Sometimes, the commitments you make to yourself can be quite difficult to enforce. This is especially true if we’re talking about changing life-long habits.
When it comes down to it, if you want to feel happier you have to learn to refocus your thoughts on positive things and aspects of your life. What do you focus on or think about, most of the time? If you feel worried or anxious, you’re probably thinking about something negative. If you feel unhappy, you’re probably focusing on things you don’t want to happen (or have happened). As you hold onto those thoughts, scenarios or events, you eventually start to see them as your “reality.” As you constantly replay them in your mind, you end up subconsciously accepting them.
The key to feeling happier is controlling that focus and not allowing those negative loops to take over. This is what we mean when we say that “happiness has to come from within.” A thought that’s very cliché, yes, but true nonetheless. You have to guard that subconscious mind and pay attention to the information you feed it. There isn’t just one, simple way to do it. Instead, it’s something that requires developing new habits, willingness to enforce them on a regular basis, and, of course, commitment.
8 WAYS TO FEEL HAPPIER, RIGHT NOW
1. HAVE A GRATEFUL HEART
Gratitude can be one of the fastest ways to change your outlook on life. I’ve always considered myself a grateful person. It wasn’t until I started a daily gratitude practice (it all began with this book) that I noticed just how much I often took for granted. Even though I believed myself to be grateful, I still often complained or felt bothered by a lot of those “first world problems,” as we like to call them.
Be grateful for all the beautiful things in life, the things that make your life easier. Be grateful for your health, your family, all the way to down to things like running water. When you pay attention to all the good things in your life and let yourself to feel truly thankful for them, you notice more and more things that make your life beautiful and fun. You stop paying attention to everything that your life lacks. Gratitude helped me get through some of the most difficult times, times when I felt lost, broken and hopeless. I wanted things to change but felt hopeless. I realized that you can’t be ungrateful and expect things to change or improve. Appreciate all the good things and people in your life and always make sure to return the kindness that comes your way.
2. LEARN SOMETHING NEW, AS OFTEN AS POSSIBLE
I find great pleasure in learning new things. Having suffered from anxiety means that I’ve lived somewhat of a “sheltered” life for a long while. I didn’t like trying new things, I didn’t like facing any challenges, I didn’t like leaving my comfort zone (ya duh, it’s so warm and cozy in there) and frankly, I didn’t even like leaving my house.
Be a lifelong learner. Remember that you are never too old to learn something new, it is never too late.
It can be anything from a new language, cooking, photography, sport, reading, learning to play the guitar- anything that you think you might like. This is also a great way to get yourself out of a rut or find some inspiration whenever you feel that your life is lacking creativity.
3. DECLUTTER MORE
This goes both for things like tidying up your room/office/house, and your mind. Identify the things in your life that don’t serve you, and simply eliminate them. This will create more space and time for happiness, for doing the things you love. Create more time for appreciating every little thing in your life like spending time with your child, having dinner with your loved one, enjoying your morning tea, etc. The same goes for tackling all the clutter in your space. Clean up your closet, your kitchen cabinets or your office desk.
Get rid of everything you no longer need- a lot of this “stuff” can always be re-purposed, donated or recycled. I feel great every time after I clean up all the papers that have been piling up on my desk, or after cleaning up my closet and donating old clothes that I no longer need. I always feel incredibly relaxed, happy and organized after my de-cluttering sessions (which I do often, because, unfortunately, I do have some hoarding tendencies, although I have to say I’ve gotten much better over the last couple of years).
4. BE MORE PRESENT
If you think about it, THIS moment, THIS moment right here is never going to repeat itself. You can never go back on “now”, your “now” will always be here and now, in the present moment. Whether you’re reading your favorite book, drinking your morning coffee, spending time with your loved ones; do your best to be 100% present. Notice every smile, taste every single bite, feel every breath, every step, every kiss. Take time to celebrate your victories- even those very small ones as they are often just as important as the big ones.
5. SURROUND YOURSELF WITH PEOPLE WHO LIFT YOU HIGHER
Gossip, complaining, nagging and negative thinking- these are things that we all do. Some of us do both more often than others. Before I reading books like The Power or Spirit Junkie, things like that didn’t bother me. When it was time to get together with friends, it usually meant that we’d sit together, complain about our lives a little bit and maybe share a little gossip. Now, I recognize those habits as triggers that immediately change my energy. I no longer feel comfortable taking part in conversations where negative things or other people’s lives (who aren’t there) are the main topics being discussed. And guess what? I am much happier now. Your life is your story, that’s why you should edit it as often as you’d like.
You shouldn’t have to feel guilty about cutting someone out of your life if you feel that they have a negative influence. It may not always be easy, but it can be life-changing. Surround yourself with people who make you feel good about yourself, with people who smile a lot and laugh often, people who chose to see the good in others and help make you feel happier. At the same time, make sure that you, yourself, are the type of person you’d like to be around. If there are some people in your life who aren’t exactly a positive influence but there’s no possible way for you to avoid being around them, make sure that you don’t get sucked in their negativity. If you see them talk about something negative, try to turn the conversation around into something positive. Remember that protecting your energy is your responsibility.
6. HAVE A REGULAR WORKOUT ROUTINE
When I have a stressful day at work, the last thing I usually want to do is go through an intense workout session. This has become especially difficult since my back injury. But it’s on those days when I push myself a little harder; it’s on those days when I go a little further because once I do complete that workout, and I’m lying on the floor, exhausted, I feel 100 times better. I love what I do, but that doesn’t mean that my work doesn’t get stressful at times. You cannot let things you can’t control get to you and go through those intense workouts is what really releases that stress, it pumps up your endorphins which are your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, and instantly improves your mood. If sweat-drenching workout sessions are not your thing, go for a run or a brisk walk.
7. LEARN TO LET GO
Pretty much every single one of us has been hurt in the past. Whether it be a person or a series of unfortunate events, some of us hold a grudge against something or someone. If you want to be happy, you need to learn to let go. You need to learn to forgive. Forgiveness can change your life. I’m not only talking about forgiving others but also about forgiving myself. I’ve been putting myself down for years, never believing in myself, living in constant doubt. Once I found myself at a point where everything in my life was working out exactly how I dreamed, I experienced a huge setback. All of a sudden I once again found myself drowning in doubt, blaming myself for every small failure or mistake. I had to learn how to let go and forgive, all over again.
A lot of times we’re being way too hard on ourselves and don’t give ourselves enough love and credit for all that we do. Learning to let go of those limiting thoughts is a process, and you have to explore different techniques and habits to find out what works best for you. It can involve anything from using affirmations or mantras, journaling, creating a daily mindfulness practice or exploring therapy. Learn how to forgive others, but also yourself. Let go and move on.
8. BE STILL
Another very important thing that can help you feel happier is getting enough sleep. We’ve become used to being sleep-deprived as research proves that 1 in 3 adults do not get nearly enough sleep. Poor sleep patterns are linked to difficulty concentrating, increased levels of stress hormones and our overall health. Not to mention that lack of sleep makes us cranky and irritable. Combine it all together and you can picture just how much not getting enough sleep can affect your happiness.
The truth is that there isn’t just “one” thing that will make you feel happier. Being happy isn’t about reaching a certain point in life and saying “ok, now I’m going to be happy.” It’s about focusing on finding and trying different things and developing positive patterns that will make you feel happier, right now. If life has taught me anything in recent years, it’s that you can find happiness even in some of the darkest times. Even when everything seems to be falling apart- you just have to be careful about what you’re choosing to focus on.