Happiness isn't a one-size-fits all kind of emotion. How it manifests and how we experience it can show up in an infinite number of ways. Today I'd like to present a list of suggestions for mindfully working towards happiness - feel free to give one or two a try, or give them all a try!
You've already heard me gush about gratitude journaling. I try to stick with this every morning, listing 3 things for which I'm grateful. When it gets to feeling easy, I challenge myself to not repeat anything on my list for a week, then two weeks, then a month!
Learn something new. Challenging ourselves and hitting new achievements can get us out of a funk. What's on my list these days? Learning to play the ukulele and brushing up on both my French and Spanish (anyone want to practice?). Also picked up this great book on drawing flowers - I love having my hand in a few different things.
Phone a friend. Yes, you heard me right: phone. Texts are great, but getting on the phone requires more of our attention, gets us out of our heads, and opens us up to someone else's life. Whether it's listening to a friend's troubles and tapping into our sympathy or celebrating their happiness with them, both have the potential to lift our mood.
Get dressed. It can be tempting to succumb to sweatpants and dirty hair and to literally melt into the couch. However, simply getting up, taking a shower, and getting dressed and presentable can be a very uplifting activity.
Go outside. Walk to get your morning coffee or tea if that's an option. Sit on the patio and people watch. Go for a walk or a light jog. Of course movement can change your mood, but sometimes just being in a different environment can get you out of your head. If the weather isn't working for you, see above (get dressed) and change your scenery - book shop, museum, gym, you name it. A shift of scenery is sometimes just what we need to shift our perspective.
Take a social media detox. This doesn't have to be all-or-nothing. Maybe you just take a break from mindless scrolling and only go onto social media with intention (check out Amelia Barnes' Mindful Media Challenge for more tips). Also #LifeHack: unfollow any accounts that don't inspire you!
Meditate! I like to think of clearing my mind as a way to literally make space for happiness. Find some great guided meditations on Michela Swartz's YouTube Channel: Yoga With Michela. The best part? She has some super short ones to clear your mind in just a few minutes as well as some longer ones. And get ready for a lot of new meditation to drop - follow her on Instagram for meditation updates and upcoming opportunities!
Pay it forward. Coffee shop, toll booth, street meat cart - take your pick. Acting with generosity manifests abundance. Plus, think about how great the next person will feel!
And of course you knew there would be books!
For the one who wants to know why and how: 21 Days to Happiness. Each day (chapter) starts with information. Honest-to-goodness need-to-know stuff about happiness. Then there are sections for:
- HOW I PUT THIS INTO PRACTICE
- TRY THIS NOW
- ADDITIONAL RESOURCES (websites, videos, and apps just in case you want more information... but the beginning of each chapter is pretty thorough!)
- And finally a sheet titled "WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT THIS DAILY PRACTICE?" Which goes on to ask how it made you feel, what you liked about it, whether or not you would continue this practice on a weekly or daily basis (and how), what potential barriers do you see to this practice, and finally an overall thumbs up, thumbs down, or meh rating.
For the practical one: 52 Lists for Happiness. This one starts by cutting to the chase with List 1: List What Makes You Happy Right Now. Ah, but there is a twist: you're then challenged to choose one item on the list and "turn it into a daily practice of happiness." Each list is followed by a "TAKE ACTION." And this is really where the book becomes super practical. It's one thing to make a list of the things in your lift you are actually able to control, but it's another to follow that up (List 13) with instructions to "Cross off anything that involves other people. Ultimately the only things you are going to be able to control are your own actions and choices, and you'll feel better if you can spend less time worrying about the things you can't control. If you feel stressed this week, look at this list and allow your mind to focus on what you can control in a health manner rather than what is outside of your control."
For the skeptic: 52 Small Changes for the Mind. It's one small thing a week. Author Brett Blumenthal noticed that people had a difficult time making large scale all-or-nothing changes, but that "small changes are less overwhelming and more realistic, and they give us a sense of accomplishment more quickly. Regardless of the change a person wants to make, three things remain true: any more change actually requires many smaller changes; taking an all-or-nothing or extreme approach doesn't work; and small changes that we can manage and master feed our desire to succeed." You've got a week to master each small change and chances are you're already pretty good at some of them: sleep, play and eat brain-boosting fruit and vegetables for example.
For the dreamer: Design the Life You Love. A beautiful book with exercises guaranteed to flex your creative muscle. I love that this book acknowledges that your life is the most important project you'll ever work on! The rules: work (rather play!) at it for 20 minutes or so, know that the answers are always right, draw and write (with no emphasis on how well you perform either!), and be playful. Bonus: beautifully illustrated.