You’ve heard it many times. Happiness is not a destination, but a journey along the way of life. What exactly must we do on this trip that results in happiness?
There are five ways to be happier that you can start today.
1. Eat right
Consult a room full of experts and you’ll never get agreement on what is “right” for us to eat. Most people think of healthy eating as a way to lose weight. That is certainly a worthy goal, but healthy eating is more important as a powerful connection to our happiness as well.
The food and beverages we consume are processed into various forms by the organs of our bodies. Our liver, for example, the largest organ in the body, has the important job of converting our food into useful substances we need for life and growth and neutralizing toxins and wastes.
The liver works fastest and best with real food. Processed and fake foods, loaded with chemicals and preservatives, make the liver work much harder than it should. It’s like asking one employee to do the work of two or more.
You don’t have to be a medical expert to know that overtaxing the liver can only lead to impairing and damaging it. When that happens, we can’t digest our food properly nor get rid of wastes in a timely manner. Even though the liver has the amazing ability to repair itself, there is a limit to how much it can repeat this.
I’m not recommending that you launch into a diet. Who wants to diet? It has the word “die” in it.
What I’m suggesting is that you pay attention to your body. It will tell you which foods and beverages are right for you. Consult your medical adviser and resources to begin your search for what’s right for your body.
Start slow. Change one thing. Replace one “not-so-good” food choice with a better choice.
Practice portion control. Instead of letting your eyes be your guide, use the amount of food that will fill the palm of your hand instead.
Eat a rainbow each day. That is, choose fruits and vegetables of different colors.
When you discover the combinations of food that are best for your body you will notice that you have more energy, sleep better and best of all, your mood and spirit will be uplifted. When you eat right, you feel good, and that contributes a big part to your happiness.
2. Get some exercise
You can consult fitness experts, charts and programs to get suggestions, but the best source is your body and mind.
When I was working on my book, Color Your Life Happy, after hours of writing I would sometimes hit a wall. I couldn’t think anymore and my body was craving activity. I would leave the house for at least a walk around the block. I found it helpful to start the morning with at least 20 minutes working with an exercise video and later expanded into daily one hours walks with a neighbor.
If you are blessed to have physical mobility, move your body in whatever exercise seems right and safe for you. Many everyday activities such as housework, walking the stairs to get to your office, parking further away from the entrance to the mall can all contribute to your physical activity.
To get excellent advice, tips, cool tools, recipes, community support, as well as fitness, weigh-in and nutrition trackers, join the free website Spark People, your companion for a healthy lifestyle. There is encouragement and guidance for everyone, plus incentives to keep you motivated.
In a recent article on Spark People, Dodge the Exercise Roller Coaster, Mike Kramer says
You can stay off the coaster and get into consistency. All it takes is a little planning–and a lot of fun. The key is to build an exercise program that’s not stale, boring or disruptive. Now–while you still have momentum–is the perfect time to set up some smart, convenient systems and motivating reminders.
Here are three things Mike recommends:
What does exercise have to do with happiness?
You know the drugs that doctors prescribe for depression and anxiety?
Your body makes those chemicals naturally when you exercise, but without the side effects.
Add to that deep-breathing and meditation and you have just discovered your own mood-enhancers available to you any time you want.
3. Connect with a higher power
People who describe themselves as happy report that they believe in a higher power, a higher source. There are many names given to this higher power and while organized religion claims to have a special connection to this power, I’m referring to a spiritual connection that is available to all and is our source of intuition, creativity, insight, and hope.
When we tap into this spiritual connection daily we receive assurance that the workaday concerns that present themselves to us can be resolved. This comforts us and enables us to move through life without being undone by the ups and downs that we all encounter.
How do you access your spiritual source?
Quieting your mind and thoughts is the simplest way to get started. If you’ve never tried to sit still for ten minutes without thinking of anything, you’ll be surprised at first at how challenging it is. It takes practice to accomplish this. But it’s worth the practice because you’ll find that meditating can be very beneficial.
Extending quiet time into meditation brings not only comfort, but also sparks creativity and reveals solutions that elude you during your busy activities.
Prayer works for many people throughout the world. Some pray to the deity of their religion; others pray to the Universe, the Universal Mind or a Higher Power.
Tapping your spiritual source is powerful because you’re acknowledging there is a power greater than you in this universe and you’re recognizing your connection to it.
Many people attend religious or spiritual services regularly as a way to stay in touch with their spiritual source, while also connecting with others who share their beliefs.
Some people find help in communing with nature on walks, runs and retreats. One author created a sanctuary in his backyard where he could go to be still and meditate. But you don’t have to build anything if you don’t want to—many man-made and natural sanctuaries already exist for your use.
Some find solace in Nature, others in beautiful music and dance.
Music is called the universal language because it has the power to speak to all of us—regardless of our native tongue. It can lift us to unheard-of heights and some say it is the only language that can reach the traumatized and brain-damaged.
Beautiful music seems to flow through the fingers of a skilled pianist out onto the piano, creating visceral excitement; at other times it calms us, brings tears or bridges barriers across nations.
Art is another path to spirituality. Michelangelo’s passion for creating sculpture was deep and profound. He saw himself not as creating art, but rather as releasing a human form trapped in the marble. His famous David, though created in 1501 when Michelangelo was only twenty-six, still has the power to mesmerize those fortunate enough to view it in person.
Once you’re in tune with your spiritual source, you’ll discover it’s not just a ritual, it’s a welcome part of your life. Spirituality even helps out with mundane challenges such as finding a parking space or finding those lost glasses or keys. Being in tune with your spirituality relieves stress and brings solutions.
4. Pursue your passion
If you’ve ever watched a dancer, singer, or craftsman performing with passion, you can remember how they get so lost in joy of doing what they love that the audience seemed to disappear to them.
By contrast, people who hate their jobs, look forward to Mondays with dread and sometimes develop physical symptoms as well because they are not living their passion, but are torturing themselves in exchange for a paycheck.
Pursuing your passion ensures you joy, not because it always makes you lots of money, but because it gives you a deep contentment and fulfillment that money cannot buy.
Teaching is one of my passions. Sharing information, encouraging, and helping others see their own brilliance gives me so much joy that I get a tingle in the back of my neck when I see that they get it. I’ve taught all of my life with and without pay.
Find your passion by asking yourself what you enjoy so much that you would do it for free. What puts a smile on your face? What brings out your creativity and absorbs your attention for so long that hours pass before you know it?
Is there something inside you that you are burning to do? Is there something you just must try it even if others don’t see the benefit or payoff? You aren’t even concerned so much with failure, but with having never tried it.
What things to you talk to your friends about when you swap daydreams? Ask your friends to share what they think is your passion based on what you talk about.
Perhaps there is something you find so easy that you can’t believe that others can’t get it.
Finding your passion doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve found your life purpose. And your passion may not be your source of income. That is something else.
I’m not recommending that you drop your day job just yet to pursue your passion as a career, although that may be what you ultimately decide to do. There is nothing noble about starving or being homeless.
What I am urging you to do is to tap into your passion. Find that something that makes your heart sing, that fills you up with joy and contentment. When you find and enjoy your passion, many annoyances of the world will pass by you unnoticed or as minor occurrences.
When you find your passion you will no longer be willing to tolerate a job you don’t enjoy, but will be attracted to one that celebrates you.
When you find your passion you will no longer be willing to accept less than good treatment from those around you.
Finding your passion makes embracing happiness easy.
5. Express gratitude
Saying thank you to others, yourself and God is one of the deepest and profound ways to open yourself to happiness.
Express gratitude out loud, in writing, and mentally not only for the good things you’ve experienced, but also for the bad.
Yes, the bad things have shaped our lives as much or more so than the good so we must be thankful for them as well.
For example, I am very thankful that I didn’t get hired by the first community college to which I applied many years ago. I was teaching at a university at the time and the hiring committee thought I wouldn’t be able to relate to their students. Because I didn’t get this job I started my own tutoring program which I successfully operated for eight years.
I am also very thankful to my youngest sister who when she got frustrated with me for getting too heavy-handed in helping her raise her kids told me one day, “Get your own damn kids!”
Wow! She was right. I was single at the time and too distracted with meddling in her childrearing that I was not focused on my own personal life. Thanks to her I turned my attention to getting married and starting my own family. And what fun I had with every phase of my children’s lives. My husband and I raised four beautiful children who are now adults, plus I have the world’s most gorgeous grandchildren.
I sometimes pause to think how miserable my life could have become as the old-maid aunt offering too much advice and help to my nieces and nephews. By being thankful for the jolt from my sister that turned me around, I bear no hurt toward my sister and was able to move into being her caregiver when I was needed.
I’m very grateful to my children for still loving me in spite of the mistakes, miscalculations and misunderstandings committed in the name of childrearing.
Be grateful for the large and the small. Sometimes we rejoice over the large sums or money or opportunities, but we must rejoice over the small as well and it will increase.
When my feet hit the floor each day I say “Thank you God” and “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.”
I also say “Thank you God” when I find my keys, lost glasses or a misplaced check.
Finally, be thankful to your former selves that have brought you to this place and this life.
I’m grateful to my elementary-school self who loved school and reading and immediately fell in love with her teachers and teaching.
I’m also grateful to my college self who didn’t want to waste my mother’s money so I used my study time wisely.
Gratitude keeps you in the positive mode, puts the so-called negative in perspective, and draws more of what you really want. By being thankful for the bad you let go of resentment and hurt. By being thankful for the everyday and small you avoid taking for granted that which you once didn’t have and could so easily lose.
By eating right, exercising, connecting with a higher power, pursuing your passion and expressing gratitude you are ensured of being unified with happiness.