The effort to get ahead, enjoy your life, and be happy can, at times, feel like being trapped on a destinationless hamster wheel. When it comes to that simple quest, we’re all pretty much the same.
And yet, for all those years of self-help books and Oprah-in-the-afternoons, happiness can still seem frustratingly elusive.
The Dalai Lama makes it all sound so simple, so matter of fact: The purpose of our lives is to be happy.
Well, isn’t that special? your mind may quip with an eye roll. I have ten children, three mortgages, two jobs, and no car. When do I have time to enjoy my life?
Everyone comes with a story. And everyone can be rendered miserable or unconditionally happy because – and regardless – of that story.
Joy is your birthright. It’s the unburdened, uncorrupted state of your being when you enter this world. You have no attachment to malice or the seemingly insurmountable requisites of living a responsible, adult life.
But life has its ways, doesn’t it? It delivers unavoidable disappointments, exhaustive demands, no-win choices, and inevitable loss.
How, then, are you supposed to enjoy your life and be happy? Is it even possible to be genuinely happy in this life?
The answer to the second question, of course, is yes, however distant the delight in life may seem.
Sometimes you simply need to step back and tap into all those highlighted lines in your self-help library. We are all guilty of making things more difficult than they need to be and seeing our lives as “never enough.”
You didn’t win Powerball last week?
But you might be surprised at how easy it can be to better enjoy your life and be happy.
Here are 6 tips to get you off to an uplifting start.
- Turn off the news.
Unless you have a cable package that includes a “Good News Only” channel, don’t steep yourself in the endless woes of the news.
There was a time when the news preceded or followed dinner and was over in an hour. But now it’s 24/7, just like the doom and gloom it reports.
Chances are if the world is coming to an end, you’re going to hear about it. You don’t have to put your head into the sand to simply put some boundaries around what you listen to.
- Practice compassion.
We’ve all heard the adage that one of the best ways to enjoy your life and be happy is to get outside yourself. Help someone else. Elevate someone else’s spirits and life.
There is a direct correlation between the ability to experience others’ feelings with a desire to help and the happiness you feel within yourself.
By shifting your focus away from your own issues in order to help someone else, your stress levels decrease. You feel happier while seeking someone else’s happiness.
And, as a result, you make healthier choices for yourself, thereby keeping the positive cycle in motion.
Acts of compassion require so little. Baking cookies today? Bake an extra dozen and take them to a lonely neighbor. Pay for someone’s coffee. Visit someone in a nursing home. Listen attentively to someone who is grieving and needs to talk.
Why is it that caring about someone else can make you feel so good within yourself?
Because compassion for others is your highest, purest calling. It comes from a place of unconditional love.
And it reminds your own spirit that you can do great things, even in small ways.
Would you ever imagine that those piles of I’ll-get-to-it-later papers could negatively affect both your physical and mental health? Dishes left in the sink, clothes left around the bedroom, toys on the floor, unfinished craft projects.
You may not be the next case on Hoarders, but all that stuff-without-a-purpose-or-place taxes your brain in a similar way.
It increases your stress, reduces your sleep, and diminishes your cognition.
Clutter decreases your focus, and therefore your productivity.
It even leads to bad habits like mindless eating.
Want to better enjoy your life and be happy? Give your brain the order it craves, and watch your life open like a window on a spring day.
- Create a happiness ritual.
Instead of expecting happiness to land in your lap, invite it into your life. Be conscious of its importance in your life and be mindful of acknowledging it as you open and close your day.
What are you looking forward to today? What made you smile or laugh today? What caught you pleasantly by surprise? What happy experience are you penciling in for tomorrow?
Using rituals can be an effective way to rise out of complacency and be mindful of both what you have and what you can create.
- Learn to play for fun and not to win.
How many times have you avoided playing a game because you were afraid you weren’t good enough to perform well? I’ve never swung a bat before. What if I swing at the air and never hit the ball? Everyone here is so competitive. I don’t want to look clumsy or foolish.
Unless you’re training for the Olympics, give yourself the freedom to play...just to play.
Play is as important for adults as it is for children. It decreases stress, releases feel-good endorphins, generates brain cell development, and builds friendships and social skills.
Whether you’re sleuthing with Mrs. Peacock and Colonel Mustard in a game of Clue or playing kickball with the neighborhood kids, just play.
What better way to enjoy your life and be happy than to embrace the child within?
- Practice gratitude.
One of the secrets that all happy people know about being genuinely happy is that gratitude changes everything.
Instead of needing more and more to be happy, focus on being happy with what you have.
Counting your blessings will make you feel loved by life. It will help diminish your stress over doing and having more because you will realize you have all you need.
Gratitude also helps you stay grounded in the present because you’re not regretting the past or worrying about the future.
How do you practice gratitude? Slow down enough to be aware of small things that make you feel good, valued, happy.
Start a gratitude journal and write down at least five things a day for which you are grateful.
Make it a point to say thank you as often as possible. Find reasons to thank people. You’ll be surprised how much your awareness deepens as you practice that powerful statement.
You’ll also be surprised by how people – and life – respond.
Want some more easy tips for living a happy life? Click here.
Learning to better enjoy your life and be happy isn’t a quest that needs to take you far from home. It can be as simple as clicking your heels together three times and telling yourself that you’ve always had the key.
I’m Dr. Karen Finn and I’m a life coach. Schedule a 30-minute private consultation for support in learning to better enjoy your life and be happy.