(as featured on elephant journal)
Let’s face it. Life is hard. And sometimes, it’s downright unfair.
We all get into a funk every now and then. Sometimes it’s a really, really bad day. Other times, it feels like a bad day that keeps repeating, like a scene from Groundhog Day, and it’s sending you to the brink.
We’ve all had that moment when our face is so contorted from crying and snot is sliding onto our upper lip and we’re uttering incoherent words or phrases that even we can’t make out ourselves. It may have been eons ago on that first day of kindergarten when you couldn’t bear to leave your mommy behind and face all those other tiny strangers, or when Scruffy the Dog moved away to that heavenly farm that was too far away for you to visit, or when your first love shattered your heart into a million irreparable pieces or it could have just been yesterday.
There’s no point in denying it. We’ve all had moments we’d rather erase than remember.
But rather than focusing on all those sad and sour moments in life, it’s important to know that life can really be a much happier existence by following just a few simple steps. I promise you, these are not life altering, self-sacrificing, acts of martyrdom or impossible feats for the average Joe or Jane.
Happiness is truly within my, your and that poor schmuck down the road’s reach.
1. Make Yourself Your Best Friend
No matter how fantastic your closest friend is, sooner or later, you are going to feel like he or she let you down. It’s human nature. Nobody is perfect.
But if you make yourself your best friend, you’ll always have someone you can count on.
Make yourself dependent on only yourself and you’ll find you won’t feel so disappointed by others when they can’t fulfill your needs or wants. Sure, it’s important to feel like you have someone you can trust and share your secrets with and it’s always great to have a friend who will be a shoulder to cry on, a partner in crime to get into trouble with and that person who will come over and make you soup when you’re sick and hold your hair back while you vomit, but you need to be there for you first.
Learn to enjoy your own company and realize how frickin’ awesome you are. Because when it comes down to it, if you can’t love yourself and have a brilliant time on your own, how will someone else?
2. Follow Your Bliss
Yes, I understand that you have a job, friends and family who count on you as well as a bunch of responsibilities. But following your bliss doesn’t have to mean running off to some hippie commune in the jungle, living in a yurt. It means creating passion and excitement in your life.
Love to travel but can’t afford to? Check out a new place close by. I’m sure there’s a corner of your city you have yet to discover. Or hit the road and drive off into the county without a map and venture down a dirt road. Who knows what you’ll find on your adventure?
Love art but can barely afford a paintbrush, let alone a fancy art class? Pick up some cheap H2 pencils and a sketchpad at the dollar store and start doodling away. You might just discover that creative genius within you who has been dying to be set free.
Or if you love to sing but don’t think you have what it takes to become the next Adele, or Florence, or heck even Britney, no worries. Join a community choir or simply blast your favourite tunes while you’re in the shower and sing your little heart out.
All that matters is that you are welcoming joy into your life and experiencing those precious moments where you feel yourself shining and fully alive in the present moment.
3. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff
We’ve all heard this before, but most people are still not getting the point.
“Don’t sweat the small stuff” means more than just not paying the bills when they come in (because you should actually keep paying them). It means becoming more patient, more tolerant, more flexible and more accepting. It means not worrying about all the little things you have absolutely no control over (like the weather or a bad hair day) and learning to roll with the punches.
You might even want to throw a little spontaneity into the mix if you’re feeling daring. Go on now, I see you thinking about it.
4. Eat Candy Every Day
Ok, so I don’t mean real candy.
I don’t wish diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay, or any disease on anyone. What I’m talking about is making life a little sweeter by savouring all the goodness and sweetness you encounter. Watch a child playing in the park and absorb that pure joy. Smell the fragrant flowers at the market, in a field or in your garden and maybe even bring a few into your home every now and then.
Relish the sweet moments you have with loved ones and let them linger like the sweet taste of honey. Do something generous for a complete stranger without expecting anything in return. There are so many ways to make life a little sweeter without risking a cavity.
5. Build Yourself a Lifeboat
Don’t worry, you don’t need to be a carpenter.
Your lifeboat can be anything you want it to be—some extra savings in the bank for a rainy day (or a flood), a library of good reads when all you want to do is hibernate or become a hermit because life is too hard to bear (paper books with pretty pictures are best), a playlist for every kind of emotion you are feeling or want to feel (don’t forget to give the playlist a completely random or secret name only you will understand), a fancy dress for that party you’ve been waiting to be invited to since you were five (‘cause you can wear it anytime you want, you know, even when you’re home alone with a tub of ice cream), a great friend when you really need someone (see point #1 for a reminder)—I think you get the point.
The beauty of a lifeboat is that it can be anything you want it to be. The only requirement is that it will help you float when all you want to do is sink.
So, you see, happiness is easier than you think. And if you’re feeling so down right now you don’t think you’ll ever experience joy or laughter ever again, walk over to the mirror. That’s right, get moving.
Now push your nose back with your index finger, show your teeth, stick your tongue out, and try to reach your chin with your tongue.
Now if the look of that doesn’t at least bring a smirk to your face, picture me doing it instead.
Hooray for happiness! :)