By Melissa Richter
If asked, most people say they would like to be happier. Yet happiness is an elusive concept that cannot be easily defined. It’s easy to get stuck in life and feel powerless to move ahead. It does not matter if your goals are health and fitness driven, career and relationship driven or if you simply desire to live a more authentic life. Almost anyone can benefit from these simple tips, that can help you shift thinking, move into action and starting cultivating a happier existence.
1 – OWN IT
Take responsibility for your own happiness. Let go of the fantasy that someone is going to rescue you, or save you. Stop blaming, and start forgiving. Do it for your own sake, not necessarily for the one’s you feel hurt by. This is the first step we must take in order to set ourselves free to begin to heal. We forgive in order to release ourselves from pain and help us move on. Learn to trust in the purpose behind life’s difficulties. Think of all your struggles and past disappointments as fertilizer. Realize that indeed it may have been crap, but it’s that crap that gets converted into the nourishment that we need to grow.
Clarify your desires and align your values with your actions in order to live more authentically. The fact is that you’ll never get what you want if you haven’t clearly defined for yourself what you desire. You have to honor your own values and needs in order to get them met. Often times when things aren’t going right, it is because we are experiencing incongruence. By identifying what motivates us and what we need to make us happy, we honor the authentic part of our selves. By living in accordance with our personal values system and honoring that part of ourselves, we are more easily able to set personal boundaries and feel more in control of our lives.
3- FREEDOM FROM FEAR.
Identify your fears and release them. When we begin to examine our feelings, often times we find that fear underlies most of our negative feelings and actions. Sometimes, identifying them makes it much easier to let go of them. The next time you are angry, sad, or worried, ask yourself what is the source of this feeling? What lies beneath it? Once we identify what our fears are (fear of loss, fear of inadequacy, fear of death) it is easier to let them go. Our fears are always much scarier when they are hidden in the dark. When we shine the light of our examination on them, we can more easily deal with them and put them to rest. Fear is the one thing that keeps us stuck more then anything else. Learning to walk though our fear and release it’s strong hold on us is crucial to experiencing more joy in our lives. The most effective way to do this is simply by doing it. The more we practice identifying our fears, facing our fears, and releasing our fears; the easier it is for us to do it the next time. It’s just like exercising a muscle, it can be pretty painful in the beginning, but the more we use it and come out on the other side intact, we begin to see it as a challenge that only makes us stronger.
4- REPLACE YOUR FILTERS.
Reframe your vision of yourself and your place in the world. We get what we believe we deserve. Start to monitor the stories you tell yourself about the experiences you have, and begin to take back your own personal power. If you believe that there are no good men out there, you will manifest that in your reality and attract no good men. The universe always gives us what we ask for. If we are experiencing money problems, it is because we are filtering our experiences through a belief system of lack. Once we start to understand that no one can make us angry, we can choose not to be angry. It’s not about denying our feelings; instead, it’s about choosing to believe the best about ourselves and those around us. Maybe the guy cut you off on the freeway because he’s a jerk or maybe he is rushing to the hospital because his wife and child were just in a car accident. It really doesn’t matter which one is true or not, but it feels better to believe there was no malicious intent. It is about choosing how you want to spend your emotional time. Replace your negative self talk with positive self-talk. Assume the best about people, situations and yourself. When people do things that are hurtful, recognize it for the humanity that it is. We are imperfect creatures, and so are those around us. Often times we can be really hard on ourselves and put all kinds of demands and expectations on people and events. Stop looking for perfection in yourself and you will find it easier to deal with imperfection in others. If you are going into a new situation, or when you feel unsure and a bit self-conscious, choose to expect that things will work out for the best, because what you expect is often what you get.
5- BUILD A COMMUNITY.
Establish a community of support for accountability and camaraderie. It’s true that all our answers are inside us, but no one gets there alone. Even if we are outwardly shy, we are all fundamentally social creatures and require interaction with other people. Having a community of support not only helps lift us up when we are low, but gives us the kudos we all need to feel like our life really matters. Surround yourself with people who resonate a positive vibration, and have a shared vision. Remember, misery loves company and negativity keeps you stuck. There really are only two fundamental vibrations in which people exist in (at varying degrees), these are love and fear. Associate with those who already are where you want to be. Join an online community at first if you need to, find a local chapter of people doing what you like, find a singles group, a weight loss group, or start a community group or network of your own. It doesn’t even have to be focused on what you what to change, join your local PTA, take an art class or a cooking class, just get out and physically do something where you have to interact with other humans. Once you incorporate this step into your life you will wonder how you went so long without it!!
6-DARE TO DREAM
Don’t just wish, but Dream Big!!! When we are used to believing that we can’t get what we want, we tend to stifle our hopes and dreams. That way we “don’t get our hopes up” too high and get disappointed. I remember a few years ago when my daughter spoke those very words to me concerning a job interview I was going on. I looked her in the eyes and said, “Who ever told you that it’s not a good thing to get your hopes up?”. The truth is that disappointment is part of the human experience. Disappointment is no reason to give up on hope. Learn to rediscover optimism, and embrace the possibility of living a life without limits. A life where all you have to do is dream it, and then you experience it in your life. Start by feeling what it would be like to already have what your heart desires most. One of the most powerful tools I ever learned was to WRITE IT DOWN!! I repeat, Write it down!! Write down “A day in your dream life”, a day experiencing exactly what you want the most. Get lost in the details, the place, the people, and the smells, get descriptive to the most minuet details. As you write out this dream day, let yourself experience it, and feel, I mean really feeeeel what it would be like to live this dream. Savor those emotions, and then send out into the universe with that intension. The feeling of emotionally experiencing what your desire most, IN THE PRESENT can create miracles in your life. Read it everyday, feeling the emotions associated with having your dream life. Trust and know that it is already there for you, and it will be so.
Pamper Yourself. Treat yourself to something special EVERYDAY (if you do nothing else, incorporating this into your life will yield positive results). Connect with source and honor that side of yourself that needs to feel special and cared for. So often we look for others to make us feel good, or treat us to something special. Personally I think it is much more satisfying when we learn to do these things for ourselves. That way we are sure to get exactly what we want. Write a list of 20 things that make you feel good. Commit to doing at least 1 thing on your list everyday. No skimping here, EVERYDAY. I don’t know why this step can be so hard for so many of us, especially those of us who spend all our time and energy doing for others. But giving to others without it wearing you out or wearing you down begins with learning to give to yourself first. It’s not being selfish, its, in accordance with the laws of nature. A tree cannot and will not bear fruit if it is impoverished and malnourished, the same rule applies to us. Write a new list every couple of weeks making sure you recognize the things you have been doing. It can be as extravagant as going to Paris on vacation, or as simple as taking a hot bubble bath, wearing a fragrance everyday that makes you feel good, or sleeping in late. If you find your self-resistant then write down what needs to happen in order for you to integrate this step into your life, and then take action. Start big, start small, it really only matters that you start doing this TODAY. Also commit to laughing more each day, watch something funny on TV or go see a hilarious movie, and if you work in an office, sign up for a website that sends you jokes, or cartoons to your email, or read a book that makes you laugh. Laughter is not only good for our soul, but also its good for our physiology. There have been many studies done on the health benefits of laughter. Laughing also reminds us not to take things so seriously. When we start taking care of ourselves and treating ourselves well, we will find it is easier to cultivate more joy in our lives and will notice that others will respond to us more positively.
Find something to be grateful for everyday. This step is easy once you begin to experience joy in your life again. One of the simplest things we can do to honor the process of our own spiritual growth, is be thankful for the blessings we receive everyday. No matter where you are in your life, no matter what you have or don’t have you can always find something to be thankful for. Big rewards are easy to see, but it’s the simple everyday things that we sometimes forget to be grateful for. For instance, give thanks for having a roof over your head right now, or having enough food to eat today, or having a job to go to when so many don’t (even if it’s not the one you want). Acknowledge gratitude for having the capacity to make new choices today, or appreciate the beautiful weather you’re experiencing, or the people in your life that love you. I try to take 2 or 3 minutes at the beginning of my day (before I even get out of bed) to verbally give thanks, and when I’m doing really well, I also do it at the end of each day (as I lay in bed before I fall asleep). Some days my list is long, and other days it seems shorter, but it’s a really nice ritual to incorporate in your daily life. You’ll be surprised at how much smoother the day runs when you begin it and end it with gratitude.
What is altruism? Simply stated it is giving without expecting anything in return. Once you begin to feel the bliss return to your life, you are duty bound to return it to the universe. We MUST share our joy with others and learn to give without expecting anything in return. Often times people give to others because it makes them look good, or because they can get a tax break, or put their volunteer work on a resume. The challenge is to give anonymously. There is no need to spend a dime. But if you do choose to give money, try doing it anonymously, or in the memory of or name of someone else. Try donating a charity a certain amount of money, and telling them that you will match the contribution of the next 5 people who donate anonymously. If you don’t have money that’s OK too, donate you time, or your skills. Do something for a co-worker who is overwhelmed, offer to baby-sit your friends kids so she can get out one evening, let the vehicle in front of you go ahead of you at the intersection, put change in someone’s meter if you notice that the time has expired. The next time you see a homeless person, give them money or buy them a hot meal. Have pizza delivered to a local kids club, or group home (make sure you clear it with the administration first, but decline letting the recipients know who you are). I promise you; once you begin to do this it will become addictive. You can’t imagine how much fun you can have with this!! And the best part is that we end up feeling so good about it, that it becomes it’s own natural high. This helps take the focus off of us and allows us to make a contribution for the benefit of others. The effect it has on our feeling of value and self worth are immeasurable.
About the Author
Melissa Richter currently works as the Global Brand Manager for Lifestyle Health Retreats and oversees the day to day operations of the organization. She holds a B.S in Sociology, and Psychology as well as a Master’s Degree in Social Work. Melissa brings 20+ years of experience working as a professional in the travel industry. She has worked in the leisure,corporate, and government sectors as a flight attendant and a travel consultant in Hawaii,Illinois and Florida. Melissa has travelled extensively throughout South East Asia and currently does freelance travel and lifestyle writing for various well-knownonline and print magazines.