Happiness isn’t about being flamboyant or outgoing all the time. There’s more to it than that. Think of it more as a habit or attribute: being happy is about recognizing joyful moments in life and being in tune with them while also understanding and working through hard times, knowing that they will pass. Discovering happiness involves understanding what makes you feel good, those sweet moments in life that you enjoy so much, no matter how big or small. Think of happiness not just as a result of your actions, but as a driver in your life.
What is the meaning behind your life? Don’t worry – I’m not going to deliver some theological rant about you needing to serve a higher purpose. I’m simply asking a question to make you think about what makes you happy. For example, sometimes a powerful purpose can come from pain. Have you witnessed anything you would like to change, perhaps an injustice you don’t think anyone should live with?
When trying to find one’s purpose, one must know what they truly enjoy. To do that, you need to find what energizes you. What are your hobbies outside of work? What do you spend most of your free time doing? Most of us go to school or find a job we thought we’d enjoy, but some of us come to realize it’s not everything we wanted. Some of us enjoy our careers, but long for something more. Either way you look at it, you need to be doing things you enjoy to feel fulfilled and happy.
One great way to stay happy is to create positive memories. If you enjoy family time, devote a few more hours during the week to your kids or significant other. What made you happy before doesn’t necessarily mean it will make you happy today, but it will give you an idea of what you enjoy doing. We can make memories from anything. The key is to make positive ones. For many of us, it is easier to remember the bad times instead of the good, and the way we can get rid of that tendency is by reflecting on the positives. One way to do this is to focus on a positive memory as soon as something negative comes to mind. This trains your brain to subconsciously reflect on the positive instead of the negative.
Try to get the most out of each moment. Make every positive memory special. Travel more, or go out with friends more. But it doesn’t always need to be a social gathering. Do you enjoy reading in the park? Why not explore all the parks around you, or the beach? Love painting? Great! Try painting a new landscape. Memories last forever, and they can be especially helpful when you’re struggling.
Mindfulness is the key to maintaining happiness. It means being fully focused and present in the moment. This leads to greater self-discovery and understanding. If you’re always thinking about different things or multitasking, how can you truly get to know yourself and your passions? You can’t. You’re lost until the day you start practicing mindfulness. You will remain confused by all your wants and needs until you start practicing it. There are times where multitasking is ideal, but you must try to balance chaos the chaos with order. Fully embrace what you’re doing. If you are reading, focus on and understand what you are reading. Don’t think about the laundry that has to be folded when you get home. When you’re out with someone, really pay attention to what they’re saying. Take it in, feel the emotion, and create some positive memories.
Some of the most beneficial changes you can make are physical. I can tell you from experience that looking better does make you feel more confident, independent and productive. Physical activity has such a profound effect on our mental state and bodies that it can help overcome depression. Exercise increases the blood flow to your organs, including your brain. This boosts brain power, organ function, and helps you relax. Working out naturally increases the number of endorphins in your brain, causing an analgesic effect that makes you feel more relaxed and happy. If you feel stressed, one of the best things you can do is work that stress out. There’s nothing like getting your anger out at the gym. It might even make you work out harder and heavier. If insomnia is the source of some of your unhappiness, exercise might be the solution. If you have trouble falling asleep, try running or working out an hour or more before bed. Make it the last thing you do before hitting the sack. It’ll tire you physically and relax you mentally – a nice combo for a good night’s sleep.
Nothing puts a smile on my face more than making someone else smile. A friend once told me to give out positive energy, and positive energy will come back to you. You being a source of your own happiness is a great achievement, but taking it a step further and making another person happy is a gift that should not be wasted. There are times in life where we can’t seem to get out of a rut. You start to lose yourself and your meaning. Then you make someone smile – and it’s like a switch flips on and you realize you have meaning! Generosity is contagious and generative. The more you do it, the better you get at it and the more it spreads. The best part about generosity is you can incorporate it into any situation. Give more to charity this month. Donate to breast cancer research. Tip the server 18% instead of 15%. Help your friends or family a little more, and just smile at a stranger. It all adds to your happiness quota.
We’d all like to be happier. But first must be satisfied with who we are and our actions. That does not happen overnight. You have to learn and grow to see what authentically makes you happy. By pursuing your purpose, creating positive memories, staying mindful, exercising and being generous, you’ll be a much happier individual. And don’t forget to pass that happiness along!
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Call it intuition, instinct, or a gut feeling: if we followed it, we just might be a lot happier. Intuition is a skill we are all born with, but one we submerge in the business of modern living.