“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”~Dalai Lama
Some days I wake up with rocket fuel in my veins, ready to take the day by storm. Happiness comes totally natural. But on others it can feel like I have lead weights strapped to my shoes.
Have you ever been there?
We all have.
Happiness is a practice. It’s on us to learn it.
While some days are easier to find a smile than others, happiness is a daily choice. It’s a mindset we can nurture and train. That doesn’t mean it’s there every second, but when you notice it’s missing, often the tiniest shift can put you right back on top of the world.
Life will constantly test your ability to make a lemon martini out of the sourest of lemons. So be ready. Here’s your guide.
I know that some of the below sound pretty common sense. Unfortunately common sense is not always common practice. This stuff works.
Beginner’s Guide to Creating Simple Daily Happiness
1. Start strong.
Do something first thing in the morning that will ensure your day is a success. This is the ace in the hole. It’s easy to roll out of bed and onto the couch for some TV or into email for the rest of a meaningless day. You know this isn’t the best way to wake up on top of the world.
You know how good it feels to make progress on the meaningful things in your life. So do something about it. Have a simple plan the night before of what you’ll tackle first thing in the morning. For me, this is usually writing or getting active outside with a workout.
What is the one thing that would make today a success if you completed it? It may only take ten minutes or maybe two or three hours. Know what it is and get straight to it when you wake. Spending our time in a meaningful way has a special knack for making us feel awesome. The rest of the day will be pure gravy.
2. Plan less and live slower.
Don’t rush through tasks. One of the quickest creators of stress and killers of happiness is rushing and believing you don’t have enough time to smell the roses. There is always time. And if you don’t, the roses will eventually die.
Only plan to do one to three core things each day. Let the rest be a bonus. Plan twice as much time as you think it will take and don’t fill every second of your calendar with tasks.
Humans are notorious for having ridiculous expectations of what we can get done in a day and how quickly things take. Hence we’re left with a day full of stress and constant rushing. Speed alone can cause immediate stress.
So try this: Drive slower, walk slower (don’t run unless you’re working out), work slower, chew slower. You can slow down and still get things done.
3. Save time to be in awe.
If you always feel rushed, you’ll never feel you have time to enjoy the subtle, non-task-related wonders of life. Do the above and you’ll create space to be amazed by the world.
Walk in the sand with bare feet, play with a dog, feed a duck, go on a walk with no destination, catch a sunset, be in nature, or just find a bench and watch the world happen around you. You pick.
4. Get lost in a happiness flood.
Spend a few minutes thinking of all the bits of life that you are grateful for. The big and the small. What are you proud of? What’s made you smile recently? Think of the things that create an immediate smile.
Who are you thankful to have in your life? What people, experiences and things make life rich? You can do this anywhere—while on your walk or a workout or while on the bus. Your call. I love doing it while on my morning run.
When we are in an emotional state of pure gratitude, it’s impossible to feel negative emotions like stress, anger, or unhappiness. The simpler the things you can find to feel grateful for, the more often you’ll find yourself inundated in it.
5. Know what makes you happy.
All of us have things that immediately change our state. That make us smile, get us inspired, and simply make us happy. Maybe that’s a special song, a movie, a YouTube video, a certain workout, a book, or time with a friend. Keep track of these.
Spend ten minutes making a list in your journal and add to it anytime you notice a monster smile on your face. For me this is writing, vigorous exercise and the World Cup 2010 theme song “Wave Your Flag,” to name a few. Keep this list handy if you’re ever feeling down.
So simple yet so freakin powerful. This is as contagious as it gets. Do it everywhere. Be known as the person who’s always smiling, especially to those frowning. If someone is frustrated on the road or at a grocery store, just smile ear to ear.
All it takes is a few people to reciprocate and it will spread exponentially. Plus all kinds of studies have shown that the physical act of smiling fires off chemicals in the brain that create happiness.
7. Be around people who make you happy.
When you’re in a funk, the last thing you often want to do is be around others. Resist that at all cost. Life is about relationships and connections. It’s those you love (or any random person) who can change your mood in an instant.
Just be sure you choose carefully. Know who you enjoy being around, who brings you up, and who encourages positivity. Anyone who doesn’t fit this bill is not worth your time, ever. It amazes me how many people continue to spend time around negative people who bring them down. Life’s too short. Choose wisely.
8. Be selfless.
A nearly immediate route to happiness and fulfillment is to do something for someone else. It can be as simple as opening a door or as big as getting someone their dream job. This is what makes experiences rich. Do them daily.
Happiness not spent today does not equal more happiness tomorrow.
For some, happiness comes easy. No thought or routine required. For others, simple reminders and practices are all it takes. Happiness is a choice. It always will be.
Happiness only exists today. There is no waiting. If you aren’t happy today then you aren’t happy.
Don’t convince yourself that some sacrifice today is worth the hope of happiness in the future. It’s a fool’s game. You can have them both if you want.
You know the routine. I choose happiness. You?
Photo by Rob Lee