Five Ways to Be Happy, Yes, Just Five


It’s been raining where I live for what feels like 100 days. Of course it really hasn’t been 100 days, but the perpetual gray has become a way of life. Combined with the road construction that’s been going on in front of my home it feels like it’s all a big conspiracy to make my life a bit less than blissful. But despite all this, I’ve been feeling pretty good.

Part of it after months of being ill I am feeling well and strong. It’s true that we all tend to take good health for granted when we have it. I no longer do that. Who knew that going to the bathroom like a normal person could be so exciting?!

We’re living in such divisive and stressful times takes a toll on our well-being. Both mental and physical. I have found it’s soooo easy to fall into a pit of despair and get incredibly discouraged. Many of us are! These are scary times. Will I lose my beloved healthcare? Will people I love be deported? Will we descend even more deeply into being a culture of racism, anti-science and hate-filled rhetoric? These are the things that worry me. But, as we know, worry does nothing to help us. Or the world. My solution? I do my part - I am part of an Indivisible group, I contact my elected officials regularly to voice my concerns, and I keep informed. And then I do my best to distract, decompress and disconnect. We cannot marinate in the woes of the world 24/7. We just can’t. It’s too much, and if we burn ourselves out we’re of no use to anyone, especially ourselves.

 Below are a few things, five to be exact that I’ve been doing to help myself feel better. Remember though, it’s also okay to not feel happy. No one is chipper and blissful ALL THE TIME. No one. But, we can do things to keep us from perpetually feeling miserable and hopeless. If though you have big life issues happening, do seek professional guidance. I don’t know where I’d be without the support I’ve had, and continue to get. It’s just good mental hygiene!

 So here are a few things I have found extremely useful. Try one, or try a few.

 1. Breathe! Yes, of course, you breathe, but do you BREATHE???? For three years I’ve been practicing yoga three times a week, and never did I realize how much breathing impacts the way I feel. There are lots of breathing practices, but what I find most simple and very effective is making my exhales twice as long as my inhales. By slowing it waaayyy down you release the relaxations response. Here is a great little video on relaxation. I also use Headspace on a daily basis as well. You can try it for free initially. I’m betting you will find Andy as calming as I do.

 2. Spend time with people you love. Hug them. Tight. Research shows that getting at least eight hugs a day is very beneficial to your well-being.

 Another great part of spending time with people you love, or just like a whole lot, is connection. We all need to feel connected to others. As a bit of an introvert I need a fair amount of time alone, but I also need others. I need to share, to laugh and be in the company of others. Make sure you take the time to do that. In this gig economy, lots of us work alone which is great but don’t forget the importance of reaching out.

 Do fun things! Laugh and be silly. Silliness is a great antidote to feeling sad.

 3. Exercise. It’s been proven over and over how the release of endorphins makes you feel better. It truly does. Find something you really like to do, if you make yourself do something you hate you won’t keep up with it. The key is to be consistent. Working out twice a month won’t do much for body, spirit or mind. For me it’s been finding yoga classes I love, along with three days where I also do cardio, weights and other exercises like planks to strengthen my core. Music and podcasts keep me inspired and distracted! Songs like this, which I listen to every time I’m on the treadmill help. It happens to be a song my son co-wrote and produced, which makes me very happy!

 4.  Pursue things you love. Maybe your job isn’t what you love, but it pays the bills. That’s the reality for many, but make sure you have something else of some sort whether it’s writing, music, reading, gardening, volunteering… whatever it is that fills you with joy. A joyless life is not a happy one. Find something you get lost in. And I don’t mean just watching TV, I’m not talking passive. I;m talking active engagement. We all have something we love. Discover it and do it regularly!

 5. Be Aware - Notice the people and things around you. Take the time to go to the woods and enjoy nature, go walk a beach and look around you. Too many of us are asleep. We need to wake up and ben engaged in life. In our lives. I turned 60 last November and it’s shocking to me how fast 10 years goes by. Go, do and be engaged! Don’t sleepwalk through your life always thinking, “Yeah, I’ll do that tomorrow.”

 Carpe diem, folks! Seriously, stop procrastinating and live your life. Be alive and be awake!

 Okay, so your challenge is to do at least one of these things and report back to see if it helped.

 If all else fails there’s always this.