I was sitting on a plane the other day looking around and everyone looked miserable. Mature aged adults were sitting with ipads playing games to try and distract themselves from their mundane thoughts. I felt a surge of inspiration to write about ‘how to be happy’ and I put pen to paper with a level of enthusiasm that even raised the eyebrow of the dejected and bored human beside me.
My wife sometimes refers to me as a ‘bouncing labrador’ since I’m mostly happy, up beat and positive. I do believe that happiness can be a learned behaviour and emotion. Although I don’t claim to be an expert in happiness, I’ve listed what has worked for me so far in life so that you can add to your list of what works for you:
1. Develop positive affirmations about your life. I’ve long ago felt that I am ‘the luckiest guy in the world’. This started long before I left school and think that because I actually believe that, my life then plays out in such a way to make it true. By looking for ways that it’s true I reinforce my belief that indeed it is true. I may have felt that my getting RA was the end to my lucky streak. Nope. Instead I questioned ‘in what way is this eventually going to play out to be consistent with the fact that I’m the luckiest guy in the world?‘. So I simply wouldn’t tolerate anything other than the way I expected my life to be. It just had to end well for me eventually because that’s the way that my life is. Now, it took what seemed like an eternity for me to get to where I wanted to be, and at times I seriously questioned the path I chose, but eventually I was fortunate enough to find my destination. That’s how powerful my affirmation has been in shaping my future.
Unsupportive thoughts are:
“it’s just my luck that this would happen”
“There’s no way could I do that”
“I’m not smart enough”
“I’m the unloved one in the family”
…and a million others that we’ve all said too often to count. Stop saying that crap. It is crap and you know it. Talk yourself up. Blow your own trumpet. You’re awesome and you know it.
2. Happiness is “having someone to love, something to do and something to look forward to”. If you can tick each one in your mind then you’re not doing too bad.
3. Seek nature at all opportunities. See it, smell it, feel it, indulge yourself in the perfection of nature. You can almost feel yourself lift just thinking about it.
4. When something is bothering you then take massive action. My dad says ‘when you feel fear, act’. Tremendously crush and obliterate all worries by applying your more-than-adequate skills to reverse or avoid the threat. If you’re still at a loss, observe how someone else has achieved what you want and model that. Success leaves clues.
5. Be deeply grateful for as much as you can. We all have blessed lives in some areas and all of us have more than we realise. Give thanks for those areas often. Have an attitude of gratitude.
6. Improve your natural appearance. Sometimes just washing you hair can make you feel better! Go to the gym. Shave. Whatever. An inexpensive simple self-improvement exercise can help you glow a little more and give you a quick boost.
7. Stack your successes. For example, list 5 things that you have accomplished in the past week, even small things. Embellish them, truly acknowledge how you’ve succeeded in these things. Listing them back to back ‘stacks’ them and makes you feel more accomplished. When I feel I’m not good at something, or feel like I’m failing, I will stack in mind all the ways I have achieved in this area in the past – no matter how small – so that I can feel more successful in this area. This lifts my spirits.
8. Failure doesn’t exist. Whenever I’ve caught myself feeling like a failure, all it really means is that the answer wasn’t underneath that rock. That’s good to know, so you don’t have to check under that rock again. Now look under the next rock, and the next. It’s under there somewhere. All you are doing is checking under rocks every time you’re trying to achieve your goal. You’re ‘testing’ this and ‘testing’ that and eventually you get a win. Some great advice that I was given by another entertainer once to reduce nerves and to relax into the show was ‘always imagine that this gig is just a rehearsal for the next one’. It applies to so much more in life. What if everything was just a rehearsal? You’d engage with it more, have fun with it more. There’s no pressure that if your next move isn’t the one that changes your life. The only thing you have to do is to never stop checking under rocks. Laugh when the result ‘isn’t under that rock’ because now you’ve just gotten that little bit closer to finding the answer.
9. Ask better questions. Good questions are ones that pre-suppose that you are already ‘enough’ and that you are already loved and that you’re already successful. For example, a great question might be ‘what else can I do right now to help myself heal even more?!’
10. Meditate. One session of 15 min or more of just simply sitting alone with your eyes closed in silence will change your day for the better every time.
11. Do what you like to do and do it often. Why try and reinvent the wheel? If you know what makes you happy, and it doesn’t sabotage you (in the way that bad habits like smoking do), then engage in your favourite things as often as you can. Ideally, make your income tied to what you enjoy doing. Then even ‘work’ is play. Could life get better? I submit that it could not.
12. Do something extraordinarily healthy. Vegan? Then you’ve got this one covered big time! You’re not only being kind to yourself and setting yourself up for success, but you’re doing the upmost for the planet and the humane treatment of other animals. That’s enough to be happy about right there.
13. ‘Look for Awesome’. Remember the last time that you bought a car and right afterwards you see that same type of car everywhere? Before that you hardly noticed those type of cars because you just weren’t looking for them. In the same way, if you notice things all the time that you’ve habitually learn to pay attention to. Now it’s time to look for ‘awesome’. Look for behaviours or achievements in others that you consider awesome. Talk about them, praise them, learn from that person. Soon enough you’ll be noticing ‘awesome’ behaviour all around you – it becomes what you see and soon thereafter what you expect from yourself. Try to identify someone doing something awesome today. And tomorrow. And the next. Then look for what you’re doing that’s awesome and do more of it. Happiness goes hand in hand with all things awesome.
14. Get Smarter. Education can feel like the strengthening and empowering of the brain muscle. When it’s a topic you enjoy, the brain can feel like it’s rejoicing with every new discovery and every new ‘ah ha!’ moment. I have sometimes even had the comparable experience of reading remarkable truths as watching fireworks as the revelations glitter and explode into your mind like colours from the page. There is so much potential in the future for those who are constantly educating themselves. My dad says ‘you’re never too old to stop learning’. I believe that while you’re still learning, you’re growing and when you’re growing you’re not stagnant, bored or unhappy. What would you like to learn more about right now? Go learn it. Indulge in it. Master it. Then you’ll feel like a better version of you, because you literally will be.
15. Contribute. Do something good for someone or something. There’s a sense of joy knowing that you’ve just made this world a better place. Even if nobody else is aware of it except you.
16. Exercise. Endorphins – what else needs to be said? Feel good fast. Move that body!
17. Know how good you are – you are a creative being, surviving off an invisible substance we call ‘air’ that just happens to be all around you. Your heart beats without effort to keep you alive. You have 7 trillion bacteria calling your body as home. The whole concept of life itself is amazing. Don’t blow your chance of this incredible thing called life by moping around feeling sad.
18. My mum said to me yesterday ‘life just hurtles past’. It’s good to constantly remind yourself how little time we really have on earth. Soon enough we’ll all be gone. Celebrate in life itself – there is joy just having that.