"When you're happy for no reason, you bring happiness to your outer experiences rather than trying to extract happiness from them. You don't need to manipulate the world around you to try to make yourself happy. You live from happiness, rather than for happiness." Marci Shimoff
More often than not, when asked: How do you want to feel? people respond with happy in their top 3 responses. I want to be happy. Does that resonate? So, if we all want to be happy, why are we so unhappy?
Our unhappiness can be linked to disease, illness, anxiety, stress, and depression. According to Health Canada and Statistics Canada, approximately 8% of adult Canadians will experience a major depression/anxiety at some point in their lives, and around 5% will in a given year. And according to the Canadian Mental Health Association, suicide is one of the leading causes of death in both men and women from adolescence to middle age. This is a problem.
Disclaimer: If you have a mental illness, get help. There are people that are out there willing and able to assist. Ask for it. Seek it out.
If you are looking for additional ways to bring more happiness into your life, here are a few things that you can try.
1. Understand your true needs and desires
Being happy isn't about forcing yourself to slap on a smile and do things you don't want to. True peace and happiness comes from being in-tune enough to understand your needs.
- Do you understand what you need in life?
- Do you have the courage to say no to the things you don't want to do so you have room to say yes to the things you do want and need?
- What do you most desire in your life?
- What have you done today to bring that into your life?
It might sound simple, because it is in a way, but if you want to feel a certain way, find things in your life that make you feel that way and do more of it. Such as, one of my core feelings is joy. I feel joyful when I dance. So, I try to dance as much as possible to the point of scheduling it into my day.
2. Consider how you spend your time
This is the most common excuse for not living your life fully and in joy and happiness. I don't have time. Well, it's time to get honest with yourself and where you are creating your own obstacles to happiness.
a. Do you know how you spend your time? Laura Vanderkam's book 168 hours: You Have More Time Than You Think has a spreadsheet you can download here. The document will help you ascertain how you spend your time. Be honest.
b. Then think about the times in your life when you are really happy? What are you doing? Where are you? Who is with you? How are you feeling?
c. Now, look at how you are currently spending time and cross reference with the things that make you happy. Are you spending your time every day or week doing those things that make you happy? Is it time for a change?
- How many hours a week do you spend watching TV? You could limit/cut back and find a few hours a week to work on your project.
- How do you get to work? Did you consider public transit so you could spend the commute reading, listening, meditating, or planning?
- Do you do things you really don't want to do because you feel you have to. Drop the should's. Do what you must for your family, but drop the sense of obligation where there is no real obligation. It's sometimes is hard, but you will be relieved when you do it.
- Quit those things that don't fill you up to give time for those things that do. Your family will appreciate it because you will be happier.
Check out this video for some added inspiration.
3. Give yourself a reason to smile and laugh
Surround yourself with things that make you smile. I happen to love fresh flowers, music, my dog, time with friends, fresh food from the garden, and reading a good book outside on a sunny summer afternoon. Whatever that is for you, seek it out. Find ways to smile everyday. It has a physiological response in our bodies, releasing happy endorphins.
Even better laugh! Laughter releases happy hormones and increases the number of antibody-producing cells. All this means a stronger immune system, as well as fewer physical effects of stress. So, maybe you feel like you don't have a reason to laugh. Try laughter yoga out. It's strange at first, but just go with it.
4. Focus on the best in all aspects of life
We have the wonderful opportunity to be living today. We have access to technology that can connect us globally. You don't have to feel alone. You can learn and grow and connect.
Whenever I am feeling disconnected I consider a sutra in kundalini yoga: Recognize that the other person is you. In me, I have found only one reality "that I breathe in and I breathe out. And so anything that breathes in or out is reality. When I found this as a reality in everybody, I found myself in everybody and everybody in myself." Yogi Bhajan
Have compassion and empathy for those around you and recognize that we are all on this journey together. You never know what another person is going through in that moment of interaction, so be sure your default response is that of compassion.
Yes, you can focus on what's going wrong and horrible. There is no shortage of that. But you can also focus on the wonderful, amazing, inspiring acts that happen everyday in all parts of the world including your own.
And if you are unclear about the positive aspects in your own life "consider your own amazing body and all that it can do. Think of your present challenge as an opportunity to learn and grow and move beyond it. Or perhaps remember your life and all that you have been through and the fact that you are here, you have survived, and tomorrow is another day. Find and be grateful for the simple things.
5. Give gratitude
I am always amazed at how being grateful for the many things I have in my life changes me. It is difficult to be angry/upset and grateful at the same time. The shift in perspective shifts our feelings and sensations and puts us in a different state of mind.
So, the next time you are feeling upset, write down all the things you are grateful for. When you are stuck in traffic, someone cuts you off, or slams a door in your face "consider something in your life that you are grateful. Like having a job that allows you to have the nice car you are driving, or that you have the time in your day to allow that person to go ahead of you, or that you have the physical ability to open your own door. Instead of focusing on the negative, give thanks.
It's a wonderful daily practice as well. At the start or end of the day, write down the five things you are grateful for that day. Do that for a week and see how you feel.
When we create harmony in our minds and hearts, we will find it in our lives. The inner creates the outer. Always. Louise L. Hay
Want to work on this? Be Happy is a 6-week coaching program designed for those that are overwhelmed with negativity and want to bring more happiness into their life.
Glenda Myles, MSc, CHLC, RP-CRA, RYT
After an 18-year marketing career in the corporate world, Glenda developed a holistic wellness practice to help others find and live their optimal lives. As a yoga and meditation teacher, Reiki practitioner, dance facilitator, birth and postpartum doula, holistic life coach, and group facilitator, she works with clients to bust through challenges and obstacles, identify big visions and goals for their life, and develop tangible and implementable steps towards living a healthy and optimal life all in a supportive and caring environment.