5 Tools To Get Happy Now

“We either make ourselves happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same.” ~ Carlos Castaneda


Image by Kristina Alexanderson

What are you thinking about right this minute? A mile-long to-do list that needs to be tackled, or your malfunctioning laptop? Are you focused on the latest frustrating conversation with your spouse/child/best friend/boss? Are you consumed by the fact that you need to get your novel/outline/website whipped into shape, and pronto?

Well, stop fretting long enough to consider this: We all experience challenges, face disappointments, and get sidetracked and overwhelmed by day-today responsibilities, but we also have the ability to select our attitude. And as annoying as this statement may be, you can choose to be stressed and unhappy, or to handle it all with relative ease. The decision is yours.

Happiness is a mindset. Are you pleased that you have a full life and places to be, or are you choosing to look at everything as a burden? Take a moment to acknowledge that your imperfect ride gets you around so you don’t have to take the bus. Be happy that your spouse/child/best friend/boss (hey, you need that job!) is still on the planet. Find pleasure in the fact that you own a washing machine so you aren’t forced to scrub your clothes on a rock in the river.

Contentment is a choice, not a a gift life will present to you someday if you’re lucky. Joy is a by-product of the journey you’re on.  Happiness is not a destination, it’s the vehicle.

Paula & Mireia

Image by Toni Verdú Carbó

Benefit: Happy attracts more happiness
Are you aware that being a happy person will help attract friends and opportunities and can actually increase your income? People are drawn to the charisma of an upbeat personality. Happy employees get more promotions, and cheerful, competent folks are those most likely to be socially accepted and admired.

Benefit: Happy people are healthier
There’s lots of science that backs up the premise that a positive attitude contributes to physical health. For instance, in 2008, the American Journal of Epidemiology published Dr. Andrew Steptoe’s results from a University College London study of 2,873 healthy adults between the ages of 50 and 74. It found that test results for the Brits with consistently good moods revealed lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol. The study concluded that happier people are also healthier people.

Do not wait. Don’t placate yourself with the lie that you will be happy “someday.” Someday is today. Make your happy start right now. If you’re having trouble getting there and you need tools, here are five you can try!

  1. Don’t put any energy on the bad. A few weeks ago I broke 4 drinking glasses, one at a time, in the space of an hour, all under different circumstances but the end result was the same each time: a frustrating mess. Fortunately for me, I managed to take it in stride, thanks to my Super Woman tool: I tell myself not to put any energy on it. That means no deep dark thoughts, no meltdowns, no rants or venting. I didn’t complain to anyone about my bad luck, I just cleaned it up and moved on. Dark energy just attracts more of the same. The next day I went shopping and bought 4 lovely new glasses.
  2. Act happy and reap the rewards: Try “acting as if.” Research has shown that when you act as though you’re happy (even when you’re not), your body will produce the corresponding emotions. So pretend. Act cheerful and you will actually become a happier person. Just put on an Academy Award performance (for yourself!) until you literally feel like the character you are portraying.
  3. Find a core affirmation and use it: Choose a creative thought or affirmation that will help you shift. My current favorite is “Everything is an opportunity,” and I this phrase as a reminder that the trouble I’m facing isn’t the bigger issue, it’s how I choose to cope with it that will make the real difference. We are truly not able to control what life throws at us, but we are completely in control of our reaction to what comes.
  4. Teflon and rubber, anyone? Pretend you wear a super-hero protective coating of Teflon and rubber. Now imagine that this coating has the ability to deflect anger, confrontation, hurt, rejection, and drama. Nothing bad sticks. Everything you do not want in your life bounces off or slides away, and you pass through unscathed. We cannot manipulate the behavior of others, but we can guide our own.
  5. Gratitude, of course!  We’ve all heard that practicing an attitude of gratitude increases happiness, but do you do it or just give the theory lip service? Over several months, my attitude flipped to the bright side after I got a new bed, of all things. I started to wake up each morning feeling outrageously grateful for my new-found comfort, and over time, each morning, I added to that feeling by reciting a static list of the things in my life I appreciate. Winning!

Refuse to allow anything or anyone to steal your joy! Enough anger, hate, and strife permeates this world we live. If our desire is to inhabit a loving, compassionate planet, the change begins with us. As we become more peaceful and content, we will raise the positive energy around us and draw more blissful events and folk into our lives. Start today to make your corner of the Earth a more optimistic place to be!

Writing prompt/Exercise:
Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present. ~ Jim Rohn

Readers, if you’d like to explore this idea further, you can list behaviors, people, events, and situations in your life that make you feel unhappy. Leave room beside each one to record possible alternatives and solutions. Do you see a pattern?  How can you enjoy more happiness-inspiring influences and avoid, downplay, or overcome elements that put a damper on joy? Leave a comment and share!

  • When you feel down, what can you do to increase your level of happiness? What positive things can you do to change your attitude? List simple (free!) activities you can engage in that are proven to make you feel better (unh-huh, I know what you’re thinking).
  • List what you know about yourself and happiness that you were clueless about a decade ago.
  • Which aspects of your home, neighborhood, and community make you feel really happy?
  • What places do you visit that make you feel particularly cheerful?
  • List a dozen things you expected to bring you happiness that did not.
  • List people, events or things you did not expect to make you happy that did.
  • List the times in your life when you felt the happiest.
  • List the times in your life when you felt extremely unhappy.

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Image credits: Kristina Alexanderson, Toni Verdú Carbó

42 Responses to 5 Tools To Get Happy Now

  1. Tracey Alvarez July 29, 2013 at 3:29 pm #

    A very timely blog post – thank you so much, Molly! I’d been stressing all morning jumping on the Chicken-Little bandwagon of “The sky is falling!” with all the earthquakes my little city of Wellington has been going through for the last 8-9 days. Although your article is about being happy, I think they’ll also help control the endless worry-treadmill I’m currently running on.

    • Molly Greene July 29, 2013 at 3:37 pm #

      So sorry to hear this! We get some pretty good quakes here in So Cal, as well, and they are understandably unnerving. I guess this falls under the heading, “Everything is an opportunity.” Hold on to your solid inner core, Tracey, and hang in there!

  2. Pamela Beason July 29, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

    Good post, Molly. There will always be bad things that happen to us and things that make us angry. We all have little control over those, but we can control our reactions. I once learned a great lesson from a field hand I was working with. As we bundled thorn trees for farmers and discussed the inequities of life, she said, “I have a rule. I ask myself if I will still be angry about the matter in a year. If the answer is Yes, then it’s worth making a fuss about. If the answer is No, I just shrug it off and go on my way.”
    Now that’s my rule of thumb, too. And there’s very little that would make me stay angry for a year! When I get depressed or irritated, I go for a walk or take my kayak out. How can anyone stay in a bad mood when the trees are full of orioles and wrens or an otter is swimming beside your boat? Life is full of so many beautiful moments; you just have to teach yourself to see them and rejoice.

    • Molly Greene July 29, 2013 at 4:07 pm #

      Pam, reading your comment brought tears to my eyes. Thanks for pointing out two MORE tools: 7) Is ANYTHING worth being upset about for a year? and 8) go find something that fills you with awe and let it blow the hurt and pain out of your system. Thank you SO MUCH for the reminder to focus on the good!

  3. Robyn Jones July 29, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

    How timely! Thank you for this post. I’ve been terribly down all day since my son’s new school told me their summer session was for typical kids and not my boy with autism who won’t have a normal school day anyway. I’ve been climbing out of the sadness with a plan of action, but I never considered even striving for happiness or contentedness. I think I’ll take the boys to the zoo and fake it till I make it! Thanks Molly!

    • Molly Greene July 29, 2013 at 4:01 pm #

      Oh, Robyn! I’m so grateful if my words could help brighten your day. Teflon and rubber, my friend. “Remove yourself from the premises” should be tool #6!

  4. Marie Pinschmidt July 29, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    Excellent post, Molly. Thanks.

    • Molly Greene July 29, 2013 at 4:47 pm #

      Thank you so much, Marie!

  5. Connie Rossini July 29, 2013 at 5:04 pm #

    Molly, I hope you don’t mind my using a religious example. I’ve been working on trusting God more (in fact, I’m writing a book about it). Every time something frustrating/outside my plans happens, I say, “Jesus, I trust in you.” I have an image I picture in my mind to to give up my stress and accept God’s peace. It’s really changing me!

    On a more prosaic note, my mother bought me a set of colorful kitchen knives for Christmas. Sometimes just looking at them brightens my mood.

    • Molly Greene July 29, 2013 at 5:14 pm #

      Of course I don’t mind! It seems to me that what we really need to do is find the handful of thoughts or processes that speak to us as individuals and help us shift. Although I didn’t include it in my tool list, I must ask five times a day, “Show me the way.” Thanks so much for the read and your lovely comment, Connie!

  6. Chris Mentzer July 29, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

    I consider myself a religious man and when I need to be cheered up I think of Phil. 4: 11, “Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content.” The apostle Paul wrote that when he was in prison with no hope of release. If he can be content in prison, then I can be content and happy with my life!

    • Molly Greene July 29, 2013 at 5:25 pm #

      Very well said and so true! Thanks so much, Chris.

  7. Laura Hedgecock July 29, 2013 at 5:33 pm #

    Hi Molly,
    This is my first visit to your blog and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I’m always skeptical of “happy face” strategies, but you covered several techniques of finding happiness despite everything going on around you. I love the exercises too!

    It reminded me of that old saying, “Life is 5% what happens to you and 95% how you react to what happens to you.”

    Thanks for sharing your insight.

    Happily yours
    Laura Hedgecock

    • Molly Greene July 29, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

      Hi Laura! Welcome and I’m so glad you enjoyed the post. I’m a skeptic, too, so I’m into practical, workable tools because that’s what works for me. Thanks for sharing the saying – my Mom used to say, “Life is what you make it.” Come back and visit often!

  8. Garry Rodgers July 29, 2013 at 6:23 pm #

    Mark Twain had a great quote – ‘I reckon most people are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.’ 🙂

    • Molly Greene July 29, 2013 at 6:26 pm #

      Hi Garry! I know that’s true for me. Now my goal is to make up my mind to be even happier more often. Thank you so much for stopping by!

  9. Belinda Pollard / @Belinda_Pollard July 29, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

    “Make your happy start right now.” What great advice, Molly. We can spend so much of our lives waiting for our life to start, if we’re not careful.

    I’ve had a frazzling year. Not in the terminal illness/death of a loved one type of category. More just a “death by a thousand paper cuts” type of year.

    I’m a praying person like a couple of other commenters, and I felt a conviction a month or two ago that I needed to begin starting my prayers with thanks, before I got stuck into the Asking section (otherwise known as the grovelling, moaning and bleating section). So I started to list all the things I could think of to be thankful for — anything at all. “Thank you that I have a roof over my head. Thank you that I have food in the fridge. Thank you for useful work to do.” etc etc etc

    I tried really hard NOT to immediately turn those Thanks around into Asking, but just to let them stand as thanks, and leave the Asking till a bit later.

    And just as you found, I noticed that my attitude and my coping ability was strengthened. Some days I can only think of a couple of things to be thankful for, and others it goes on and on and I just keep thinking of more and more things.

    In my next prayer I’ll be able to say, “Thank you for Molly’s blog post which reminded me again of the value of thankfulness.” 🙂

    p.s. just exactly what was in those drinking glasses, girl, that you kept on droppin’ em! 😉 😀

    • Molly Greene July 29, 2013 at 7:03 pm #

      I love the saying “death by a thousand paper cuts,” and that’s exactly the kind of year I had last year, too. And I think it was because of that I decided I didn’t want to repeat it all THIS year. New attitude time, and it all starts with what we have in our lives we can be grateful for. As for the glasses, it was actually four different types – one wine glass, one water glass (my last), one juice glass, and one coffee mug. Accck!

      • Laura Zera July 29, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

        If this weren’t a blog post about happiness, you could have said that you just started drinking out of the bottle… . But glad that you got new glasses.

        • Molly Greene July 30, 2013 at 8:37 am #

          Made me laugh!! Love you dearly for that. I’ve often considered just doing away with the glasses, since I live alone and no one would know. LOL!

      • Belinda Pollard July 30, 2013 at 1:12 am #

        Hmm, I think they were more than “paper cuts” you faced. But like Laura, glad they weren’t ALL wine glasses! 🙂

        p.s. sorry my comment was so loooooooong. Did it on my mother’s laptop and didn’t see the length!!

        • Molly Greene July 30, 2013 at 8:39 am #

          Mwah! Last year was one for the history books. This year is about peace and acceptance. Love you, talk as long as you want!

  10. Victoria Grefer July 29, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

    I know I have an unhealthy habit of comparing where I am in life with what other people have accomplished–especially friends and family. When I do, I feel that I don’t measure up.

    Comparisons are never good. They are never made on a valid basis because everyone has different struggles, different talents and advantages, and different personalities. We are all meant to achieve something unique that no one else can. (At least, I am a religious person and believe we are all created for a purpose.)

    I know I can be happier by stopping comparing myself to other people and focusing isntead on my achievements, forward momentum, and goals.

    • Molly Greene July 30, 2013 at 8:31 am #

      Thank you for bringing this up, Victoria, because this is what I do on my “down” days, as well: Wonder why everybody else is succeeding while I’m just scraping by. I think though – especially this year – that these episodes are getting shorter and farther apart. And I am so grateful for that! Another thing I try to remember is that everyone has a story, one we often have little or no knowledge of. Reminding myself of that helps me “cut others a little slack” when my feathers get ruffled. Thanks for your lovely comment!

  11. Shirley Ford July 30, 2013 at 12:52 am #

    Thanks Molly, for re-inforcing and reminding me of all the things I know I should do and don’t.

    • Molly Greene July 30, 2013 at 8:38 am #

      Shirley, I wrote this post to remind myself!

  12. Terry Tyler July 30, 2013 at 1:38 am #

    Excellent post, not preachy! I’m a great believer in doing the little things that make you happy – giving in after a hard day and collapsing into bed with a favourite book, for instance. I think being happy is a cumulative thing. Also, even if you might have a bad time ahead (eg, health issues that will become worse), it’s important to enjoy and appreciate the NOW, the bits you CAN make happy 🙂

    • Molly Greene July 30, 2013 at 8:43 am #

      Thanks, Terry! I’m all about rewards collected upon completion of a task or goal 🙂 I think you’re so right, happy is cumulative, it gets easier to achieve after a little dedicated practice. I’ve been practicing more this year, and I see positive results. I want more!

  13. Sue July 30, 2013 at 2:31 am #

    Thanks for sharing this advice… “We either make ourselves happy or miserable. The amount of work is the same.” ~ Carlos Castaneda. It makes a lot of things. It is going to be an equal effort so why chose the bad way right? 🙂

    • Molly Greene July 30, 2013 at 8:24 am #

      Exactly, Sue. The hard part for me is application – understanding that I have the choice is relatively easy, implementing it can be another. Thanks so much for weighing in!

  14. Jeri July 30, 2013 at 2:25 pm #

    I tend to ruminate, but since I know that is my tendency, I have also learned ways to trick myself into thinking more positive thoughts. The best fix is to keep one’s self busy, busy, busy.

    • Molly Greene July 30, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

      I also tend to over-think, Jeri. Another tool I use is “Remove yourself from the premises.” When possible. lol!

  15. Marla Madison July 31, 2013 at 6:29 am #

    Nice blog on happiness! I for one need regular reminders that happiness is a mindset! We tend to fall into the trap of “my mood depends on what’s happening TO me.”
    A tip I heard recently, (sounds silly, but works!) is to smile at yourself in the mirror every day.
    Have a nice day, Molly, I need to go find a mirror!

    • Molly Greene July 31, 2013 at 9:35 am #

      Marla, I need to go find a mirror, too! Thanks so much for the tip – and the reminder. I used to tell myself, “How you feel has nothing to do with what you need to do,” but that didn’t really cover the “be happy in spite of what’s happening” part of the issue. Thanks so much for your comment!

  16. Linda Kinsman July 31, 2013 at 7:25 am #

    I came to your blog this morning to read your post on comment etiquette- (loved) and I haven’t left yet because I was drawn to this post and all the wonderful comments.
    I have been a stressed out mess the last 6 months and that is oh so hard for this glass is half full, happy go lucky lady to admit. I am taking away #4 today and I wrote be peaceful and content on the top of my planner today.
    Thanks for the reminders that I am in the drivers seat to happy-ville!

    • Molly Greene July 31, 2013 at 9:41 am #

      Ah, Linda! I write what I most need to learn – last year was my stressed-out mess year, this year I began to focus more on peace and contentment. Keep in touch and let us know how it goes for you – best to you in all you do!

  17. Lori Draper July 31, 2013 at 1:44 pm #

    Wonderful! You might like to look at information about Mindfulness! This really is what you are talking about!

  18. [email protected] July 31, 2013 at 2:56 pm #

    Ruminations used to be my weakness, but I try not to give them much traction. I also had to catch myself looking at the clock and rolling through my to-do list even as I read this blog!

    It takes awareness and practice for sure … thank you for the reminder, Molly!

    • Molly Greene July 31, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

      Thanks, Eli. Fear of bad things happening is my biggest issue. Today, anyway. So I’m practicing my “Everything is an opportunity” mantra. Thanks so much for stopping by!

  19. Thad James August 5, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    I couldn’t agree more! One more point: Surround yourself with positive people and avoid the negative people. Whenever I meet clients or colleagues, I bring my uplifting attitude. Nothing spoils the mood faster that a person complaining about their day. Being happy attracts happy! Thanks for the article.

    • Molly Greene August 5, 2013 at 10:17 am #

      So true, Thad, thanks for reminding us. Complaining about something just keeps it alive and makes it harder to move on to better things. Thanks for stopping by!