Where to start?! How can you just make yourself happier? Are these quick fixes that don’t last, or are they sustainable ways to improve your quality of life? Both! It’s up to you. The more you do these sorts of things, the more you raise your happiness baseline.
Think of it like exercise and cardiovascular fitness. In part you can measure your state of fitness by your resting heart rate. All things being equal, if you follow a regular aerobic exercise routine, your cardiovascular fitness will improve and your heart becomes stronger. It will eventually lower your heart rate at rest and will indicate an overall improved fitness. Bring that analogy to your happiness and your resting state of contentment – you need to continually work on it both in terms of your thoughts and your health/diet, but it will gradually improve until your resting state of general happiness is elevated.
So the things I’m saying below need to be part of your daily life… not just when you’re feeling a little down, but everyday. If you think it’s all a load of codswallop and you’re in a happy place now already, that’s great! If you’re not in a happy place and you still think it’s nonsense, then my only question to you is, “Has what you’ve doing up until now been working for you?”
1. Move! Get some exercise
Doing some exercise will improve your mood. I’m not saying you should waste your money on gym membership but rather try to incorporate a non-painful means of exercising your body daily. Me, I try when the weather plays fair to cycle to and from work – it gives me ~45 minutes of moderate exercise everyday and adds to my quality of life by taking me off the crowded subways and giving me a boost in the morning/evening, not to mention any monies saved from not paying for public transport.
I don’t have to think to myself to “go to the gym” in order get my weekly exercise quota, it just forms part of my daily living. I’ll never make Iron Man at this rate, but I wont be unfit and a little everyday in my opinion is better than a big bunch 2 or 3 times a week.
2. Stop! Meditate.
At least 2 or 3 times a day, stop whatever you’re doing or thinking about, and just be. What on earth does that mean? I mean basically for 5+ minutes, which really isn’t very long at all, stop worrying about what happened last night/week/year; stop regretting and posing the “what if” questions that get you nowhere; stop wondering about how you’re going to fit everything in that you need to get done, stop wondering about all those events (regardless of their importance) that have yet to happen. Just relax and take a moment… force yourself to stop worrying. You know that it’s only for 5 minutes and you can get straight back to it when you’re done with this silly exercise. Allow yourself 5 minutes to just STOP.
What do you do when you’re ‘stopped’? There are several things… and I’m effectively moving into the territory of meditation at this point. Focus on just where you are right now, and listen to your mind. Don’t follow the thoughts, but just try to observe them try to take over your mind. Dictate your breathing so that you’re taking slow, moderately deep breaths, and actively relaxing your body. Are your shoulders holding tension, is your back rested, can you take a seat if you’re not already? Refer to step 5. below and smile about something good that happened recently to you and appreciate how lucky you are to be where you are right now in your life. Perhaps everything isn’t as rosy as you’d like, but remember you’re not thinking about those negative things for at least 5 minutes. Focus on the positive aspects in your environment and what brings joy to you, and importantly recognise those lives that you are currently bringing joy to.
3. Eat! A healthy and balanced diet
If you can, once a day, throw together a mix of fruits into a blender and give yourself a massive boost. It will take you 10~20 minutes to prepare a decent size blend, but a pure fruit smoothie everyday makes a seriously significant change in your body/mind. For me, the biggest change came a year ago when I resolved to cycle to work and drink a ~1 litre smoothie every day. It’s powerful and will forever stay with me as a fundamental change in the quality of my health. I just felt better, had more energy, and was clearer in mind and more focused. I can’t overstate this enough – it just really worked for me.
4. Connect! With people you love
Living isn’t about work, or chores, or paying the bills, or any of that kind of stuff. It’s about who you know and the connections you have. You may not agree with that statement, but it’s a free world and that’s your call. But try it… at least once a day, pick a close friend or family member and connect with them. I don’t mean call them up and whine at them about how terrible your life is and that your boss is a prick. Connect solely for the purpose finding on what’s going on in their lives and showing interest in that. Share your positive stories and thoughts and you never know, you may contact somebody who just needs to hear a friendly voice. If you consistently improve your relationship with someone close to you a little bit everyday, you’ll soon be very wealthy indeed. It’s all about people…
Make no mistake, this is by far the most powerful means to lifting yourself and those around you. It’s difficult to be smiling all the time, especially when you don’t feel it, but when you catch yourself looking miserable for no good reason, think on something that made you laugh recently, or at least made you smile. Think fondly of your family, your close friends, The Simpsons, Borat… take your pick! : )
You have a choice when you meet someone, you can either present them with a smile and a happy version of you, or with a frown that does nothing to brighten anybody’s day. Which do you prefer…? -to be with people that smile, or those that look miserable. ‘Be the change you want to see in the world.’