Finding Happiness, One Change at a Time

Do you know what makes you happy?  Truly happy? Not just laugh-out-loud happy but genuine, serene happiness; the kind that gives you a content spirit and a heart full of joy?

snoopy 6According to research from the Pursuit of Happiness Organization  you will most likely be happier if you do just ONE the following:

  1. Express your heart
  2. Cultivate kindness
  3. Keep moving and eat well
  4. Find your flow
  5. Discover meaning
  6. Discover and use your strengths
  7. Treasure gratitude, mindfulness, and hope.

Just ONE makes a difference. Take a moment to think about that — their research shows that the majority of survey participants are happier if they do just ONE of those.

Assuming you’re doing at least one of them already,

how about adding ONE more?

But which one? Pursuing all 7 sources of happiness is probably going to be overwhelming.  So, choose just one, and see how it goes.

How to choose?  Keep in mind the following:

It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye  (from “The Little Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupery)

In other words, trust yourself.  Try this: take one minute to place your feet firmly on the ground; close your eyes and breathe deeply for 5-6 breaths.  Then re-read the list of 7 and notice which one you are drawn to. Which one inspires you to take action?

If nothing is clearly standing out, consider the following list which is the 7 flipped into questions and suggested actions. Again, choose the one that inspires you the most, and follow through with the action.

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1.   CONNECT

Do you yearn to be connected?  Think about how to connect to one person. Is there a friend you’ve lost touch with, or a parent or child you wish you had spent more time with?  Don’t try to connect to everyone all at once, but pick one person whom you wish you were more connected with, then reach out with an invitation.  You might suggest an activity or event, or connect by video or phone (something more than email or text).  Ease into this and don’t worry if you get some resistance at first; he or she might take a little time to appreciate this genuine extension of your hand, particularly if you haven’t connected recently.

 

2.   BE KIND

Do you feel guilty about not doing enough for others? Practice some simple act of kindness. The Random Act of Kindness Foundation believes that “kindness starts with one:  one compliment, one smile, one kind act, one person.” You can find their collection of kindness ideas here.

 

3.   CARE FOR YOUR BODY

Do you wallow in inactivity or indulge in foods that give you short-term gratification?  Keep moving and eat well.  There is perhaps too much information out there on health and wellness so you’ll have no trouble finding detailed advice. But at the root of the best advice are two simple guidelines: move more and eat to support your body. If you’re not active, start small and support yourself with a buddy (meet a friend at the local Y or get out for a walk together).

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If you’re not eating well, consider making each plate of food half vegetables and fruit, and consuming a little less refined sugar. Small steps over a long period of time can make a big difference.

 

4.   TRY NEW THINGS

Are you stuck in rut? Try something new.  Think about what activity brings you joy.  This could be anything that gets you creating something or moving your body — and stay away from the computer if possible.

Also consider doing more of something that already gives you joy — even making it into a side hustle or taking a class. If you keep trying, you will always be getting closer to your flow.  My writing and teaching careers started because I took a poetry class at a local university.

 

5.   BE USEFUL

Does your life have enough meaning to you?   If not, perhaps you could change the way you interact with people. There’s a phrase that I like to recommend everyone use more often, whether it’s walking into a meeting, arriving home to see dinner preparations under way, or getting a call from your friend who is struggling:  “How can I help?”  Try it.  You might be really surprised what an honest answer you get from people, and then you know how to be useful and do something meaningful.  It’s an easy place to start — and then you can move onto bigger things.

 

6.   CELEBRATE YOUR UNIQUENESS

Do you know what your strengths are, and do you use them? If not, consider taking the free VIA character strengths finder; it will help you understand your strengths, and then you can consider new ways to apply those strengths to your life.

 

7.   BE GRATEFUL

Do you feel a little hopeless and unable to see the good in your life?  Start a gratitude practice by making a conscious effort to notice good things. Even simple things like a clear sky, or a flower in bloom.  Start making a list that you keep throughout the day, or if that’s too difficult, then take a few moments at the end of each day to write a list of what you noticed. The simple task of writing each night will heighten your awareness over time.

 

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Speaking of writing in a notebook or journal — all of these practices will benefit from a daily reflection, at the end or beginning of the day.  Take a few minutes to write down what you did to pursue your new happiness activity whether it’s signing up for a new dance class, eating 5 vegetables, or remembering to ask how your neighbor’s elderly mother is doing.  Keeping a journal will help you assess if it’s helping and might even motivate you to do more of the same.

If you’re wanting to learn more about the Happiness Organization you can take the “Skills-based Happiness Quiz” yourself.

Stay well, and I hope you find something today that makes you a little happier.