4 Tips To Make a Choice for Happiness
Happiness…what is it?
We all define happiness differently. Typically, it can be defined as a mental and emotional state of well-being that is further defined by our own individual feelings. And these feelings that we experience are often a result of circumstance(s) within our lives. Our situations are not always positive; in fact, they can be rather miserable at times. However, many physiologists argue that happiness is in fact a choice. We can choose to be happy rather than mad, sad, disappointed, frustrated meaning that happiness is a positive state of being rather than negative. Essentially, happiness depends nothing on the approval of others, the creation of happiness for others, or even the things that people say or do, etc. Happiness comes from within. So if our state of being is something that is within our control, how do we cultivate it?
Here are tips to help you choose happiness!
1. BE MINDFUL
Being mindful enables us to observe our personal thoughts and feelings in the present from a distance. When we develop a non-judgmental approach to life by having open and active attention to the here and now, we allow our minds to think positively and be optimistic. There are many ways to practice mindfulness; one particular technique that stands out is meditation. Meditation encourages you to find a quiet, calm place where you can sit with your eyes closed and allow your mind to slow down by focusing on a mantra or positive thought. When we allow our minds to focus on a positive thought, we open our hearts to a progressive environment. This allows our thoughts and actions throughout the day to take us a different direction than our normal routine. Though meditation may not be your method of choice to learn and practice mindfulness, others have found success in other things like reading a book before bed, going for a walk outside, sitting in the sun and listening to the sounds around you, keeping a journal of things that you are grateful, etc. Instead of letting life rush by you, awaken your experience to your present and discover a practice that eases your mind and allows your heart to open to the things that make you happy TODAY!
2. MOVE YOUR BODY
The brain is hardwired to tell our bodies to move, and thanks to this innate push to get going, we seek to reap great benefits for our levels of happiness. When we exercise, our endorphins (happy hormones) increase, while cortisol (stress hormones) decreases. With this shift in hormones, we then experience less stress and anxiety, and those with a tendency of depression may even feel lighter. Not only does exercise affect our physiology, but it also causes a change in our emotions. Of course, committing to a regular exercise routine is not always easy! But when we commit to something that has numerous benefits like exercise, our self-image improves due to our new found ability to commit to hard work as this process is filling in the gap between knowing and doing. The rewards of regular exercise are priceless, but it doesn’t stop there. Regular physical activity has also been linked to increased production of antibodies that help us fight off illness and disease, improved sense of wellbeing and health, boosted self-esteem, decreased likelihood of sleep disorders, etc. All of these benefits of exercise calculate a happiness from within.
3. BE SELFLESS
Being humble, grateful, and kind are a few words I would use to describe being self-less. When we choose to put the needs of others before our own without anything in return we develop a feeling of fulfillment. There are many ways to serve and give to others that can help us improve our sense of selflessness and happiness. For example, volunteering at a soup kitchen, watching the grandkids while your son and daughter-in-law go on a date, picking up trash off the side of the road in your neighborhood, etc. Let me share a personal story of when I felt selfless. Once, I witnessed a war veteran sliding off the city bus in his wheelchair. Not knowing his story nor needing to, I reached in my purse for my last five dollar bill. I approached the weary looking man and asked if I could buy him a meal. He grinned ear to ear and responded, “Yes! A warm meal would be nice.” We walked into a family owned restaurant not far from the bus stop. I approached the cashier and pre-paid for his meal while he ordered. He said “Thank you young lady,” as I walked away. I smiled and nodded in return. I held my head a little higher that day. At that time in life, I had what I considered to be little to give, but what little I chose to give filled my heart with peace and happiness.
4. BE SELFISH
Contradicting as it may seem, making time to do something big or small for yourself can bring about a great sense of happiness. You take care of others around you day in, day out. You are a care-giver, teacher, helper, advisor, hard worker, etc. As humans, we have basic needs, and when our needs are met, our happiness can excel. Try making a mental checklist of things that you genuinely enjoy doing. This list should be full of things that make you laugh, smile, and create a positive environment for you. This list belongs to YOU, not your spouse, mother, father, son, daughter, friend, co-worker…YOU! Just because something brings happiness to others, doesn’t mean it is something that you enjoy. For example, I find it fun and relaxing going for early morning runs and dancing in front of the mirror. On the other hand, my significant other can smile a little easier when he gets to sleep in, though I am most certain he would admit to having quite a few chuckles due to my Dancing with the Stars Routine. Whether the thing that brings you ease and makes you happy is a weekend hike in the mountains or wine tasting with your (wo)man, shopping with the girls, or playing ball with the guys, spending time with the kiddos, or singing in the shower…happiness is bound to be right around the corner.
The next time you feel your choice of happiness slipping from your grip I urge you to be mindful of your thoughts and feelings in the present, try to engage in physical activity, be selfless by doing something for someone else, and be selfish by doing something to fulfill a need that you have.