In our last blog, I introduced you to the notion of happiness and told you it was a choice, so today I’d like to tell you how exactly you can make that choice and make it stick.
First of all start thinking about being happy – what is it that makes you happy? It’s different for everyone, so what works for me to bring me to my “happy place”, won’t necessarily work for you. That’s one of the beauties of our uniqueness; we all have our different perspectives on life and “Viva la différence!” It might be something as simple as sitting in the garden reading a good book, or walking on the beach in the moonlight with your partner, or skydiving or just about anything that puts you at peace; that puts you in that land where nothing can hurt you or upset you. As I intimated, I like to call that “my happy place”. For me personally, it is actually sitting on a beach listening to the sound of the waves lapping against the shore.
This “happy place” is incredibly important, because it is where you need to go when circumstances threaten to overwhelm you and send you spiralling down into the abyss of pity, sadness or misery. Whenever I feel stressed, upset, or about to lose my cool with someone, I mentally walk away – if possible I close my eyes and transport myself to “my happy place”. I swear that a couple of minutes visualizing the scene that never fails to fill me with peace and happiness is almost always enough to avoid the looming confrontation, or the silly arguments that start inside my head. Rather than get upset, I CHOOSE to turn away and refresh myself with happiness. It works… and the great thing is you can build up a bank of these happy experiences that you can call on at any time. You’re only limited by your imagination.
The second piece of practical advice I can give you on happiness is to stop trying to change the world, or others, all by yourself. Once we accept and fully understand that there is only one person in the world that we have any real control over – OURSELVES – then we can stop allowing other people’s dramas and the sorry state of our society to destroy our happiness. I’ve mentioned in the past that I am a great believer in the “butterfly effect”. In other words what we do to change ourselves individually can collectively, change the world.
It’s a really simple philosophy – if I can’t actually change it myself, I won’t let it influence my mood. If I can change it, then I’ll do something about it. What springs to mind immediately as I write this is the prayer written by Reinhold Niebuhr and adopted by Alcoholics Anonymous. It really is the smartest piece of advice you could ever take on board to lead a happy life:
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,”
“The courage to change the things I can,”
“And the wisdom to know the difference.”
A very simple rule to live by and one that will grant you peace of mind.
We live in a world of duality. Sadly there is great suffering, pain, torment and sadness on our planet, but equally there is intense joy, happiness, love and beauty all around us. Individually we may feel powerless to change the terrible situations of our fellow human beings, but collectively through our thoughts, words and actions, anything is possible.
Embrace the “can do”, reject the “too hard” and your spirit will soar to the heavens, dragging everyone else, kicking and screaming, along behind you. Be the one that people look at, marvel and say; “Wow, doesn’t he/she have it all! What a together person.”
You really can be that person, you know. All you have to do is to learn to love yourself unconditionally and realize that you are a unique, talented individual whose contribution to this world is valid and valuable. You have everything inside of you that you need to be an awesome, fulfilled and most of all happy human being.
My next tip is related to the previous one: Surround yourself with people that will uplift you, support you and fill you with pleasure. We all know how hard it is to be positive and happy when we are with someone who grumbles, moans and complains about everything. Very soon we find ourselves dragged down to their level, agreeing with them and sympathizing with their plight. This is a sure way to sabotage your happiness, so beware of such friends or family members. Similarly it is hard to be down, sad and miserable when our friends are full of joy, bubbly and expressive. We get dragged along with them on their exciting journey. I’ve said before; we, as individuals, emotionally are the average of our five closest friends; so chose those five closest friends wisely.
Now, I’m not suggesting you jettison all your dear friends or relatives just because they can be a bit grumpy at times but try and deal with their moods and attitudes differently. When they complain about something, look for the positive in that situation (there always is one – even if it might be hard to find sometimes) and point that out to them. If they need advice – then sure, advise them; if they need a shoulder to cry on – by all means provide that shoulder (that’s what friends do); if they just need to talk, to get their problems off their chest – then absolutely just listen to them. BUT here is what NOT to do; do not take their problems, concerns and anger onto your shoulders. They are not your problems; you don’t have to allow yourself to become emotionally involved in your friend’s issues. You do what you need to do and then move on. Do not dwell on their problems and do not buy into their sadness and their pain. The absolute best thing you can do in that situation is to offer positive solutions – solutions just like these that work for you.
The final actual tip I want to give you today is a simple and easy step that I use and that takes so little time to implement and yet is so incredibly powerful to set you up for your day ahead.
When you wake up in the morning; don’t immediately jump out of bed, put on the coffee, prepare your things for work or school, or begin planning your day and imagining the difficult things you need to prepare for. When you wake up in the morning – don’t do anything! Just lie there in bed, with your eyes closed, if need be, to stop your partner from kicking you out of bed and telling you to get the coffee brewing. Just lie there and for five, ten, or even fifteen minutes just picture your day the exact way you want it to go. Visualize that important meeting you have with a client. See the client shake hands and accept the deal; picture your teacher congratulating you on that great paper you submitted; see the table where you will sit and enjoy your lunch and coffee during your break; imagine the joy on your kid’s faces when you walk into the house that evening. It doesn’t matter what the day ahead holds for you – even if it is just a routine day, picture the little things; your co-worker complimenting you on your outfit; getting a good parking spot; finishing those letters you’ve been putting off.
The whole point of this exercise is to “create” the day you desire for yourself – the day that will make you happy, content and at peace with everyone. In the last couple of minutes before you do leap into action; just visit your “happy place”, revel in the memories of the moment. By the time you are ready to jump into the shower and begin this day, your mind will already be in the place it needs to be for this day to be successful, happy and purposeful. Do it every day and then every day your creations will occur. It’s that simple.
I want to finish today with one final thought: You don’t need any other person’s validation to be happy. Nothing anyone can say or think about you should ever make you either happy or unhappy. We are the architects of our own lives – not other people. Stop letting other people’s opinions, words or actions rob you of your happiness! You are you and you stand alone, complete, and unique in yourself. You can be happy regardless of what others think of you. I want to give you a really good example of what I mean here. This blog that I lovingly compile every week is a perfect example. I have no idea how many people actually read it (I do know how many people visit my site, but I don’t know exactly what they read). Now that should upset and worry me, under conventional thinking. I mean, what is the point of writing and sweating my thoughts onto paper, if nobody actually cares enough to want to read them.
BUT truly it doesn’t matter to me. I write this blog first and foremost because it is my passion – it’s what makes me happy – It is one of my happy places that I love to visit. I don’t need the validation of others to make this exercise worthwhile for me. Of course, I’m human and I love it when someone takes the time to tell me that I touched them, or I made a difference (and a couple have, which is amazing) but the bottom line is, if the only person that ever read this was me, I’d still be happy. I want to make a difference in my own small way; but my worth and my happiness is not dependent on the validation of other people, or their opinions of what I do.
BECAUSE I CHOOSE TO BE HAPPY! GIVE IT A TRY – IT’S AWESOME!
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