Throughout the past 28 days we’ve been talking a lot about happiness and what we can do to increase how we feel. We’ve talked about a huge variety of different things from how sleep, exercise and nutrition can affect our mood, to simple strategies like decluttering and practicing gratefulness.
Tomorrow I’ll give you a quick little review and we’ll make some plans to go from here. Today though, as this 30 Day Happiness Challenge is coming to a close, I thought it would be a good idea to take stock and see if intentionally focusing on being happier is making a difference. I know it has for me, but how about you? I hope you’ve been following along and giving the various ideas a try.
One thing we talked about in the past is keeping a journal. At the time, the idea was to practice gratitude and paying attention to the good things about us by writing them down. That same journal is also a great tool to judge how you’ve been doing throughout this challenge. Compare the earlier entries to the last few, or even how you’re feeling now. Hopefully you’re seeing some great improvements.
It’s important to remember that we go through seasons in our lives. There are times that we are overall happier, and times that are more challenging and sad. It’s ok to go through those sadder phases. I mentioned in one of the posts in this challenge that it would be sad if we only experienced happiness. We need to be sad to make the happy stand out more. Without the tough times it’s hard to appreciate the good ones. If you’re stuck in a tough time, that’s ok. Do what you can to make yourself and your loved ones get through it and then work on bringing the joy and happiness back into your lives.
More than anything else I hope this short little challenge is making you more aware of the beauty and joy around you. It’s so easy to get sucked into our everyday lives and troubles to a point where we miss the people and things that will make us happy. This challenge was designed to make you more aware of them and create new, positive habits that you will continue to carry forward from here on out. We’ll talk a little more about where to go from here in tomorrow’s wrap up post. For now, I hope this has made a difference to you and I’d love to hear how you’ve enjoyed it and what you’ve found particularly helpful. Leave me a comment, connect on social media, or send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you.
Here’s a fun fact. Did you know that happiness is contagious? You may not have realized that this is true, but I’m sure you have experienced it. Think back on a time when you were with a person that was experiencing pure joy. Kids are wonderful not only at being completely happy, but also sharing and expressing that exuberant joy. If you’re around a small child that’s laughing, giggling, and having a grand time, you can’t help but smile along. Their happiness is making us happier because it is contagious – sort of like a yawn.
Since happiness can spread from person to person, we can use it to share our joy and excitement. Use it to make a difference in how happy you feel on any given day and don’t be afraid to spread it around.
Soak Up The Happy
When you’re having a rough day, cheering yourself up may be as simple as finding a happy person. Surround yourself with positive people who are good at sharing the joy. Find your own personal cheerleaders that you can call on when you need a little boost. While watching a comedy or happy movie may help, experiencing happiness in person seems to have a much bigger impact on how you feel. Go out there and soak up the happy.
Spread Happiness Around
Not only can you feed off the happiness of others, you can also start to spread it around. We talked in a previous post about how giving makes us happier than receiving. Along those same lines, sharing your happiness will benefit both you and those around you. If you are out there intentionally sharing your joy and excitement with those around you, you’ll create a positive energy that is contagious. You’ll start to notice your family and friends smile more, laugh with you, and have a good time.
Then something interesting happens. You start to feed off their positive vibes and happiness, increasing your own joy. Keep it going and you’ll create a spiral of happiness that keeps spreading far and wide. A simple smile or a shared laugh can change the mood of an entire group of people. That’s pretty powerful stuff.
As you interact with people, start to pay attention to the mood and be aware that feelings of both happiness and sadness can be contagious. Use what we’ve talked about in this post to your advantage and where appropriate, change the mood in the room by sharing happiness. You don’t have to be exploding with joy to make a difference. Instead, take a moment to focus on a happy memory, or think on what you’re grateful for. Then show and share the happiness you’ve created and watch it travel around the room. Smile, have an encouraging conversation, become a cheerleader and work towards making the world a happier place.
We lead busy lives and have all sorts of obligations as parents, professionals, and friends. It’s easy to lose yourself in everything that has to be done in any given week. While it’s great to give and spend lots of time with loved ones, there is a time and place when you should slow down and get a little selfish.
Sometimes you need to treat yourself and spend a little ‘me’ time. Don’t feel guilty about it. In the end, it will make you a better parent, a better colleague, and a better friend. We all need to recharge and we need to do something just for ourselves on a regular basis and it doesn’t have to be complicated.
If taking time for yourself to do something that you enjoy and that relaxes you isn’t something you’re doing right now, figure out what you may want to do. Maybe it’s reading a good book or watching your favorite TV show. Maybe it’s getting back into a hobby you used to enjoy. Maybe it’s taking a nap. Maybe it’s as simple as having 10 minutes to sit by yourself and think, or thumb through a magazine.
Your first task is to find out what it is you want to do for yourself. Time to do what you enjoy is always a favorite. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time and it doesn’t have to involve anything complicated. Sure, a trip to the beach by yourself for a week would be great, but if that’s not an option, curling up on the couch with a nice cup of tea and a good book will do.
Treating yourself to a new haircut, a pretty dress, a new gadget, or something that will help you enjoy your hobby more is another great option. Or keep it super simple, and pick up a favorite treat that you don’t have to share while you’re out doing the grocery shopping.
The point I’m trying to make is that it’s ok to treat yourself and do something for the sole purpose of making you happy. While a piece of fancy chocolate may not seem like that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things, treating yourself well, and caring for yourself can have a huge impact on the rest of your day and how you treat those around you. Give it a try. Do something nice for yourself and watch your happiness levels go up.
Today is all about food. We all know that chocolate can make us happy, but it goes much deeper than that. Good nutrition and healthy eating can have a big impact on your mood and how you feel in general. And then there are certain minerals and nutrients that are directly linked with happiness or depression.
It is interesting to learn how much the food we eat can affect our mood. I think it’s no accident that since the advent of lots of processed food with added sugar in the Western diet, depression and other mood disorders have dramatically risen. We look for ways to increase happiness in a variety of different ways when the simplest solution may be to change what we eat. Let’s look at a couple of key ingredients and nutrients that have been shown to directly affect our mood.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
I’m sure you’ve heard about this fatty acid that’s found in fatty fish and certain seeds and nuts. There’s another fatty acid called Omega 6 and from what I’ve read there’s an important balance between omega 3 and omega 6 that needs to happen. If you end up with way more omega 6 than omega 3 (which is often the case in a diet that consists of lots of processed foods), one of the side effects is depression.
We tend to get the blues more in winter when we can’t get outside and get some sun. A big reason for this drop in mood is a lack of vitamin D. With the advent of strong sunscreen and a global health policy that warns us of sun exposure and cautions us to cover up or wear sunscreen, it’s no wonder that vitamin d deficiency has become major problem that also happens to negatively affect our mood.
Being happy takes energy and a key ingredient in making sure we get the energy we need from our foods are B vitamins. This whole group of micronutrients is crucial in how energized we feel. Make sure you get plenty to feel your best.
Last but not least let’s talk about magnesium. This is starting to become more and more of an issue as our soils are magnesium depleted and less of this mineral makes it into our food. Lack of magnesium can cause insomnia and I don’t have to tell you how important a good night sleep is to your overall well-being.
While you may want to consider supplementing with some of these nutrients to quickly fill the gap your diet is leaving, a much better long-term strategy is to work on cleaning up your diet. The more processed foods you can cut out and replace with fresh fruits and vegetables, quality meats, and healthy fats the better. In other words, eat a healthy diet made up of real foods and you’ll start feeling better.
Since starting this 30 Day Happiness Challenge, I’ve been a lot more aware of the happiness of the people around me. I’m sure you’ve experienced the same thing. It is causing me to look at people more closely and pay attention to their actions, their feelings, and how that seems to correlate. It’s been interesting and has given me some fresh perspectives on this whole happiness thing.
Something that’s stood out in the past few weeks is that the people that seem the most unsatisfied with their life and the least happy are the ones that spend a lot of their time and energy complaining. I’m sure you have a few of those people in your life as well. They are too busy talking about how horrible their life is that they don’t have any time left to do something about it. Or maybe they’d rather complain than change things. Either way, the solution seems to be simple. Stop complaining and start taking action.
We all have times when we complain about one thing or another. Sometimes we do it in our heads, sometimes we vent with a close friend or family member. We grumble, get it off our chest, and that alone makes us feel a little better. That’s fine, provided complaining isn’t all we do. Sure, there are times when we complain, feel a little better, and the situation resolves itself. But there are other times when things won’t get better and we won’t feel happier in the long run unless we do something.
If you’re not happy in your job, start looking for a different position or even change companies. If you’re not happy with your salary and it doesn’t give you the funds to do what you want in life, work towards that promotion, take some classes, and do whatever it takes to start earning more. If you are stuck in a relationship that makes you unhappy, work on it, or take the action to move on. If you’re not happy with how your kids are acting, work on your parenting skills, and work with your kids to make things better. If you’re not happy with the way you look and feel, start eating healthier and get outside for some fresh air and exercise.
It’s truly amazing how much you can shape your life for the better once you stop complaining and start taking action. What are you going to do today to make your life better and increase your long-term happiness?
In my last post I talked about how much focusing on experiences instead of things can help reduce stress and increase happiness. Today, I want to take that one step further and focus a little more on getting rid of things – both physical and mental. The idea is to find happiness in simplicity.
One of the reasons vacations are so relaxing is because we are away from most of our stuff and the responsibilities that come with it. You don’t have to worry about all sorts of projects and chores around the house and can just relax and enjoy the space you are in. You’re away from appointments, work, and being reachable. This allows you to focus on the people with you.
While we can’t replicate this feeling of vacation, what we can do is reduce the clutter in our lives and simplify things. This then allows us to focus on what’s important and what makes us happy. Here are some simple little ideas to help you start decluttering.
Decluttering Your Home
Let’s start with the simple stuff. There are tons of books, blog posts, articles and even TV shows about decluttering. While it isn’t easy, what it boils down to is to go through your home, one room or one area at a time and finding the things you no longer need or want. These can then be thrown out or given away. The idea is that in the end you are left with things you appreciate and a lot more clear space that’s more relaxing to live in and easier to keep clean and organized.
Decluttering Your Calendar
Next take a look at your calendar, or the activities and obligations in your life. Being busy makes us feel productive, but often the best use of our time is to cut out all the extra stuff that really isn’t necessary and doesn’t bring us joy. Don’t be afraid to be ruthless and even a little impolite at times. Feeling obligated shouldn’t be a good enough reason why you’re doing something. Get rid of it and then use the gained time to do things that help you relax, get ahead, and most importantly make you happy.
Decluttering Your Mind
Last, but not least, it’s time to declutter your brain. It’s amazing how much “junk” we let build up in there. We all have this running list of things we should do, ideas for future projects, what to cook, what to shop for etc. What we don’t realize is how much brain power that kind of thinking takes up. The best way to deal with it is to do a ‘brain dump’. Get out a piece of paper and start writing it all down. Everything you have in your head that you think you need to remember from the book you want to read next and what to cook for dinner tomorrow, to the meeting you need to schedule at work. Write it all down. Don’t judge, don’t edit, and don’t try to organize it. All of that can come later. For now write it down to get it out of your head.
When you’re done notice how much lighter and happier you feel with each area of your life decluttered. While it isn’t the easiest thing to do, it is well worth it and something you should try to do regularly.