“Happiness quite unshared can scarcely be called happiness.” ~Charlotte Brontë
Habits are a double-edged human habitual practice—they can be healthy and unhealthy, and can bring us happiness and unhappiness.
We've all read about the importance of healthy and successful habits, and how to choose and practice them. But I've also recently read about how healthy and successful habits alone don't necessarily lead to good health or real success. There's more to it.
What I'm reading now shows that happiness appears to be just as important to wellbeing and success as lifestyle choices, that happiness alone may actually lead to the good life in body, mind, and spirit.
Sometimes there are things in life we just have to do. They're neither painful nor pleasurable, just necessary chores. Why not lighten the load with a few little happy habits?
In my early twenties, I remember for years not being happy while shopping at the grocery market. To me, it was a dreaded chore.
I felt a certain sense of overwhelm just stepping into the market.
The overly-bright lights, the barrage of bad music interrupted only by the even more annoying announcements, the myriad choices (just shop the perimeter), deciphering the ingredients and nutrition facts labels (would the real food please stand out), the comparison shopping tasks (the mental math matters), the crowds and their carts (to maneuver around), having to remind the clerk time and again that I didn't want paper or plastic (I brought 'em and I'll bag 'em), and the expensive ka-ching! (silent swipe, actually) at the check-out.
And I also recall feeling guilty (first-world problem, right?) while shopping for groceries. There I was, a first-world affluent person with really, not relatively, more than enough money, free (from work) time, and access to good food, and I resented having to shop for it. I really felt unhappy about it.
Now, this may seem like a trivial problem, but think about it. This little habit was negatively affecting my happiness. And it was no laughing matter, literally. It was making me unhappy.
Is there something you must do each day or even once or twice a week, something that you're not happy doing? Are there a few of these somethings?
How would you describe your day-in and day-out days: happy ones with moments of unhappiness, or unhappy ones with moments of happiness? If there were simple little ways to create more happiness in your life, would you?
Even though about half of our happiness nature is actually found in the happy gene, there's still the entire other half (full or empty, depending on which genes you don) that you can choose to nurture.
Optimists, drink up! And pessimists, don't go thirsty! Practice simple, little happy habits.
1. Choose a simple, little happy habit.
First of all, simply set an intention for happiness. Would you like to create a little happiness for yourself and others? Just be conscious of your intention. Then choose a happy habit to practice.
What thoughts, words, and acts would naturally bring you and others happiness? What would work with your personality, your essential being, and not against it? What's something you could practice doing that would cause you to lose track of the time and effort it takes to do it?
Better yet, choose a happy habit that takes very little time and simple efforts in the first place.
How about just smiling at each person you encounter today? How about simply saying please, thank you, and you're welcome? How about sending an email to coworkers or clients expressing your appreciation?
Repeated small acts of kindness for yourself and others make for happy habits indeed.
2. Take a little time to simply practice it.
Is it something you can do any time of the day? Do you need to be in a particular position or situation, or need specific tools or materials? Can you do it even when you're tired? Remember, keep your happy habit practice simple and little.
Much like I set up a schedule for practicing meditation, I set up a schedule for practicing happy habits.
I set electronic reminders. I post sticky notes and make lists. I ask my husband to check in with me at the end of the day. I hold myself accountable for my happiness. Eventually, I'll be able to practice happy habits anywhere, any time, even with my eyes and heart wide open.
3. Go get a happy habit study buddy.
Share in this happiness. Enlist the help of a friend or family member. Open your happy heart. Make a little list of happy habits together. Share your notes. Text or email or call or meet up every so often to share ideas, celebrate successes, and encourage and inspire one another in your habit-making venture. Make a date to do something that brings you both a little happiness.
Are you ready for something even bigger? Join a group or club, or take a class. What have you always wanted to learn about and experience? Did you know that there is laughter yoga (Hasyayoga)? It's about practicing laughter (and breathing, of course)—laughter simply by way of laughter. Make your happy practice contagious too.
If you'd rather go it alone, simply keep a journal. Set a timer for a couple of minutes. Record your happy little intention. And reflect upon your simple, little happy habit day.
4. Check in on your little happy habit.
Just notice and pay attention to how you feel. Does your happy habit practice feel uncomfortable or comfortable? Is it hard or easy? Do you practice it willingly or unwillingly?
Basically, do you feel happy for yourself and others while you're doing it? If so, continue to make a habit of it. If not, it's time to choose something else, something simpler and littler. Start where you are.
What happy habit are you practicing right now? In the next hour? By the end of the day? Set small goals at first. As your strength happily increases and your happiness endurance builds, add new goals, happier ones.
Most research shows that it takes about a month to develop a new habit. Try practicing your little happy habit for a month and just see how happy you are. What've you got to lose, a little unhappiness?
5. Celebrate the littlest of happy habits.
Ultimately, being happier and sharing happiness is the goal and it's its own reward. But setting small goals at first and celebrating tiny steps of success will keep you on your happy habit path. Share your happy habits, happiness, with others.
Happiness, like laughter, is contagious. Infect everyone you meet. You'll be a little happy hero or heroine.
Who knows? Simple, little happy habits might make you happier, maybe even healthier, and quite possibly wealthier and wiser.
As for me, shopping at the market for groceries has gotten a lot happier over the years. I wear a happy hat to stave off the lighting, bring along a happy playlist of songs, smile at and help and even chat with my fellow shoppers, and I truly appreciate the abundance in my life. Life is good and happy.
And I've added new little happy habits over the years too. Sometimes when I send a thank you card to someone, I don't actually write on the card or the envelope. I write my words of thanks on a sticky note and place it inside the card. On another sticky note, I encourage the person to thank someone else today using the card and envelope that's right there.
Share happiness—write a comment, sharing your simple, little happy habits and how you practice them. We'd all appreciate it. Thanks, and smiles of happiness!
Photo by Mike Baird