of us could do better with more happiness.
Why is happiness such a rare substance? Why is it that not many of us can say to ourselves, “Yes, I am happy” and that statement be true? I think the problem lies with the concept of happiness and with the fact that we attach being happy with a lot of external factors. Another problem, I believe, is that we wait for others to make us happy. The fact of the matter is, none of that is going to help us reach happiness. It may seem like it on an external factor but internally and in the long run, we don’t have that fulfillment that this short term happiness may have provided us.
The first step we need to take in order to be happy is take charge. Like every other thing in our life, let us take responsibility for our emotional well being. Knowing that we are the only ones that can make ourselves happy will also make us more aware of how we respond to situations. This awareness will help us get a grip on identifying how we choose to feel. That awareness opens us up to understanding why we make the decisions that we make and from there, we can make the choice – our choice alone – to do better for ourselves.
Here are some other things that we should practice to be happy.
Appreciate the Small Things in Life
Remember that famous line, “Money can’t buy happiness?” While many times, we consciously or unconsciously associate happiness with a price tag, being happy has really nothing to do with how pricey we can get. Money can eliminate our financial stress but people with money can still find themselves without peace and joy.
Also read: Why Self-Preservation is Important
Here’s an example: You come home from work after a long, hard day and your dog comes running to you and greets you as soon as you open the door. Are you happy? Your 5 year old gifts you a beautiful hand-painted card. Aren’t you happy? You will be if you choose to be. You could either ignore that card, thinking of it as yet another DIY art project that you’ll have to pin on the fridge for awhile until the next one OR you can choose to see the effort that your child has put into making you happy. You can choose to understand that you were in your little one’s thought when she was creating it. That card that your child gave you is priceless. Happiness is looking beyond price and looking at value. When we do not feel valued, our happiness can diminish. This is why just being a provider is not enough. There is more to happiness than providing necessities. So when you notice the small things that make you happy, hold onto these things, which you can always have whether money is in the picture or not.
Do things that make you happy. Painting, dancing, cooking, reading… it can be anything. It is so important that you are in touch with your innermost desires. Feeding these desires feeds your soul and your soul will be so happy. I know it is easier said than done. But we have to do all that we can o nurture our soul, no matter what. You cannot serve others and keep them happy for long if you yourself go on depriving yourself of things that make you happy. Where’s the time? You have to make time for this in your daily routine. No one else will make the time for you. You are your biggest advocate. If you love reading, reserve 30 minutes every night after dinner or before everyone wakes up to do just that. Or take your half hour or hour break to listen to an audiobook while you eat and relax. You don’t need hours on end to pursue your object of happiness, although that would be wonderful. If you want, you can devote a day off each week to your desire. Or every Saturday afternoon. Do what works for you. Don’t hesitate to make known to your loved ones what time is meant for you and you alone. Reserve those 30 minutes for yourself and do not let anyone take that time away from you. Stand firm in this. When others around you see that you are serious about this time for yourself, they too will give it to you (and perhaps even begin to carve out their own “me time”). Try it.
Most of us know about endorphins, right? Those feel-happy hormones that are released when we exercise? Yes, that’s there, and there is also the BDNF or Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor. As we start exercising, our brains read it as a distress signal and release BDNF that protects and repairs the memory and eventually makes us happy. It really pays to go for a run around the block! It can be a 15-20 minute run or an hour walk. Find a workout that’s right for you and gets your blood flowing three to five times a week.
Talk to Loved Ones / Hang Out with Loved Ones
When’s the last time you had a heart to heart with a friend? When’s the last time you’ve hosted or been to a game night or trivia night? How about the last time you went to a drive-in movie? Find ways to switch up your favorite activities and find new activities to throw into the mix. Maybe a pizza party where everyone makes their own personal pizza from scratch. Perhaps a karaoke night is in your future! Maybe a scrapbook party with a printer nearby so that everyone can make copies of their favorite photos that other people in the group own. Take a walking tour in a nearby city with your pals. Expand what it means to have fun and explore with your loved ones and find joy in surprises along the way.
Declutter Your Life
Surround yourself with things that make you happy. If you cannot find the joy, the purpose in the things that are in your home, in your space, your safe haven, remove those things. There is no space for things that do not add value to your life so don’t be shy about decluttering and clearing your space, clearing your mind, and making room for the things that bring you joy.