It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, or how much money you do or don’t have, we are all after the often elusive thing we call happiness. The secret (which isn’t so secret) is that “happiness comes from within”, it isn’t something that can be hunted down and caught. The problem is that KNOWING “happiness comes from within” and REALIZING it are two very different things. Unfortunately, a large portion of people never reach this realization and they find themselves going in circles, thinking things like “if only I have a, b, and c, I could finally be happy!”. More often than not, in the effort to attain a, b, and c, more challenges arise. Then, when we reach our goals, we suddenly tell ourselves “well, now i have a, b, and c but now I see I also need x, y, and z to be happy!”.This is the endless cycle that far too many people are needlessly caught in. We have all heard that true happiness is a state of mind that is not dependent on any external factors but this is something few people understand. You can’t understand it until you experience it and you can only do so having generated that state of mind, which today’s world makes quite the struggle. As I said in my last post, there is a solution to every problem. I would like to share with you 3 things that I did to generate the conditions for happiness within my own mind during a very difficult period in my life. I have found each of these suggestions effective and I think you will too. I recommend doing them every single day.
1.) Take 5 minutes each day to laugh
First, let’s start with the physical benefits of laughter. Laughter relieves physical tension and stress, decreases stress hormones, which boosts the immune system, triggers the release of endorphins (the body’s all-natural feel good substances), and improves blood flow. Psychologically, the effects of laughter are a no-brainer. If you are laughing, you are, even if momentarily, not sad, depressed, or anxious. I have never met anyone who doesn’t enjoy laughing. Many of us probably wish we could laugh more but most people think that humor is usually circumstantial and, thus, hard to work into a daily routine. FALSE! Aside from funny TV shows and movies, which some people don’t have time to watch, we live in an age with a fantastic resource for humor: YouTube. All you have to do to make yourself laugh is take 5 minutes, go to YouTube and search something like “funny viral videos” and enjoy. Another great resource, if you don’t want to laugh at the expense of others, is http://www.animalsbeingdicks.com. Check it out! If you make time to laugh every day then you will be well on your way to living a happier life and you will start to see the humor and joy in even the mundane.
Singing is yet another activity that is not only beneficial to the mind but also to the body. Singing has been shown to reduce the levels of stress hormones in the blood stream, relieve anxiety, elevate endorphins, expand the lungs and improve breath control, as well as promote cardiovascular health. I typically sing in the shower or as I am walking around from point A to point B. I only sing love songs because those are the songs that make me feel the best and I often pretend the person I love can hear me, which makes me feel great and strengthens my bond to him. They don’t always have to be happy songs. For some people, it is hard to open up to others and be emotionally vulnerable. In this case, singing a sad song can be its own form of an emotional release/self-therapy session. Don’t be afraid to really feel what the song is trying to convey. We evolved to have feelings for a reason so make time to let yourself feel; just don’t get sucked into wallowing! Also, singing (whether or not others can hear you) is a great way to build self-esteem and confidence. It doesn’t matter if you are American Idol material or have a horrible voice, remember, you are singing for YOU!
3.) START A GRATITUDE JOURNAL
It has been my experience that when you truly start being grateful for the things you have the universe sends you more to be grateful for. Why does it make any sense to be given something (good or bad) if we can’t handle what we already have? Get a notebook and start a gratitude journal. There are only two rules. The first is that you MUST write three things you are grateful for at the end of each day. The second is that you can’t EVER write the same thing twice. At first, this seems easy because it is. To start, people write down the obvious things: family, friends, healthy, money, car, food, shelter, etc. As time goes by, it gets increasingly difficult to think of things you are grateful for. This is good! If you can push through this part, after a while you will find that you don’t have to think so hard. Having spent some time really straining to think about what we are grateful for we begin to truly LEARN how to make gratitude second nature. Over time, it becomes an automatic process. For those of you with smartphones, there’s a grate app called Gratitude Journal. I have personally used it and I loved it.
In summary, to begin to create the conditions for true happiness within your own mind: laugh, sing, and practice being grateful each day. Try it for a week and you will see how quickly your world begins to change. It’s not that the world is changing, you are!