Our family went hiking in Myanmar last year. The hike went through extremely basic villages and it was the first time my kids saw villages that don’t have electricity, people drink from a well and local kids play soccer barefoot with a bamboo ball.
It was eye opening to see how little these local kids have and how happy they seem. “Mom, what’s happiness” my 5 year old asked hearing my comment. “Feeling of satisfaction, pleasure, cheerfulness, and enjoyment… “ I explained. “So why when kids have so little they can be so satisfied and happy?” my kid insisted. She was right. Happiness above all is a DECISION. It’s a state of mind. We can decide to be happy and content or decide to be gloomy.
Many spend their lives waiting for happiness: Only until we get that job. Until we find love. Until we lose a few more pounds. Until we make more money. True happiness comes from within and needs to be actively pursued.
This is actually great news for everyone because with just a few simple changes to your daily habits – you can be a happier person. You don’t need much to be more successful at everything you do. You just need to decide to feel content, and happiness will follow.
Here are a few simple changes anyone can do to march on the road to happiness:
1. Understand you’re responsible
You are in charge of your own happiness. Don’t wait for others to make you happy or blame others for making you feel bad. Understanding that you are responsible is the first step.
“If you want to be happy, be.” – Leo Tolstoy
2. Fake it till you make it
I learned this one the hard way. When my mom was dying of cancer I had some of the worst days of my life. However, I did learn that when you smile even if breaking inside, the world smiles back and you start feeling better. So when things are rough, force yourself to smile. Think of something that made you feel great and visualize it. It will feel completely fake at first but soon enough you will simply feel better.
3. Sleep is key
Sleep deprivation is a key reason for depression. You are much more likely to feel negative emotions with lack of sleep. So get yourself enough hours of sleep especially when you are stressed. Also positive thoughts before going to bed proved to help the overall feeling. You can use ThinkUp app or any other motivation and affirmation techniques to fall asleep. You will sleep better and wake up a more positive person.
4. Remind yourself of things you are grateful for
What are you grateful for? Remind yourself of things you are grateful for and things that made you happy each day. Look for the positives in every experience. You can use a journal or simply sharing them with a partner or friends. With my kids we used to play “Good news, bad news”. Each would need to tell something great that happened to them and something not so great and we would talk about both. I would start to get the conversation going. The bad news mostly turned out not so bad and the great news were many times a reason to celebrate so we all became happier.
5. Give more
Give more and be genuinely happy for others and you’ll see how well you feel. Compliment others on their achievements; help friends in need, offer a hand and your day will look better. I used to have a rule – one good deed a day. Whether I helped an older lady carry bags, assisted a blind man cross the street, volunteered for a great cause, helped a friend or even just gave a complement to a co-worker. I always felt much better afterwards. Try it!
Even just a few minutes may be enough. Stretch with calming music or even add affirmations to the routine. Go on a hike or join a group exercise. You will relax and start the day on a high note.
“To enjoy the glow of good health, you must exercise.” – Gene Tunny
7. Cultivate optimism
Positive thinking is an important part of self-esteem and overall life satisfaction. Optimism also tends to make your personal and work relationships better. It’s not only about expectations, it’s about how you interpret everything in life. For example instead of: “I’m going to fail the test tomorrow so I’ll go watch TV” an optimistic will say “I’m concerned from the test tomorrow but I’ll study and give it my best shot”. Force yourself to an optimistic state of mind and slowly it will become more natural.
The road to happiness is long and windy with quite a few forks in the road. A positive mindset is key to make even the uphills feel great. Don’t worry about wrong turns, you’ll find yourself back on the road again. So smile and see the world smiling back. Enjoy the journey!