It’s my birthday week, and I’ve been reflecting on the past 30 (HaHa) years and all of the life lessons I’ve learned (mostly the hard way because I’m stubborn). I can say with certainty that I’m the happiest I’ve ever been, and I’d like to share the secret sauce to happiness compiled from all the wisdom I’ve accumulated over my lifetime. Life hasn’t always given me a reason to be “happy.” I am human, and like everyone, have experienced devastation, bad days, and stressful times. But in all of those moments, I’ve managed to have happiness, too.
“Happiness is pretty simple: someone to love, something to do, something to look forward to.” ― Rita Mae Brown
Even as I type this, I am approaching four months away from home, my wife, and my dog, Clooney, and spending the time with my Mom and Dad, caring for my Dad as he fights cancer. And yet, I’m working to be the healthiest I can be. I stopped making excuses or looking for the perfect time. And so, I use resistance bands in the tiny guestroom, I go for walks once the sun tucks in for the night, I watch the food I eat, and I cook for myself even when there are Mom’s chocolate chip cookies in the oven. And this is one of my keys to happiness. I am finding exercise and healthy eating brings joy, even when things are murky. My friends, sales team, business partners, and family all ask me: “How can you be happy when you are going through so much right now?” I’ll admit. 5 am comes very early each morning, and there are many times I’d much rather pull the comforter over my head. Often I find myself trying to talk myself out of a workout and into taco bell. But I snap out of it very quickly. I’m committed to a lifestyle of happiness and health and leading others, motivating others, and inspiring others.
Here are ten things you can do every day to embark on a journey of happiness, no matter what you are going through:
- Move Your Body. Endorphins are real. You’re going to be going through things whether you more your body or not, so choose to move and produce endorphins. A simple walk counts! Other ideas are household chores (yard work, cleaning spree, etc.), chase the kids around, or take your spouse shopping. For more traditional ideas: bike rides, a run, yoga, resistance bands, weights, or even dancing to your favorite music. Don’t let your brain talk you out of what your heart knows it needs.
- Fuel your body with healthy food. When times are tough, we use food to comfort us. We blame the commotion of tough times on not having time to meal plan. In happy times we use food to celebrate and say we earned it. Here’s the thing. I’ve never been a healthy eater up until the last year or two. And I can say without a doubt; healthy eating contributes to happiness more than I ever thought possible. Focus on real food that isn’t in a can or bag. Look for words on the package you can pronounce-shop on the grocery store’s outside aisles. Take things one step at a time and feed your body like your life depends on it. Because it does!”
- Weigh yourself daily. You might think this will bring the opposite of happiness, but trust me. It will help you from flying off the rails. It will get you on track and then keep you on track. You’ll see how far you’ve come. Or, if you don’t need to lose weight, you’ll notice patterns of your hydration levels and see patterns with sleep and eating that you may not catch if you don’t hop on a scale.
- Seek nature. It’s easy to do, but it’s also easy not to do. I don’t live in a big city, but I don’t live in wide-open spaces either. So for me, this involves conscious effort. Walking in a trail, driving to the beach, go barefoot in the grass, or if you’ve seen my social media: buying an inflatable kayak to take advantage of water in the backyard. Even 20 minutes out in nature has a way of bringing happiness that carries over through the day. Get creative and get in nature.
- Become an early riser. There is something about the morning hours that help you do things you usually don’t have time to complete. My wife, the night owl, would cringe at this one, but it’s true. I get more things done while everyone is sleeping- and that makes me happy. Tips: stop drinking caffeine in the afternoon, create a bedtime routine (shower, lavender, herbal tea, meditation, etc.), stop scrolling the phone/computer a couple of hours before bed.
- Focus on a personal mantra/affirmation. Why? Because it will help you stay the course. It will help you stay focused on your goals. It will help you see joy, even when things are hard, because you will be in control of your thoughts.
- Watch the sunrise or sunset. Watching the sunrise is a great way to combine the first few points I’ve made. Plan a walk and pack a healthy breakfast for yourself. Wake up early, walk to a place you can watch the sunrise, recite your affirmation, and breathe in the fresh air. You’ll start the day off with endorphins flooding your body!
- Turn off the technology. I especially find night the easiest and best time to do this. Unplug from social media, shopping sites, google, and even youtube. Use the time you’d typically spend scrolling to reflect on your day and relax your eyes and brain. You can also use your unplug time in the morning if you’re taking that walk to watch the sunset, etc. Just make sure to unplug from selfies too. Just enjoy it in person and move on. This habit is tough to adapt to at first, but you will get used to it and feel free from the chains of technology.
- Find a regular bedtime that works for you. If you take my advice and rise early, you’ll likely want a 9 or 10 pm bedtime. But you know how much sleep you need to feel your best. Get your body in a routine. Your body clock needs balance, and when you find balance, you’ll feel happier.
- Give back. Do this in a way that makes you happy. When you take the focus off yourself and focus on others, you’ll feel satisfied. Volunteer, donate, call a neighbor, send a card. Do whatever you can. It’s like a boomerang. Helping others feel happy will come right back to you and bring you happiness.
There you have it-ten things you can do even when things are hard or sad or heavy. Choose to put these habits first, and you will have joy wherever you go. Do a self-check and see if you have someone to love, something to do, and something to look forward to. Sometimes it’s a matter of using the word “and.” Life isn’t either-or. It’s not either being happy OR stressed. It’s the opposite. You might be grieving AND have joy. You might be having a terrible day AND enjoy your night. Allow yourself to be happy in the dark times, and when the sun comes out, you will feel joy in the best way possible.
Success is a choice!