In the past, I’ve felt like if …”I only drove a nicer car, I’d be happier.” Or, “Once I get a literary agent, I’ll be happier.” Or…if I had more money, a Louis Vuitton bag, bigger boobs, smaller hips, more shapely legs, nicer clothes, a bigger kitchen and the list goes on and on. Have you ever felt like that too? In reality, having material items does very little for ones own happiness. The happiness I feel when I’m doing something I love like taking photos, being with my kids, traveling, reading a good book far surpasses the fleeting feeling of euphoria (followed by guilt, usually) of buying something.
I think being happy must come from within and it is not measured by things like designer bags and German automobiles.
According to the Mayo Clinic, happy people:
Devote time to family and friends
Appreciate what they have
Maintain an optimistic outlook
Feel a sense of purpose
Live in the moment
I did a little research and added my own thoughts to this list. I present to you The Do’s and Don’ts of Happiness:
DO exercise. Even seven minutes of exercise can help you relax, increase brain activity, and improve body image. Not to mention fresh air and quiet time.
DON’T compare yourself to others. This is a dangerous trap. I always have to remind myself that those who have more material wealth, more success, better behaved kids..are on a different path than I am on. I am living my own journey. Comparing yourself with others is never going to end well and will make you feel even worse about yourself. Don’t do it. Its a happiness killer. (blog post about this topic here!)
DO sleep more or less. Our bodies need time to recover from the days activity, cellular repair takes place and sleep actually effects our response to negative emotions. “people who sleep between 6.5 hr. and 7.5 hr. a night, live the longest, are happier and most productive”.
DON’T stay inside all day. Get fresh air and take time to go outside. In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor recommends spending time in the fresh air to improve your happiness:
Making time to go outside on a nice day also delivers a huge advantage; one study found that spending 20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosted positive mood, but broadened thinking and improved working memory…
DO meditate. I find it so challenging to do this but I need to carve out the time to try. Meditation has been linked to increased creativity, less stress, better relationships. Meditation can help fight inflammation, help hormones and lower blood pressure, it can balance emotions and decreased anxiety. Sounds like a gateway to more happiness.
“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” – Meister Eckhart
DON’T forget to count your blessings. Be grateful. Keep a journal of the positive things in your life. Any small thing you are grateful for will do. When I was at a very very low point, I wrote down what I was grateful for, it was a series of really small things like: petting my dog, having a warm bed, taking a hot shower. Isn’t it hard to feel unhappy when you begin to count the good parts of your life- especially when your loved ones are healthy and you have a roof over your head and food to eat.
DO get a pet. Pets are amazing. Its hard to be sad and crying when my dogs come over to lick my tears or just lay with me and offer up their fur for a petting session. Pets help reduce blood pressure and stress, fight depression and loneliness, pets help inspire laughter- I mean, how silly can dogs be? My playful pup is always making me smile with her silly little antics.
DO surround yourself with happy people. Ever notice how people around a perpetually unhappy person can drag you down too? I call these people toxic friends and I don’t have them in my life for obvious reasons. I like to surround myself with people who make me feel good about myself, make me laugh and who are content.
DON’T dismiss little moments. I love it when the sunlight streams through the blinds. White fluffy clouds against the backdrop of a vibrant blue sky. My daughter’s green eyes when she’s excited, my son’s beautiful smile. I try hard to take in those fleeting little moments that make me pause and smile and give thanks for my life.
And don’t forget to nurture the people who mean the most to you, cultivate meaningful relationships. Be gracious and grateful, heed your intuition, get exercise, eat healthy and make sure to rest. Be compassionate. Use your imagination. Be grateful.
For further reading on Happiness, go here!