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