Saturday, November 2, 2013

Take Action to Make Yourself Happy

Today is Saturday, November 2, 2013. 

In order to be happy, you have to do something, so here are some things you can do.  These suggestions come from the website of an organization based in the U.K. called Action for Happiness, which bills itself as a "movement for positive social change."  Each of the main suggestions  below has a name and when you take the first letter of each one, you get another phrase, but I decided to call them something a little different, because some of the names don't make clear what the suggestion is.

The premise is simple. You can't always make others happy, but you can make yourself happy, and when people are happy, good things come about.  I invite you to take one of these ideas and see what you can do to make yourself feel happier today.  

The icons below all come from the Action for Happiness site.  I've summarized and added my own ideas to what they wrote about each of these Keys to Happiness.

Giving:  Especially when you are not feeling happy, take the focus off yourself by doing things for other people.  The coffee cup icon suggests a popular act of kindness that lots of people have been doing lately - paying forward at coffee shops.  Giving doesn't have to involve money, though.  You can give of your time and expertise as a volunteer, whether for an organization or privately, for a friend.  As Aesop so wisely said, "No act of kindness, no matter how small, is wasted."  Find at least one act of kindness to perform today, and try to work up to three acts per day.  It's even more fun when you do it anonymously.   If you know someone who is hurting or struggling in some way, reach out and offer support.  You don't have to single-handedly solve their problem.  Just tell them that you care. 

Connecting:  Sure, you're busy, but remember that people always make time for what is important.  If you want people to know that they're important to you, make time for them.  Carve out some time in your day to make a phone call, stop and chat, write a thank-you note, answer an email, or learn the name of someone you see regularly but don't know very well.  Try to make at least one connection today, and work up to three connections per day.  Try to make at least one connection with someone you don't know.

Caring for ourselves: If you're sick or worried about your health, now can you be happy?  You know the drill: Get plenty of sleep, eat healthy meals, avoid sugary and salty snacks, soda pop and other junk food, and get plenty of fresh air and exercise.   It's not a bad idea to get as much natural sunlight as you can, too.  If you suspect that you may have Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.) you might try a special lightbulb that filters out the gray and brown tones in electric light.  The bulbs are expensive, but definitely help.  You can get them at health food stores.  Don't forget to unplug from technology once in a while.  Turn off the TV and leave your cell phone at home.  Notice what lifts your mood and do those things more often.

Focusing on the positive:  Stop and smell the roses.  Take time to appreciate small details. Take time to notice the good work of others, and tell them what you noticed.   Take a five-minute break and just do some deep breathing.  You might try dedicating a notebook as a Gratitude Journal.  Date your entries and write down what you're grateful for.  Don't give up if you miss a few days.  Just go back to it.  Every once in a while, review past entries.  It's OK to be grateful for the same thing several nights in a row.  You may also wish to list qualities in others that you admire.  Then think about yourself: how do you manifest these qualities you admire?  If you don't, then it's time that you did.  Think of specific actions you can take to manifest the qualities you admire in others.

Continuing to learn new things:  People tend to be happier when they're not bored, and one of the best things to do to ensure you're not bored is to learn new things or just do things differently.  Take a new route to work, read a different newspaper, try a new food, start piano or guitar lessons, learn to play a new card game, learn a new dance step, or watch a different TV show. Learn how to use one new feature of your computer or your smart phone. Re-arrange your living room furniture.  your storage closet, or your kitchen cupboards  Think of something you've always wanted to know about and do some research on it on Google.  Join a new group on

Set goals and find your direction in life:  You may wish to start by re-stating an older goal that you're still working toward to give you more focus.  Formulate one new goal and tell three people about it, then take one specific action to get started.  (Don't forget to listen to your friends' goals, as well.)  Remember that goals need to be specific (What, exactly, are you going to do?), measurable (How will you know you've met the goal?), attainable (Make sure it's something that is possible to achieve – be realistic.), relevant (How does the goal relate to your life?), and timely (Set a specific deadline and mark it on your calendar.).   If you have more than one goal in life, prioritize your goals.  Which is most important?  Which one do you need to work on right now?

Cultivate resilience:  Resilience is the ability to recover quickly after a setback.  Mainly, this has to do with your attitude about what happens in your life.  Accept your imperfections and work with your strengths.  Start thinking of your problems as opportunities to learn something and figure out what each difficulty is trying to teach you.  Get in the habit of asking for help from friends, family and neighbors, and offer to help others when they need a hand.  Confide in friends when you need support, and talk to experts when you are trying to make important decisions.  Know who you can go to for emotional support, creative ideas, good advice, or a few laughs. 

Stay positive:  Focus on the good things in yourself and in others.  Pay people sincere compliments, and don't forget to pat yourself on the back when you've done a good job.  When a project is finished and it's time to do a review, focus first on what went right.  Then focus not so much on what went wrong, but what you can learn from the things that went wrong.  Finally, identify positive steps to do better next time.   One quote that applies, here, is, "Pay attention to the little things in life, for one day you'll look back and realize they were big things."  (People all over the web misattribute this to Kurt Vonnegut, but nobody can find the exact quote in his writings, and his own biographer agrees he never wrote it or said it.  Robert Brault wrote the quote for the National Enquirer in 1985, and the quote was picked up by Readers' Digest in 1986 - and attributed to Brault.) 

Accept and celebrate yourself:  Get comfortable with who you are, and accept your imperfections – everybody has them.  Identify your strengths and work to polish those.  Ask your true friends to tell you what they think your strengths are.  Be as kind to yourself as you are to other people.  Accept your mistakes as opportunities to learn, and don't waste any of those opportunities.  Take particular notice of things you have done well.

Give your life purpose and meaning:  Think of yourself as part of something bigger.  Identify what gives your life a sense of purpose, and act as if what you do makes a difference, because – surprise! – it does make a difference.  Even if you don't have children, or yours are all grown up, spend time with children to give yourself a link to the future.  Contribute to or volunteer for charitable causes.  Consider giving blood.  Volunteer for a committee in your church.  Ask if the local elementary school could use your help once or twice a week.  Consider doing some volunteering for the political party of your choice, or participate in a community program of some kind.  Identify causes that are important to you, and do something to promote the cause of your choice.

If you do even one or two of these things, your mood is bound to improve.  If you do all ten, there's no telling what could happen.  :-)

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