Have you ever been in the presence of someone who simply radiates happiness? Do they have a special “happy” gene? Do they have the perfect life? Do they have a life with no troubles? Chances are they have just as many troubles and difficulties as you do. However, they live life differently, than those who seem to let life get them down.
Try employing these simple techniques, and become a more upbeat, happy and content person.
1. Count your blessings: No matter how many difficulties you have, start focusing on your blessings instead of your problems. Very often where our focus is, there also will be our heart. Focusing only (or too much) on the heartaches and troubles in our lives tends to cast a shadow and bring us down. Consider starting a blessing journal. Then, as Irvin Berlin’s popular song from White Christmas says, “When I’m worried, and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings, instead of sheep, and I fall asleep counting my blessings. When my bankroll is getting small I think of when I had none at all, and I fall asleep counting my blessings.”
2. Stop comparing yourself and your life to others: Know that you are a unique child of God. There is no one else exactly like you – with all of your unique qualities. Your mom probably told you that, but how many of us have really embraced that concept? Sadly we can sometimes become consumed with comparing ourselves to others: family – friends – neighbors – celebrities in the news. It becomes an effort in futility. We will always be able to find someone who is smarter, prettier, skinnier, wealthier or more talented – but does it matter? The reality is it doesn’t matter. We need to get on with living OUR lives – with the gifts and talents that we have been given.
3. Focus on relationships, rather than materialism: We come into this world with nothing and we leave with nothing. However, we are able to leave our impact on this world through those we have loved, and the way in which we chose to live. According to Bronnie Ware, who has published the “Top 5 Regrets People make on Their Deathbeds“, two of the most common deathbed regrets are working too hard and not staying in touch with (certain) people. Ask yourself: Are you focusing too much on the accumulation of wealth and “stuff”, leaving little time to spend with those you love? “Stuff” typically doesn’t make us as happy as being with loved ones. So, stop buying those lottery tickets thinking it will solve all your problems and make you happy. It most likely won’t, and may in fact make your life worse.
4. Give of yourself: Start making life about others rather than focusing inwards on your own troubles. Think about causes about which you care deeply. Individuals that give their time and efforts to causes feel that they are making a difference in the world. They have something important that drives them to get up and out of bed everyday – no matter what other troubles they have going on in their lives. You might be able to serve at a soup kitchen once a week, volunteer at the local elementary school, serve on a non-profit board, or simply get more involved at your church. Why not use the time you have to make a difference? Soon your woes and heartaches will seem less important.
5. Look to challenges as opportunities: Life will present challenges to all of us, though certainly, some will seem to have more than their fair share. But it’s how we choose to respond to those challenges that makes or breaks us. Five years ago, my husband and I went through some tough and scary times, as we learned and dealt with his cancer diagnosis. Instead of drowning in depression, we chose instead to learn about the disease, and share our findings with others. We looked to it as a reminder that everyday we are alive is a gift, and that we should cherish every single day.
6. Laugh and have fun: Play games – put on some silly music and dance – be childlike. Growing up and getting older doesn’t mean we need to be serious all the time. Remember what it was like to roll in the leaves on a fall day. Or make snow angels in the winter. What about having a slumber party with your girlfriends – when you’re in your 50’s. Why not! Life can and should be fun. So put aside your bills and heartaches for a while, and get back that childlike quality of your youth. Yesterday, my husband and I taught our little 2-year-old grandson how to do the hokey-pokey – fun at it’s finest! Deliberately build FUN into your life again. You will find smiling becomes a lot easier!
7. Focus on your faith: For those of us who have a relationship with God, our faith gives us strength and hope when life gets tough. Regardless of how strong you are, sometimes life simply becomes too hard to handle by yourself. Don’t be distant from God and prayer during those tough times. By focusing on your faith, and giving some of your burdens to God to handle, people of faith find comfort and solace. Also, many faiths, including mine, recognize that suffering can be “offered up” for the benefit of others. “Take up your cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9:23)
8. Be good: Life is full of temptations, and it is easy to be “conned” into thinking it’s okay to make bad choices. You watch the nightly news, and see awful crimes being committed, making your “little” indiscretions seem minor, in comparison. But living life by a set of high values, and making sound ethical and moral choices in all situations will give your heart and conscience peace. We need to have a compass by which we measure right and wrong, not whatever “feels right” to us at a particular instance. For me, that compass is my faith.
9. Know that you won’t always be happy, every minute of every day: Recognize that you will be more happy some days than others. That’s okay and normal. But they shouldn’t all be gloomy days either. Recognize that life’s struggles and difficulties are part of a normal life. Look at it this way – the difficult days make the great days that much sweeter!
10. Change what you can change: If you don’t like your life, is there something you have the power to change? Sure it sometimes takes great courage to change. If you don’t like your profession, consider learning a new trade. If you are a “yes” person, and find yourself overly committed, consider saying “no” sometimes! You aren’t always “stuck” with the life you are living. You have more control and power than you may realize to remake your life.
We live for but a speck of time, in the context of eternity. So make a conscious decision to live a happy life, even as we maneuver through some of life’s toughest hurdles. Celebrate all that life brings – the blessings and the challenges, by employing some of these simple techniques. You may just find that the struggles don’t get to you quite so deeply. When life gives you lemons, try making lemonade.