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“If you think something is missing in your life, it is probably YOU…” ― Robert Holden
~The Simple Sophisticate, episode #112
The pursuit of goals, of dreams, either admittedly or unconsciously takes place to welcome more happiness, more contentment into our lives, but what about right now? Are you happy? Are you someone who can sit in this moment and say, yes, I am happy? Saying you’re happy doesn’t mean you don’t want to grow by tomorrow, improve by next month or evolve as an individual each year of your life. The answer merely reveals if you are content with what you have right now.
I was thinking about just this topic as I sat on my back porch in a smaller house than I have lived in for nearly 10 years, with fewer travel plans enjoyed this year than in the four previous years, and I immediately answered yes to this question. Prompted to consider this question after reading this post and specifically this question: Would I be content if I knew that where I am right now will never change?, it was the inspiration for today’s episode/post because a skill we all need to attain and master is something we have to learn, or relearn (because I think we often possess this skill innately as children and then because we must survive and hopefully thrive in this world, we must look to the future frequently), is how to be happy now.
I have absolutely been guilty of this in the past. Of saying, “I will be happy when ___________ occurs.” But as the post I read reminds, if we don’t learn the skill of being happy now, right now, even when that much dreamed about event occurs, the same mindset will be present and we won’t fully be able to appreciate and enjoy it either.
So today, I’d like to share with you 11 ways you can be happy right now. In one quick bite as the first item reveals, or one quick change of thought or one quick activity. None of these cost ample amounts of money. We each have the power to be content in the moment, even if we are working towards something in the future. After all, if we enjoy the journey, we will be able to revel and truly appreciate arriving at our destination even more.
1. Enjoy a piece of quality dark chocolate
There are actually three very profound benefits beyond just the pure pleasure of tasting decadent chocolate that can be found specifically in dark chocolate, and one is the release of endorphins. And when these endorphins are released, ever so slightly and temporarily our mood is elevated and our stress is alleviated. Now, there are more long, lasting ways to bring happiness into your life, but a dark chocolate truffle at night wouldn’t do you any harm, and as we’ve just learned, can actually put a sincere smile on your face.
2. Create a story that works for you, not against you
Everything we allow to run around in our minds is completely our choice. What is available to run around in our minds is based on the experiences we’ve had, the influential people in our lives and what they have said, thought and done. And it is based on these influences that we craft our story: why things happened and what will happen. It was while I was listening to The Positive Psychology podcast, episode #70 and contemplating the examples that Kristen Truempy was sharing that I recognized why my life’s overall contentment had begun to improve. It all began in my mind. I encourage you to listen to the podcast for a more thorough explanation of the power our stories have on our everyday contentment.
3. Imagine this scenario every time you think you are lacking something
After listening to Martha Beck’s book The Joy Diet , there was one story that grabbed my attention regarding this idea of being happy at this very moment. It goes something like this: A nobleman was walking along a road distraught with only a bag of what he most cherished slung over his back. His path crosses that of a beggar who has nothing, and the beggar asked him why he looks so forlorn for he is of wealth and privilege. The nobleman says, “But I am not happy. I have left it all, and am searching for happiness.” The beggar, confused by this statement, decides to teach the nobleman a lesson. He grabs the nobleman’s bag of cherished items and runs into the woods. The nobleman, understandably upset, runs after the beggar desperate to retrieve what has been stolen from him. The beggar, places the bag on the path where the nobleman can find it and then goes and hides behind a tree to observe the nobleman’s reaction. As one might expect, the nobleman’s response is full of utter delight, relief, appreciation and happiness.
Sometimes it is hard to imagine such a feeling if we haven’t had something we love temporarily taken from us and we aren’t sure if we are ever going to see it again. But if you have, as I have, the sheer joy and gratefulness you will feel will leave you in that moment refusing to whine and complain about ever having enough. That is the moment we need to bottle up and keep with us at all times.
We have so much going well in our lives. We need to make sure we don’t take the blessings of our lives for granted. When we can recognize this truth, our happiness in this very moment will grow immensely.
4. Understand delay is not denial
Now, simply because we are happy in the life we are living now, doesn’t mean we can’t have goals, dreams and aspirations. Of course we can, but it is the journey and it is the flexibility we must possess with us as we traverse toward our goals that will help us to remain happy along the way. Simply put, a delay should not be misinterpreted as a denial.
5. Understand your mind
A tremendous part of understanding your mind is realizing you have tremendous control over it. Part of the reason we may be in a bad mood is because of #2, the story we are telling ourselves in our mind. We’ve accepted the negative plot of how and why things are going the way they are going. Once we recognize that our thoughts are a choice and we can redirect them, we give ourselves back the power, immediately. In episode #20 of podcast, I discuss in depth how to master your mind with 10 specific tips.
6. Train your mind
The mind is a muscle. It is our muscle. We can train our muscles to be better able to do certain things if we focus on them, give them repetitions with the right exercises and repeat regularly. The mind is no different. Practice simply observing your thoughts and not accepting them with meditation, avoid or reduce high fructose sugar, as well as practicing your memorization skills – this book by Harvard professor Dr. Marie Pasinski provides ample ideas and inspiration for boosting your brainpower, will help put you at the helm of your mind.
7. Keep your mind in shape
Author of Make Your Brain Smarter and founder and chief director of the Center for BrainHealth at the University of Texas at Dallas, Sandra Bond Chapman, Ph.D., reminds us that our minds need to stay in shape just as much as our bodies do as we are capable of living longer than ever before. So in order to live a quality life, we must regularly keep our mind in shape by developing new interests and pursuing our hobbies regularly. In fact, one of the six ideas she shares to keep our minds in shape is to find what we are passionate about and pursue it. If we are interested in what we are doing, we are motivated and are more willing to challenge our minds when new techniques need to be learned. And thus, why I am pursuing learning the French language! I am passionate about it and that is what motivates me, otherwise, I know I would have given up a long time ago.
When we exercise, we release endorphins. When endorphins are released, essentially your mood has the ability to naturally improve as they decrease levels of stress and pain. In this study, released by University of Vermont, Burlington, in 2009, the endorphin high could last as long as 12 hours after you have exercised.
9. Journal it out
One of the best tools that in the moment of frustration we cannot imagine could be as powerful as it will be is to write down what we are feeling, why we are feeling it and what we are afraid will happen. Simply by seeing what we are feeling helps us to make sense of it and often times, at least for me, provides a reality check as I see many of my fears are absurd. But most importantly, it reveals to me what is important to me and then allows me to shift my attention to what I am doing and what I can be doing to move in the right direction.
10. Soak up a bit of Vitamin D
We need serotonin and researchers from the Baker Heart Research Institute in Melbourne found that levels of serotonin in the body are higher during summer than winter (the only variable with the participants was their exposure to more sun). What does serotonin do? It is a neurotransmitter that regulates appetite, sleep, memory, and mood. No wonder so many people love summer. (Why Not . . . Spend Time in Nature?)
11. Switch to mono-tasking
Both Dr. Sandra Bond (previously mentioned above) and the author of international best-selling book The Happiness Equation Neil Pasricha, strike down the idea of multi-tasking. Why? It increases stress, heightens brain fatigue (in other words, weakens your willpower) and thus reduces your quality of production. Therefore, your level of happiness is depleted. Focus on one task, complete it and move on.
Simple, no? Sometimes we fall prey to the idea that life must be complicated, dramatic, exhausting and extremely busy to be at its best. But that is a mistake. Richard Branson reminds us that “Complexity is your enemy. Any fool can make something complicated. It is hard to keep things simple.” And the difficulty he speaks of, it’s not that living simple is hard; rather, it is hard to say no to anything that may complicate the simple habits we have instilled. But we must. We must trust that simple is better. Because so long as the simple ways of living we have cultivated allow us to forever be growing, we have found the contentment we were seeking, and we must protect this way of life. So it is my hope today, that you realize how simple being happy can be.
And to reiterate and to keep the message simple, but clear. In the words of Buddha, “Greater happiness comes with simplicity than with complexity.”
Have a wonderful week and thank you for stopping by the blog.
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~The Joy Diet: 10 Daily Practices for a Happier Life by Martha Beck
~visit all of Martha Beck’s writing here on her website