Wednesday, September 21, 2011

How to Be Happy: 5 Easy Steps

“In my world, everyone's a pony and they all eat rainbows and poop butterflies!”
― Dr. Seuss

I don’t really care how long I live. Hard to believe, I know, and sure I would love to have my picture in the news some day as the area’s latest centenarian, but length of life to me is not as important as quality of life. I don’t care so much how long I live as how well I live. I want to be able to participate fully in my life. I want to be able to contribute in a positive way to the lives of others. I want to be present, in the game, not sitting on the sidelines watching as the rest of the players take the team to victory. I want to play.

We know that happier people are healthier, are more productive at work, more successful in relationships, and are not only more creative, but more charitable and energetic as well. We know that happier people live longer, are less stressed and depressed, are more pleasant to be around, and that they spread that happy like a contagion out to others. Puking rainbows. Coughing up jellybeans and Skittles and blue and yellow M & M’s. We can’t change the world. I know that. There will always be that dreaded black cloud looking for someone’s head over which to plant itself. And it will. But it won’t be mine. And I’m hoping it won’t be yours.

I like to be happy. I try hard to be happy, and I try hard to help others feel good about themselves and experience their own form of happy. This doesn’t mean I never have a bad day. I do. I just don’t live there. I gripe, I mope, I deal, and I move on. Then back to happy. And, honestly, me wanting a world full of happy is not as selfless as it sounds. I just don’t enjoy being around the oh-my-gosh-the-world-is-falling-apart-and-it’s-all-starting-with-me Debbie downer shoot-me-now kind of gal. I want to surround myself with smiles and hugs and spreading of the love. I want to be around those who lift others up, who always have a good word, who refuse to let me wallow and whine and wither when I’m down.

In my effort, then, to motivate, move, encourage, inspire, I have compiled a list of ideas that I have found helpful in filling up my bucket with happy. I am hoping, again, that they work as well for you:

1. Decide to be happy.

Happy doesn’t just happen. It takes a certain attitude. I can want to be an “A” student all day long, but unless I read a book or take some notes or show up to class, nothing’s going to happen. Same thing with happy. If I truly want to be happy, I’m going to have to make that decision and then be willing to do the homework. I might have to actually smile at something or do something I enjoy or hand out a compliment or shit like that. Hard work, I know, but it has to be done.

2. Focus on what’s right about your world.

There’s a lot of crap out there. You don’t have to put it in front of your face. If I fill my world with obituaries and insults and murder news and slasher movies and such, I am going to eventually want to take a sharp object to my chest. Sure, bad things happen and, sure, it’s good to know what’s going on, but good things happen, too. Funny movies exist and people have babies and some friends are great at telling you how wonderful you are and there are just a million things I can be thankful for each day. Good old-fashioned gratitude. I don’t watch the news before bed anymore. Actually, I don’t watch the news anymore. It’s too depressing. I want to know what’s going on in my world, but I’m not into rehashing the negative. And, sure, I’m short and bossy and quick-tempered and impatient and flighty and still not published. But I’m also kind and compassionate and healthy and have many wonderful friends and enjoy most every day I write and teach. Thank you. Two words. Great power.

3. Do something you enjoy, and do it with someone else.

I am a firm believer in not wasting time on things you don’t enjoy. Life is just too short. If you have a job you hate, quit it. If you have a friend who brings you down, dump her. If you despise cleaning, hire someone to come and do that for you. Or move. To a smaller house. Do not let things rule you. Do not let others choose your path. Live your own life. Eliminate from that life what causes you stress. Have coffee with a friend. Call someone you haven’t talked to in years. Text your sister for no reason at all. Go to a matinee with your spouse. On a weekday. Play hookie. Or skip the movie. Have some other kind of fun, instead. When it comes to the bottom line, most things in life are optional. Don’t pretend otherwise. Enjoy your day. Every day.

4. Sing, dance, finger paint.

I don’t know many people who can be upset while moving their hips to a favorite tune or smushing their hands in bright blues and yellows. Be silly. Remember when you were a kid? Dance on the furniture. Blow bubbles. Walk barefoot in the freshly mown grass. Get in touch with nature, with music, with that free spirit that is still somewhere deep inside of you.

5. Do something nice for someone else.

There is no joy like watching a face light up because you did something to help make that happen.

*Smile. Say thank you. Sing. Give. Breathe. Repeat.*

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