“Here’s a little song I wrote. You might want to sing it note for note. Don’t worry, be happy.” ~Bobby McFerrin
I was one of those people that when asked what they want in life, would say, “I just want to be happy…”
In my past, I suffered from debilitating depression. There was a period when getting the dry-cleaning and buying toilet paper was difficult enough.
So, I made it my mission to study what happy people do to stay happy, then I started doing what they were doing. And my happiness increased until I became one of those people I used to be envious of.
Here’s a list I use now on a daily basis as a reminder to increase my happiness:
1. Give yourself permission.
Permission to be who you are; permission to laugh big, to cry when you need to, to fail brilliantly, to make stuff; permission to fall apart, breakdown, and get back up again; permission to be different and unique; permission to go too far and reach your dreams.
2. Don’t take yourself so seriously.
Hold yourself with a “light hand.” Laugh at your foibles with amusement.
When things get tough or stress arises, lift your shoulders with an “oh well…” Know that it’s never as big or life devastating as your mind thinks.
Happy people trust that whatever glitch happens will work itself out.
They give a “Ha! Ha!” and a “So what? Who cares? Big Deal! Why not?” when met with resistances.
3. Don’t self-ruminate.
I remember a friend of mine from Mississippi saying, “Lynn, when are you gonna’ stop starin’ at your own belly button…?” (Insert: Southern drawl.)
I learned happy people don’t fixate on themselves and their problems. They don’t over-analyze the issue du jour.
When they start to get stuck on a problem or in their head, they put their attention on something else.
I remind myself to not have to have it all figured out: Get outside. Go back to your work. Plan something fun.
4. Don’t compare.
Comparison has been compared to a little death. When we compare ourselves to others, we harm ourselves.
Happy people know that they’re no better or less than another person. Someone will always be at a “more evolved place” and someone will always be “less-evolved.”
Note to self: Be concerned with only how to do your best and that’s all.
5. Make adjustments.
When something isn’t going your way, when your mood dips, or when you feel “off,” stay curious and self-aware. Fine-tune the energy in your body by making adjustments.
If you eat something that makes you feel poor, why eat it? Pay attention if that glass of wine the night before makes you feel crappy in the morning or that slice of pizza made you bloated or that ice cream caused you to crash, losing your focus and energy.
When you’re feeling stuck or heavy, take a walk, do something different than your normal routine, meet up with a friend.
If feeling anxious or stressed, tune-up with extra sleep, meditation/yoga or a hot bath…
6. Be of service and know how to take care of yourself.
Happy people want to give back. They have plenty to share. They volunteer, take time out to help a friend, offer to connect people to others for their betterment, and aren’t in need of getting anything back.
Commit to service but also stay aware of how to take care of yourself. When your energy gets depleted, remember to not give away to the point that you lose focus on your own emotional/mental/physical/spiritual health.
Have loving boundaries to care for yourself so that you have more to give.
7. Choose uplifting friendships.
When we have friendships and conversations that are uplifting, supportive, and loving, with people interested in our betterment, we are on a faster track to our own enlightenment.
If you hang out with someone and don’t feel great afterward, see less of that person and seek out other friendships.
Know which friends increase your happiness and nurture those relationships.
8. Be less interested in being happy and more interested in your peace of mind.
I used to think happiness was about being totally ecstatic. In order to balance out my feelings of hopelessness and depression, it seemed natural that my goal would be to be maximally blissed.
But with all the highs there’s a low—we eventually come down from it.
Remember not to get attached to the highs and focus more on experiencing peaceful aliveness.
When your life is at peace, there’s a relaxed balance; and the chances of sustained happiness and contentment increases.
9. Use your senses.
As they say, the ordinary is extraordinary.
Happy people receive pleasure from enjoying the simple joys in life, and usually they’re connected to our senses. This subtle awareness creates significant moments of happiness.
I discovered the pleasures I receive in the:
- Warmth of a teacup in my hands on a cold winter day
- Taste of a square of dark chocolate melting on my tongue
- Dance music in my cycle class that wakes me up
- Smile of a stranger on the street
- Aroma of my favorite essential oil and when people say, “You smell so good!”
Continue to mark pleasant sense experiences in your mind and carry them throughout your day to increase your spirits.
10. Don’t make your intimate relationships the end-all-be-all.
I used to think the person I was in a relationship with was there to give me my happiness rather than increase it.
Happy people understand that those they are in relationship with are an “addition to,” not a completion of them. They live full lives so that at the end of the day they have so much more to share.
A loving reminder: Don’t rely on your partner to shift your moods, heal you, or fill your empty spaces. And remember it’s not your responsibility to do that for your partner either.
Support is an important part of relationship. We’re there on the bad days with compassion and a loving embrace. We’re there on the good days to cheer them on.
But mostly, we rely on ourselves to give that to ourselves. We trust that our partners can wrestle with their own demons. We offer space for them to discover their own happiness, while we focus on creating our own.
What might you put your focus on to continue to increase your own happiness?
About Lynn Newman
Lynn Newman has a Masters in Counseling Psychology, is a writer, painter, and game creator (like The Game of You & The Game of Insight – An Interactive Way To Know Yourself, Create The Life You Want). She’s big into unleashing the truest, free-est parts of you, to experience more joy, purpose, and passion in life. Visit her at LynnNewman.com.