Happiness. It is (almost) everyone’s ultimate goal in life. I find this is true in my own life also. But to be more specific, what I desire most is an undercurrent of joy flowing throughout my life and body in every moment. Joy is my name after all.
I, along with many millions of people, spend countless hours reading, learning and testing about what brings the most joy into my life. In life, it is easy to be happy when the sun is shinning and life is swell, but what about on those dark days when life doesn’t go so according to plan and the Dementors are out in force?
(This is one of my favourite Grumpy Cat memes and ironically it makes me giggle, regardless how grumpy I am.)
Knowing what gives you joy is a great start on the path to personal happiness. Define your own set of guidelines or a personal manifesto; living within your own guidelines will bring peace, happiness and structure to your life. One of the most well-known manifestos is the Holstee Manifesto, it is a comprehensive starting point if you are beginning to create your own. Two of my other favourites to get you inspired are Baz Luhrmann – wear sunscreen and Lululemon.
In conjunction to a personal manifesto, there are a few things you can do each day to help maintain an undercurrent of joy in your life, most of which will interweave with your own manifesto in some way or another.
Be present – in every single moment. We are so easily distracted by the miniature technology device in our handbags (or pockets) that moments of joy pass us by while our faces are stuck to a small lit-up screen. Last year a friend
encouraged reprimanded me to “be with the ones you are with.” It really resonated with me and has been ingrained in my mind ever since. To take it further a step further, focus on now, not what you have to do 5 minutes from now or what happened 5 hours ago, let it all go. The best way I have found to do this is to concentrate on my breathing which leads me to…
Breathe/Meditation – take time out each day to meditate, even if it is just for 5 minutes. Meditation can calm you and bring about a sense of peace and balance. When you are in a moment of stress, focus on your breath flowing in and out of your body. Your mind may wander off, don’t fret, simply bring it back to concentrating on your breath.
Gratitude – Make a list of things you are grateful for, then add at least one thing to it each day. Searching for the positive in life will help you to realise that there is joy in your life, even in the darkest hour. We all have something to be grateful for, as we search for the good in our lives, it trains our brain to automatically start looking for the good in any situation. Take a moment to enjoy all the little things, such as the way the sunlight comes in your window in the afternoon, you’ll soon start finding joy everywhere.
Time with the ones you love – Connecting with others and having rich, loving relationships brings so much joy into our lives. It is one of the most significant ways to achieve happiness, yet we can so easily get caught up in our “busy” lives doing the urgent things, we don’t make time for the important things like this. Don’t leave this up to chance, make time to regularly connect with your loved ones.
Simplify – Less really is more. Let go of the things that are holding you back, whether it be physically or emotionally. Then find a few things that brings you the most joy to fill your time with as you let go of the rest. I love being creative, spending time with loved ones, eating, exercising, helping people to add value to their lives and exploring new places/travelling. I am in the process of having a schedule filled with more of the things I love, which means I do have to say “no” to things that don’t fall within my list.
Exercise – Exercise at least 3 times per week, even if it is just taking a 30 minute walk. It has been said that the de-stressing benefits of exercise can almost last up to 2 days, and who doesn’t like to look and feel good? I feel the best right after I exercise so I try to do it on a daily basis.
“Exercise produces endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people don’t shoot their husbands.”
Elle Woods in Legally Blonde.
Sleep – Turn off the TV/laptop/phone or any other kind of bright screen at least 30 minutes prior to sleeping, it will help your brain to switch off; bright screen stimulation late at night messes with melatonin production. Your bedroom should be clean, tidy, clear of clutter and technology devices. Although it is not always possible, go to bed about the same time every night.
Do work you love – We spend at least 1/4 of our week working, so shouldn’t that time be spent doing something you are passionate about? If you don’t like your job, quit. Find something you are passionate about and do that. 40 hours a week is too much time to be spent doing something that doesn’t feel rewarding or bring you joy.
Laugh – Find the silly in life. As children, everything could crack us up. When did becoming an adult mean everything had to be serious? There are funny things happening around us everyday, waiting to make us giggle if we only take a moment, to be in the moment and see them.
Help others – Find a cause that moves you and get involved. On a flight last year I sat next to Jessica Jackley, the owner of Kiva. Kiva began 8 years ago and is a non-profit that gives loans to entrepeneurs in third world countries. She found something that affected her and ran with it, today the organisation has lent out over $400 million in loans. I’m not saying you have to start a non-profit, but you can do one nice thing for someone different each day.
Learning – I find so much joy in learning a new skill, it gives me a rich feeling of achievement. When you learn something new, your brain is creating a new pathway, not only does it feel good, but it also keeps your “mind” young.
Explore – Get to know your city on foot (this can be an easy way to inadvertently exercise). If you live near a river, lake or forest take a walk through nature. I moved to NYC last year, so can’t go on nature hikes like I used to but have found that walking through the city and exploring new streets can be a great way to de-stress, not to mention there is beauty in the architecture. If you are walking through an area you’re familiar with try to look at it through new eyes, you’ll be surprised at what you’ll find.
Happiness is achieved through balancing a mix of everything I have mentioned and following your personal manifesto. The healthy habits you form while doing this will bring flow into your life.
Actions and emotions are so closely interlinked that we can change one with the other. I strive to act the way I want to feel. If I’m in a funk, I can act happy by doing the things that make me happy, then the happy feeling will follow. I guarantee, it is a lot easier to change our actions than our feeling. As cliché as it sounds, happiness is a journey, not a destination. Joy should be something we carry with us at all times, not just when things are going our way. Be happy.
“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.”
-Dalai Lama XIV