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3 Simple Secrets to Greater Happiness

Updated: Jan 11

Happiness. Almost everyone would like more of it in their life, but sometimes it can seem so elusive can’t it? We might have a few good days, but then something bad happens that kills the vibes. Weekends are fun, but inevitably Monday morning rolls around and we have to go back to work. Turning on the news and being confronted with the endless turmoil and strife in the world currently is enough to stamp the happy right out of a person. Thankfully there are 3 simple secrets to increasing and sustaining your happiness level, regardless of your circumstances. They are all completely free and easy to implement. All that's required is a willingness to make some subtle, yet profound, shifts in mindset and habit patterns.

1) Pay attention, and notice the positive. For many years I used a tagline on my social media pages that read, "life is full of magic and wonder if you take the time to notice it.” I still believe this now. Every single day, all around you, there are so many things to smile about. Sometimes they are big like a new romance, a promotion at work or graduating from college. But the majority of the “happy makers” are actually quite small and simple things. So common, in fact, that we can stop noticing them altogether if we are not careful. For instance, there are clouds, sunsets and stars in the sky that we see all the time. But how often do you pause to really look at them, and take in how truly magnificent they are? While rushing through your daily routine, do you even feel the warmth of the sun on your skin, or hear the birds singing anymore? What about the sounds of your children laughing? When they are grown one day you will miss hearing that, but are you fully experiencing the joy of it now in the present while you still have it? Do you stop and play when they ask you to? Ordinary things too, like petting the dog. Walking in the rain. The loveliness of a sunflower. The night music of the crickets. A song on the radio that makes you feel like dancing. Next time it comes on, will you actually dance around for a minute? It will feel so great, I promise. I know, I know...there are problems and issues everywhere. We can’t just ignore them, while stopping to smell the roses, right? True, although most of attitude is not actually about circumstances, but rather how we choose to show up for them. Along the busy road to success, and while slaying the necessary dragons of life, quit multitasking every now and then, and raise your head. Open your heart. Just breathe. Notice and remember the beautiful. It’s all around you, there for the taking and waiting to bless you. Let the happy in.

2) Express gratitude freely and often. I wouldn’t want to eat turkey and stuffing every single night, but other than that I think Thanksgiving should be celebrated 365 days a year. There’s something about the open declaration of gratitude for our blessings that makes them feel more tangible and meaningful. Gratitude and happiness go hand in hand, so when you consciously foster a thankfulness mindset, your percentage of happy thoughts and feelings will shoot way up as well. Pain has a way of capturing our full attention immediately. If you break your arm, you'll not likely be thinking much about all of the other bones in your body that are NOT broken at that moment. You’ll be intensely fixated on the one that is causing discomfort. It’s the same with things that make us feel angry or sad. We don’t have to make any effort to give these things our primary focus - they reach out and take it, and then hold onto it fiercely. So in order to maintain a spirit of gratitude we need to make a firm decision to override that natural human response, and direct our minds toward our good fortunes on purpose. I would suggest forming a ritual or habit that directs you toward the positive daily. Perhaps during your morning prayers or meditations you could ponder on the wonders of nature. Or in your journal entry each evening create a section of “things that went right” that day. This not only helps you to recall the good amidst the bad, but the more regularly you do it, you’ll find that you’re increasingly aware of things during the day that you could include.

3) Do more AND do less. Think for a minute about the last time you were truly contented, had a good belly laugh, felt inspiration flow through you or didn’t want a particular moment to end. When you experienced these times of pure bliss, where were you? What activities were you doing? Who were you with, if anyone? For various reasons, it’s not always possible to totally recreate happy times we’ve had exactly, but the point is to get your mind focused on what you've most enjoyed so you can do more of it again. For some it might be early morning fishing alone on a secluded river, with only the sounds of the frogs for company. For others it's a night out on the town, partying with friends. It could be knitting, sports, music or volunteering that lights you up and holds your interest. For me it is travel, hiking, time with family and friends, home improvement projects, reading, writing and puttering in my garden. Water has also always been a healing element for me, so the beach or even a decorative fountain brings me peace. Sometimes we may become so disconnected from our inner selves that we don't even know what hobbies would be fun for us anymore. Not to worry, just start today by affirming to yourself that you are worthy and deserving of enjoyment. There are so many “have to” items on our daily lists. It’s important to put some “get to” recreation and restoration on the schedule as well. Also, keeping plans you’re excited about on the calendar, out ahead at all times, gives you something to always be looking forward to. The anticipation can be as energizing as the actual activity. This seems like such an obvious concept - to figure out what makes you smile and then do more of it. But people often resist internally, thinking it’s too expensive, frivolous or even selfish to spend too much time on merriment when there is so much important work to be done. Stop it!! Just stop. If money is tight, find inexpensive versions of your favorite things. They are out there. And as for selfish...please hear me on's NOT! Your sour mood and your bright smile are BOTH contagious to others. Which would you like to infect the people in your life with? Which memory do you care to leave behind you for others when you exit a room, or depart this earth someday. Let that sink in for a minute.

On the flip side of this coin, it is equally critical when seeking greater happiness to do LESS of the things that bring you anger, despair and anxiety. We can’t eliminate everything unpleasant to be sure. There is some drudgery, monotony and irritation that is just part of life, and should be dealt with as patiently as possible. Many things are beyond our control as well, but much of our sorrow is of our own making. We have more power to control our own destinies than we allow ourselves to believe. Take stock of the top sources of frustration and discomfort in your life, and make changes where needed. If a relationship, job, or circumstance is bringing more pain than joy, it may be time to eliminate, limit, or actively address and alter it. That may not be as easy as it sounds...but consider may not turn out to be as difficult as you think it will be either. You’ll never know until you try, so don't allow fear of failure or inadequacy keep you from reaching higher. And never just accept misery as “the way it is.” It really doesn’t have to be.

I’m not suggesting, of course, that you walk through life with rose colored glasses on, or pretend to be happy when you are not. Taking these steps does not mean that bad things will never happen to you again, or that there won’t still be times when you cry. There will probably always be hard days, heartbreaks and injustices to deal with. Challenges will come, and sometimes powerful and decisive actions might need to be taken, in addition to thinking positive thoughts. But the simple concepts outlined here can help you create a personal center that is based on happiness - like your own inner eye of the storm. So when troubles rage around you, there is a foundation of peace that remains for you to stand on. When you fall into a slump, these principles can help you get back up faster. They are tools you can use to reset your mood and outlook, anytime and in any place. It only takes a moment or two to stop - take a breath - notice something beautiful or wonderful - pour thanks out into the universe for its gifts - decide on what enjoyable thing you’ll do next and when - then keep moving forward. Repeat as often as necessary.

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