There is a strong part of my personality that likes to drag me to the depths of darkness. It used to be such a fight to stay on the lighter side of life. Never was I clinically depressed but I had a way of getting mired in limiting thoughts. And I have a story, we all do, of times less fortunate and less happy. Times that were trying, terrifying, and tumultuous. These weren't times of me being pessimistic. These were real life, legitimate circumstances for grief. Like I said, we all have our moments. Life is not always unicorns and rainbows.
Having my moment has certainly taught me a number of things including having compassion for myself and others. As well as not judging people for their actions because you never know what is behind those actions. It has also taught me a lot about happiness and how to generate a flow of intoxicating merriment (too happy?). You get my point.
This morning I started to think about what contributes to my happiness. What actions should I maintain to ensure continued contentment? Here are my observations on something as esoteric as happiness:
- Frame of mind: our thought patterns have an impact on our state of happiness. There are times when negative thought patterns of doubt, fear, anxiety, regret, guilt, shame, etc creep into our brains. Find a way to banish these thoughts quickly and don't let them linger. They are most likely untruths anyway. Pick a mantra to help you reframe your thoughts. I love Louise Hay's book You Can Heal Your Life. In there she suggests some good positive affirmations such as "All is well in my life. Everything is as it should be." This is great for irrational anxiety. When Mommy guilt creeps in, I remind myself of all that I do for and with my children instead of focusing on the one little thing I don't do. My mother was famous for saying to me "what will it matter in 100 years?" However, my experience has taught me "what will it matter in 7 days?"
- Get enough sleep: I am talking to you ladies!! I am sure men have their sleep issues too but I have girl parts so I am speaking to the ladies. We try to cram everything we need to do into one day and will stay up all night to do it. I know for a fact some of you are folding laundry until midnight or straightening up the playroom. We are also falling into the TV trap. How many of you are up to all hours watching The Bachelor or some Real Housewives nonsense? When the to do list runs long, the easiest sacrifice is always sleep. DON'T do it. WebMD says average adults need between 7.5 and 8 hours of sleep a night. Depending on where you are in life, you may need more sleep. I have spent years underestimating the impact of interrupted sleep when my kids wake me up in the middle of the night. Don't cheat yourself, establish a nighttime routine that works for you and gets you into a healthy sleep pattern.
- Move your body: whatever your jig is, just do it (I know, cliche)! Yoga, walking, zumba, dance, run, weights, etc. Physical movement and exertion. Numerous studies have shown that aerobic exercise will increase serotonin and assist in its release. Studies have shown that yoga works too. Don't trust me, google it. In my opinion, exercise is key as it will also help you change your frame of mind AND help you sleep. It's like a happiness life hack! Moving your body will also create more body awareness, aid your physical health, and build your self-confidence. I credit moving my body to resolving most of my mental and physical issues.
- Eat clean: I am not interested in your dietary dogma (vegetarian, vegan, paleo, fruitarian, etc). Just eat clean. Clear out the preservatives, packaged food, artificial flavors/sweeteners, SUGAR, etc. Eat real food. Eat whole food. Eat a rainbow everyday. However you want to say it. Cut the crap from your diet and you will experience a mood boost almost immediately...well after the initial detox. It will be well worth the time and effort it takes to clear your pantry. Oh, and EAT FAT! Healthy fats won't make you fat...they will make you HAPPY (and leaner). Again, you can google this one but I will give you a link to this article from Psychology Today about increased brain function from eating fat. Also, a good source for nutrition information is Dietician Cassie's website. She recently appeared on the America's Angriest Trainer podcast with Vinnie Tortorich and Anna Voccino.
- Take time for yourself: Plain and simple...put you first. No, you aren't being selfish. Most likely you spend 80% of your time taking care of others...children, spouses, friends, parents, siblings, pets, houses, clients. Carve out some time each day to focus on you. Use your time wisely to exercise, read, journal, meditate, stretch, sip coffee in silence. Whatever your passion or pleasure is, spend time doing it. EVERY single day! Admittedly, I need a lot of time for myself. I like to take the time to process my thoughts, organize myself, exercise, get enough sleep, eat well. This all takes time. I don't feel guilty about the time it may or may not take away from others. I know I am a better partner, mother, daughter, business partner if I manage my time to ensure proper self care. You will be more happy, patient, compassionate, creative. You will be the person YOU want to be not the person everyone expects you to be. You most likely need to start with learning how to say "no"...read this. Which leads me to my last observation:
- Be Authentic: I am happiest being me. I believe that I operate from a place of benevolent intent, self-truth and do no (intentional) harm to others (or myself). When I operate from this place inside me, I don't second guess my decisions or worry about how others may perceive my actions. Here is a list of 25 ways to live more authentically.
I am by no means a "Happiness Expert". I am just a girl on a journey like many of you. Based on my experiences, happiness is a way of being, a choice, a desire. Happiness is within your control and is a direct correlation to how you chose to address the rigors of life. Command yourself to go forth and be happy.