Y-O-U: Only Happier!

10 Happiness Habits That'll Leave You Smiling LIke Our LIttle Friend Here

Happiness and habits are two words that most people don’t associate with one another. Most think they’re either destined to be happy or they’re destined to spend their life Googgling  How to Be Happy.  (Googling is, of course, the act of using Google. I assume everyone knows that, but after my much loved and too adorable for words aunt though lol stood for lots of love, I take nothing for granted. I’d wondered why she always signed each e-mail with lol… even when talking about someone’s bad health or the economy. I thought she was just a little nuts, I guess.)

Habits, however, are vital to all aspects of life.  Think about it: If we want to lose weight, we know there are certain habits we need to form to, first, get us on the right track and, second, keep us on the right track. If we want to become more organized, we realize we have to develop better organizational habits. Even grouches have to employ certain habits to curb their temper.

So it should come as little surprise that habits can also be beneficial in bringing more happiness into our lives.  The following are 10 such “Happiness Habits” that happen to be my favorites.  I’d love for you to share your own favorite “Happiness Habits” in the comments.

  1. Smile often.  I don’t care if you have a legitimate reason or not… smile! No matter how bad things are, there’s always, always, always something to smile about.  Granted, sometimes we have to look, but it’s always worth the time and effort. Somehow, when we smile, it helps the rest of us believe everything is okay.  It’s as though the rest of our body says, “(S)he’s smiling, life must be great right now.”
  2. Stay in the present.  There’s a great quote that says something like, “The past wasn’t as perfect as we remember and the future isn’t as bad as we think it’ll be.”  Don’t live in the past and don’t obsess about the future. Stay in the here and now. Get in the habit of focusing on what (and who) is right in front of you.
  3. Simplify.  Few things kill a great mood like feeling overwhelmed or stretched too far.  Stop trying to do it all and stop trying to be all things to all people. Life is to enjoy, not let slip by while you’re constantly grinding it out.  Try to simplify all areas of your life and you’ll feel a lot happier and more at peace.
  4. Make others happy. The surest way to bring a smile to your own face is to put a smile on someone else’s face (even if that someone else is a pet – they “smile” in their own way).  Do little things on a regular basis that make your loved one’s light up.  When they light up, it’ll warm your world.
  5. Roll with the Flow! Don’t get so caught up thinking that everything has to be perfect… after all, no one ever said it would be. Learn to adapt and, when necessary, simply say, “It is what it is.” Never feel sorry for yourself or lash out at others. Neither of these approaches solves anything. In fact, they make matters worse and carry you further from happiness than ever before.
  6. Determine what things make you happy.  What activities and/or situations make you happy? Make room in your life for these things on a regular basis.  If having a clean and neat home (or car, garage…) make you feel happy, develop housecleaning habits that set you up for success. If watching tv with your spouse and pet makes you as happy as a pig in mud, develop the habit of watching certain shows together.  Look forward to them, talk about them… heck, even tweet about them!
  7. Eat Healthy. This habit may seem a bit out of place here, but I believe it’s as important to happiness as the other 9.  Overeating, eating junk food, and neglecting necessary vitamins (from fruits and vegetables) have negative effects on our moods, in addition to our bodies.  Adapt healthy eating habits and you’ll soon find that you have more energy, stabler moods, and an all around improved sense of being.
  8. Relax, Max.  Make time each day to do absolutely nothing.  When we’re on the go every hour of the day, we wear ourselves out mentally, physically, and emotionally.  Allow yourself time each day to unwind and relax.
  9. Breath.  I know, I know, this is something we do automatically. I’m not talking about normal breathing – I’m talking about deep breaths – the kind where you can see your chest rise and fall. Test yourself several times throughout the day to see how deeply you’re breathing.  Most people find that, sometimes they are actually holding their breath! Deep breaths help you to reconnect with yourself, your present, and the world around you.
  10. Pamper yourself.  Develop the habit of treating yourself to occasional fun, frivolous little treats. Whether it’s a hot new color of nail polish, a box of golf balls, a Dairy Queen milkshake (how good does that sound right now?!) or a new top you just can’t leave the store without – give yourself an occasional lift with something that makes you smile from ear to ear. Naturally, this treat doesn’t have to be a thing – it can be an experience, such as a bubble bath, foot massage, or 30 minute sitting in the front yard watching birds. The idea is to realize that you deserve to be happy and to realize that it’s up to you to make that happen.

One thing to keep in mind:  Never become dependent upon other PEOPLE to make you happy. Depending on others for your happiness is an invitation to disaster (plus it isn’t fair to them).  Take care of your own happiness! The habits listed above can help you do just that.  I hope you’ll share your own thoughts in the comments!


11 Things That Can Make You Happier in 2011

How to Be Happy, an 11 Step Program

Happiness.  Even the word looks cheerful and bright!  But before we launch into a how to be happy course, let me say – right off the bat – that I acknowledge the following fact:  Genes, chemical balances, life histories, temperaments, and a host of other factors go into an individual’s concept of “happy” as well as their ease in attaining happiness.  We can’t possibly expect two individuals to approach the subject of happiness the same way, nor can we expect them to travel the same road to achieve this happiness.

To further complicate matters, these same two individuals will almost always define happiness differently.

Case in point… the holidays.

When it’s Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter, or the first day of  Baseball season (yes, in fact, in our house that is a holiday) – I can be found in the kitchen surrounded by bowls, mixers, pots, pans, pot holders, and a spoiled, overweight cat watching for yummies to hit the ground.  Daughters, husbands, sons-in-law, future sons-in-law, and sometimes people I’ve never met will walk through the kitchen during the hours that constitute the cooking marathon – checking up on things, sampling the goods, and even patting me on the back in a “hang in there, champ” fashion.

Often, my oldest daughter, Emily (aka The Crazy Tea Chick) will shoot me a look that says, “You poor, poor soul. I wish I could free you from your bondage, but I fear if I get too close, the kitchen demons will claim me.”   What the queen of take-outs and microwave meals may not fully realize is that I am never happier than I am when I’m in the kitchen cooking for my loved ones.

Even the ones I’ve never seen before.

I guess one person’s nightmare is another person’s nirvana.

“Most people would rather be certain they’re miserable, than risk being happy.” – Robert Anthony

The shoes can be easily exchanged as well. Even if one’s a fuzzy house-shoe and the other’s a sensible pump. Emily works two jobs. She leaves her house in the morning while I’m still happily in my PJs, sipping coffee, feeding cats and husbands (actually, there’s only one), and sorting through e-mail.  Her first job of the day is working with special needs children.   During hours that I’m working from home on my websites, taking breaks for laundry and treadmill workouts… and still sipping coffee… Emily is working with precious little autistic children, a brave little boy with Muscular Dystrophy, and other children who have to learn the meaning of the word fight much too soon.

As she heads to her second job (again, working with children – at another Elementary School, in an after school program), I’m…. oh, you know… sipping coffee.

The thought of being away from home all day, working in such an emotionally charged atmosphere, and so far removed from my coffee pot and cats, makes me shudder.  Yet, to Em, it’s the essence of happiness.  She may talk a good game about wanting “snow days” or a summer vacation – but I’m all too familiar with the “I miss my kids!” look on her face.   There’s zero doubt in my mind that the little ones miss her even more.

{Would this be an acceptable place and time to say how proud I am of the queen of take-out and microwaveable meals?}

Happiness is defined differently by different people, but we all know it when it’s in the room with us.  We’re content, at peace, and smiling from the inside out. Being happy is like every other goal you can name:  It all comes down to choices.  If you want to bring about change in your life, you have to make the right choices. One after another.

“Time spent laughing is time spent with the gods.” – Japanese Proverb

What follows are 11, often simplistic, suggestions for finding your own personal happiness in 2011 – and lots of it!

  1. Choose to focus on what you have. There are 2 kinds of people in the world: Those who look PAST what they don’t have and see what they do have and those who look PAST what they do have and see what they don’t have.  Which do you think is the happier crowd? This is a perfect time to put your big but in the way (before you get nasty, look at the spelling – but, not butt). When you find yourself thinking, “I don’t have a fishing boat (new car, stand-alone mixer, 10 kids, alpaca… insert your own dream here)” – put your big but firmly down and say, “I do have a rock solid marriage (warm house, terrific son, beautiful daughter, fat cat…. insert your own blessings here).”
  2. Do what makes you smile inside. Take pen and paper out.  Write down 10 activities that make you feel the most content, happiest, and at peace with the world.  Sometimes they are so ridiculously simple that you’d almost be embarrassed to admit them. I do this particular exercise, myself, regularly – to make sure that I’m still making time for each.  Not only is it a reminder to mostly enjoy what you enjoy most, the exercise serves as a reminder of how many great things you have going on. In fact, I always go beyond the 10.  Mine run the gamut from watching Scooby Doo with my husband to shopping with my daughters.   I also have cooking, watching movies, bird watching, and playing with my cats amongst the “good times” list.  Do you enjoy early morning talks with your daughter or neck rubs from your spouse? Write them down!
  3. Identify your happiness “blockers.” Happiness blockers would be exactly what you’d expect them to be – things or circumstances that you feel are keeping you from being as happy as you could be.  Here’s the key, however: Don’t just identify them and wallow in their presence.  Map out a way over, through, or under the blockade!  (More on Happiness Blockades Below)
  4. Master the art of living in the moment. Ever see a dog contentedly lying on a front porch, wagging his tail as he watches people walk by?  He isn’t worried about his next meal, he isn’t missing his people who are at work or school, he isn’t living with remorse from the time he growled at the UPS man.  He’s just living and loving life as it is right now.  What a lesson dogs can teach all of us!  We need to embrace more moments as they come and quit fretting over those that are yet to come or those that have come and gone.  On my mental fitness blog, Out of Bounds, I sign each post with one of my own personal affirmations, “Make each moment count double!”  I’m all about not just living in the moment, but squeezing the daylights out of it. Regrets and worries are serious happiness blockades, but they’re VERY manageable.  You simply have to let go of the past, live in the moment, and refuse to let what may or may not come tomorrow rob you of happiness today. There’s a lot to be said for letting go and moving onUnless of course you have growled at the UPS man, then I fully expect you to apologize.
  5. Don’t be so hard on yourself! I read a quote this morning from an interview with a teenage girl.  She said that it seemed impossible to live up to the images of actresses and models in magazines.  Dang straight!  The actresses and models don’t even look like they do on magazines… how can anyone else?!  Tyra Banks and Cindy Crawford are just two of a long line of celebrities who have detailed how much propping, stuffing, highlighting, and photo-shopping goes into photo shoots.   However even if they did look flawless, smooth, and blemish-free – so what?!  No one has to live up to or down to anyone else.  Our only competition is ourselves.  It’s up to us to look the best we can and to strive for our personal best. Not someone else’s.  Accentuate your positives, downplay your negatives, and love yourself for the beautiful person you are.  Only judge yourself using your own yardstick, never anyone else’s.
  6. Laugh it off. No, not everything is funny but there is something funny about just about everything.  If you learn to look for the humor in situations, you’ll find yourself laughing more than ever before.  I don’t need to tell you what a wonderful thing that is.
  7. Make sure you’re getting enough – but not too much – sleep. There’s a slippery slope when it comes to sleep.  Getting too little of it can affect your mood just as easily as getting too much of it.  If you seem to feel kind of down lately, determine if you’re getting more (or less) sleep than usual.  Honestly, sometimes a happiness blockade is as simple as shut eye.
  8. Spend quality time with loved ones. Watch movies, tv, and sports with your friends and family more often. Go for walks or long rides together.  Go out for a cup of coffee and catch up on everything going on in your lives.  Encourage and support one another and, most of all, just enjoy one another’s company.  Make 2011 a year that you start valuing your loved ones more.  Let them know that you love them to the moon and back.
  9. Eat right. Over-eating never leads anywhere worth going. Neither do fried, processed, or fatty foods.  Our bodies were meant to eat healthy, natural foods and operate (physically, mentally, and emotionally) better when we provide them with the right kind of fuel.  We should all move toward this rule, “If Eve couldn’t have fixed it for Adam, I’m not going to put it into my body.”  And before you say anything, Eve was a whiz bang with coffee beans.  She ground them with her own little hands, warmed water over the fire, and led the way for us all.   Don’t bother looking in Genesis, this part of history is from my own little brain.  But given the fact that coffee trees exist, I feel comfortable with my tale.
  10. Get plenty of exercise and activity. Again, our bodies were made to move and move often.  Back to the Garden of Eden: Our ancestors had to hunt, build, forage, clean, and walk long distances.  The human body was designed to perform like a machine – yet today we have machines to do practically all of our work, physically as well as mentally, for us.  Not good. We have to challenge ourselves to find ways to become more active than we are.  Let’s make that much more active than we are.
  11. Be optimistic.  Again, I know that some people are, by nature, more optimistic than others.  Some of us see the glass half full while others see it half empty.  Then there’s the crowd that sees a glass and screams, “Don’t touch that! It’s all germy and stuff!”  I’m a card-carrying optimist and I’ll be one until I meet Adam and Eve face to face (I’ll be the one asking her, “Seriously? For an apple?“).  I had rather expect something good around every corner than something hideous. Most of the things we worry about never even come to pass, so why bother worrying in the first place?

Overcoming Happiness Blockades

Above, one of the 11 Steps to Happiness included identifying your Happiness Blockades and finding your way around, over, or through them. Below are a few common Happiness Blockades and a few tips that can help you maneuver past them.

Overcoming Loneliness

If you are currently without a “life partner,” you may feel that you will not be truly 100 percent happy until you meet Mr. or Miss Right.  Whenever I hear someone complaining about not being able to find this elusive person, my first question is always the same: “What are you doing about it?”  My son-in-law has a friend who desperately wants a female companion in his life.  However, when he asked him what he does everyday, the Romeo-would-be answers, “I go to work.  I go home.”

Juliet’s not there! If she were, they’d have come face to face by now.

If you want to meet someone special, you have to be proactive about it.

  • Casually mention to friends and acquaintances that you’re searching for that certain someone.  You never know… they may know your soul mate!
  • Go to church.  Many churches have groups and functions for singles.  Even if you didn’t meet your future spouse, you’ll make friends will some pretty cool people.  The more people YOU know, the more people THEY know…  suffice to say, the more people involved, the more doors can open.
  • Take classes at a local tech school or college. Guys, two words: Cooking Class.  Ladies, you know you want to learn more about computers.  Art classes, photography classes, yoga classes… all very fun environments to meet people.  As a bonus, you’ll learn something you didn’t know.
  • Instead of sitting at home on your computer each night, go to Starbucks or Panera Bread a couple of times a week with your laptop.
  • Don’t rule out e-Harmony!

Coping With Empty-Nest Syndrome

We’ve already seen how much I detest the phrase empty nest syndrome, but there’s no getting around it. The phrase is here for good. Unfortunately, so is the sadness that accompanies it.  If  your happiness blockade is an empty nest, you’re certainly not alone.  I hear from parents on a regular basis who are dealing with this transition.   Below are a few words of advice.

  • Stay in contact with the bird that’s flown the nest!  Texting, Facebook, Twitter how did parents ever communicate with their kids before?!
  • Invite your son/daughter over several times a week for supper.  If you cook it, they will come.  Food is the perfect recipe for a close family.
  • Adopt a pet.  IF, of course, you are prepared to care for and love it.  A few years ago, my daughters all hit the age of boyfriends, jobs, and college. (For any parents, this is a tough adjustment but for one, such as myself, who’d home-schooled her children since pre-school, the quiet was deafening).  During the same period of time, our inside cat, Prissy, hit old age… well, actually, it hit her – and HARD.  She suffered several strokes and completely lost her vision.  Our precious little girl was over 20 years old, so we knew we wouldn’t have her much longer.  By nature, I’m pretty much Mary Poppins, but there were times when I could feel myself feeling so down that I just wanted to lie around (with what was left of Prissy).  Around that time, one of our outside kittens, Alexa, needed to be spayed.  After her surgery, I brought her in to recover.  She never saw a reason to leave and far be it from me to suggest it!  Shortly after we lost Prissy, Alexa brought an ironing board down on herself and broke her leg in two places.  At a time when she needed babying the most, I needed something to baby.  An incredible bond was forged and she is rarely out of my sight.  If you find that you need something to baby, trust me, there are plenty of precious animals at your local shelter who’d love nothing more than to be babied.
  • For more on empty nest syndrome, please click the link. The link will open in a new window.

“Those who can laugh without cause have either found the true meaning of happiness or have gone stark raving mad.” – Norm Papernick

How to Lose Weight

Talk about another category where you wouldn’t be alone! Most people want to lose weight and get fit. The problem is, few want to do what it takes.  If your happiness blockade is your weight, make today the day you smash right through the barrier.  No, you won’t drop 50 pounds in 1 day, but you CAN make a move.  You’d be surprised what making a move can do for your morale.  Once you take action, the blockade isn’t so imposing.

  • Clear your kitchen! Throw out cookies, candy, potato chips, and other unhealthy items with “empty calories.”
  • Fill your pantry and refrigerator with baby carrots, celery, whole wheat crackers, avocados, baked chips, lean meats, and other healthy foods.  When you’re hungry, if your only options are soups and salads, that’s what you’re going to eat.  When the chips aren’t on the shelf, they can’t call out to you from the next room.
  • Get moving!  Park further from the store door, take frequent walks, buy a treadmill, buy exercise dvds, buy a pedometer and aim for over 10,000 steps a day, make Prevention your homepage and read the zillions of tips and articles.
  • Count calories! Use Everyday Health’s Calorie App. Counting calories doesn’t get any easier.
  • Let The Biggest Loser cookbooks, calorie counters, dvds, and episodes help you plow right through the blockade.  Click the following link for more about  using The Biggest Loser for weight loss and fitness.

How to Look Younger and Feel Younger

If your happiness blockade has a poster of Father Time on its side, you’re living in the right era!  Baby boomers are all but in control of the world right now which means they’re writing books, articles, blogs, websites, geared toward aging well.  They’re also formulating lotions, creams, and cosmetics to help us…. pardon the pun… put our best face forward.

Do a little research online and in the bookstore, you’ll turn up a wealth of information for skin care, hair care, and vitality. Ironically, the things that are best for us when it comes to health and fitness, are best for us when it comes to aging. Omega 3s, vegetables, fruits, protein, fresh air, exercise, vitamins, and plenty of water – they’re the actual contents of the fountain of youth.  The great news is, they’re all within our reach.

Whatever your personal issue is (thinning hair, bat wings, crow’s feet, brittle nails, brittle bones…), do a little research.  Check reputable websites such as prevention.com, Real Age, Everyday Health, and Web MD.  Be aware that just because it’s published online doesn’t mean it’s flaw-proof.  When it comes to something as vital as bat wings, I don’t want you listening to just anyone. (For my male readers… bat wings are the jiggly parts of upper arms that… oh, what am I thinking… never-mind… that’s how female arms are supposed to look, okay guys?)

Real Age has an entire section called Look Young, Stay Sharp.  Excellent, excellent articles, tips, and advice.

“Joy is a flower that blooms when you do.” – Author Unknown

When it comes to overcoming happiness blockades, the keyword is the same it has always been: FIGHT!  When the fight leaves an individual, they might as well wave their white flag, pick a comfortable place, lie down, and stay.  Sounds more like dying than living, doesn’t it?

I know you aren’t any more ready to lie down than I am. I also know there’s a fighting spirit in you.  Whatever it is you’re fighting FOR, TOWARD, or even AGAINST, I hope you’ll dig deep and keep fighting.

If you want to lose weight…. fight for it.

If you want to look younger…. fight for it.

If you want to find your soul mate… fight for him or her.

If you want to improve your memory… fight for it.

If you want to improve your health… fight for it.

If you want to be happy…. fight for it!

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