What is happiness? When this question was posed to me I had to think for a bit, especially as to the definition of happiness. Ask ten people and I suspect you will get ten different answers, not surprising, as each person has her own personal filter that is used to view life’s experiences. It is important to keep in mind that happiness is an emotion and like any other emotion, it moves. Life moves like the ocean waves. Sometimes the tide of life is full, rich and frothy and the next moment it ebbs leaving wet sand and debris. Yet, there is always an undercurrent. Think about it. The euphoria you experienced at the birth of your child is a distant memory when that same child finger paints the wall. Yet, even as you are scrubbing the wall in frustration, dig deep and you will find there is still that undercurrent of happiness you experienced at your child’s birth. So be realistic and understand that while your situation may change, you can still be happy.
1. Understand why you are here. We are all healers, by that I mean everyone has the ability to help others in their own special way, to help others get from point A to point B. The doctor in the emergency room may use special skills to save your life but those skills are useless to you if the taxi driver didn’t get you there in time. Figure out what you can do in your current situation to help others, no matter how small it may seem, and then do it. Give of yourself without expecting anything in return.
2. Know yourself. What are your qualities and traits? What is the good, bad and the ugly about you? Be honest with yourself and own your failings. Owning up to your failings is the first step to changing them. Keep in mind that without the dark side there would be no light. Look in the mirror each day and say, today I will be the light then use that light to work on those dark tendencies. The more you do this, the lighter you become.
3. Take care of yourself. You know the litany: eat right, exercise, get plenty of rest, and be mindful. Even more important, take care of yourself emotionally. Say yes when you need to say yes, but don’t be afraid to say no when you need to say no. This may feel counterintuitive to the idea of helping others, but you have to put yourself first sometimes to maintain balance. Doing so puts you in a stronger state of well being and gives you greater energy to help others. The flight attendants have it right: “put your oxygen mask on first before assisting others.”
4. Embrace your current situation and take charge of it. It may not be the stuff of your dreams but it could be! You can improve on anything if you make it truly your own. A friend of mine became unemployed after years of service with the same financial company. He sent out resume after resume, with no response. While he continued his job search, he did something very important for his well being. He volunteered his financial expertise to a non-profit organization. This work kept him from losing faith. He felt productive and valued and it looked good on his resume. After a year of volunteer service, the non-profit offered him a job that he enjoys.
5. Step out of your comfort zone. We all have limitations but most of them are self-imposed. If a new opportunity comes your way, one that excites you challenges you and feels right, then go for it. Be smart, do your homework then be fearless! What is the worst that can happen? You might find it was a mistake which only means you have learned that it isn’t for you. Knowing what is not for you is a good thing to know.
6. Retreat into nature. Mother Earth is a source of calm and peace. Sit or walk outside every day, even for just five minutes, and use all your senses to take in everything around you. Get quiet. Hear the bird song, feel the breeze blow, smell the pine, see the sky. Connecting with nature is the gateway to exploring yourself and clearing yourself. Let it teach you. Let it remind you of who you are, where you came from, how you got here and what you can be.
7. Trust yourself. The old adage “Father knows best” is only true for so long. Respect the advice of your elders, for their words and values instilled a knowing in you. You know what to do. You know what to say. Trust yourself to do the right thing.
8. Accept others as they are. Loving relationships are the bedrock of happiness. You cannot have a loving relationship with anyone, be it lover, family or friends, if you do not accept people as they are. You can change yourself but never try to change someone else. The beauty of this is, when someone you love feels completely, unconditionally accepted by you, they will love you for it and try to be better for you.
9. Acknowledge a higher source. I don’t care what you call it: God, Spirit, Life Force, Energy, or Higher Source. Remember that whatever it is, it is within everything around you and that includes you! You may choose to follow the teachings of a spiritual leader, join a religious institution or, like me, you may follow your own path. Knowing that you have that guidance within you brings a sense of calm and peace. Good thoughts and words are prayers, say them every day.
10. Gratitude. Singer/songwriter Ray Wiley Hubbard wrote something along the lines of “start every day with great gratitude and low expectations.” The surprising thing is that when you are grateful for what you have, when you recognize that you truly are awash in abundance, more good things come your way. Be grateful for the love in your life, your home, your friends, your family, for everything. Give thanks every day.
There will always be trying times in our lives but if you do these things, happiness will run through you and keep you strong.