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Thursday, 23 May 2013

Five tips to a happier you

Five tips to a happier you

When I say that your income doesn't have to dictate your happiness I get a few eye rolls. People "know" that already. Some version of this sentiment has been jammed down our throats since early childhood.

But maybe its not so obvious. Maybe it gets hard to stop and smell the flowers when you're worried that you'll be late getting from job #2 to job#3. If you're late again they might fire you. And you need three jobs just to pay the rent.  Perhaps by the time we have the "opportunity" to take a centering bubble bath in the evening you are simply too exhausted to poor in the bubbles. You have likely wondered "Whats the point of all this working if I am just tired, cranky and never get to spend time with my family and friends doing fun things?"

And while all that is true and very valid, so is my initial statement. We CAN be happy with very little. Or just enough. Or more than we need. It's all in our thoughts and attitude. Not just what we think about either, but how we think it along with our actions. 

Here are a few ways that I work to change how I think and act. These go a long way to helping me feel more relaxed and content even in stressful and unpleasant situations.

Actively take a moment to think about things you're grateful for.
Of course your family and friends will be on that list. But think hard. Include things you might be taking for granted.
My son had to undergo surgery a few weeks back. It was pretty routine stuff and he is so much better now. But I was a wreck about it.  I hated to think of him in pain afterwards. And we got strict instructions to keep him quiet and indoors for at least ten days (seriously?!! He's a four year old! How was I going to pull that off?!) I was getting pretty worked up. Then I stopped. And I made a mental list of things I was grateful for.  I was grateful that I lived in a time where modern medicine made a surgery like this possible. I was grateful that I lived in a country that covered the entire cost of the surgery.  I was grateful that I had a job working from home so I could be there to care for Walter without having to be absent from work. I was grateful for the entire medical team that would be there to see to his complete recovery. I was grateful that my in-laws had jobs flexible enough that they were able to take the day off to care for Audrey while That Guy and I were at the hospital with Walter. See how quickly the list grows? How I was overlooking all my gratitude to be worried? Once I started on my list, though,  I couldn't help but relax. Sure things could go wrong and no parent wants to see their child in pain, but with so much to be grateful for it was easier to put the downside into perspective. 

Put "When that is me" before your thoughts about others
Before I had children of my own, I was the world's most successful parent. I had all the answers to every parenting situation and it was all so easy.  I would see parents in the store who had a child throwing a full out fit about a box of breakfast cereal. Clearly that was just an issue with lazy parenting. With over indulgence. With creating entitlement issues in the child.
Now I am a parent and I just cannot see that situation in the same light. I wish that back then I had taken a moment to think "When that is me with my child I hope people can understand that this isn't about the cereal. I hope people see how hard I am trying. That I am exhausted, and stressed and I hate what I know you're thinking about me." The truth is we don't know their story. Maybe the child (and parent) just lost a loved one and this is part of the child's grieving process. Maybe the child has medical issues and is in physical pain. Maybe the child is living with Autism and they saw/smelled/felt something that was a trigger for them. Maybe the neighbours were noisy and kept that whole family awake for the better part of the night. Maybe there are issues within the relationships at home.
Starting your thoughts with "When that is me" puts you immediately in the place of the person you were at risk to judge.
Setting aside judgement is freeing. It lifts you up and makes you lighter.

Before a difficult conversation switch your "but" for "and"
"I love you but I need you to respect my wishes"
"I love you and I need you to respect my wishes"
"You are a valuable part of our team but we have decided to go in a different direction with this promotion"
"You are a valuable part of our team and we have decided to go in a different direction with this promotion"
Hear the difference? The phrase with "but" makes people feel that everything before it was nonsense. Just a feel good statement before you hit them with the truth. Everything before "but" feels empty and insincere.
The statements with "and" are different. They feel like the thought after "and" is a natural progression from the thought before. The kindness in the first half of the statement still feels relevant.

Show off
Put out the travel souvenirs, display your favourite photos. They remind you of happy times even when it just might not be your best day. Seeing these items may help you to better appreciate the good times, and remind you that good times are just around the corner. Don't forget to show off your smile too. Its a lovely thing. It is also an instant mood booster.

Make friends with happy people
There are always those people who you see and think "I wish it were that easy for me to be happy". Before you pass them off as having a life on easy street remember your "When that is me" thought. Things are likely just as hard on them (maybe for different reasons) but they are choosing to be happy. How? Make friends with them and find out. Happy people have happy friends, so surround yourself with happy friends and watch the best of yourself shine through.

Happy (happy!) Thursday, gentle readers. :)

1 comment:

  1. Great tips Rylan. I agree; External factors are only ever a temporary happiness fix, lasting happiness comes from the inside.

    I think it is important to constantly strive to be a healthy, happy person.

    It's not always easy but it's always worth it!