Last week on Monday, I sat down in one of my favorite spots to start reading a book. As soon as I had gotten to page two, I couldn’t help but get distracted (I know you’re surprised, right?), and I started to overhear this woman next to me begin to complain about how hard her weekend had been, how busy it was, how she didn’t get any sleep, and the list went on and on and on. Not only was I not enjoying my book, I had to hear about how miserable her life was. It’s not like I have never heard anyone complain before, but for some reason, this time it really left an impression on me. It really inspired me to take a careful look at what makes my life as good as it is.
Her ranting became a good reason to share some of the simple things that I’ve learned over the years that help me focus on being positive, productive, and happy. We all have the power to change our lives for the better. In fact, there is no one else who can affect your happiness to such a great degree as you yourself.
If you’ve been struggling with life, getting discouraged, or just wanting to turn over a new leaf, then here are five ways to get started:
1. Take responsibility for your own happiness
The first and most important thing that I realized a few years ago is that my own happiness is up to me and me alone. At times, I used to think that my family, friends, work, economic condition, and health were the sole basis of my happiness. The truth is that your choices and attitude are the primary factors in your happiness. Instead of relying on some outside force for your happiness, you need to tell yourself everyday that you can choose happiness.
Take this action step: write “I choose happiness” and stick it to your bathroom mirror. If you see it hundreds of times, you will begin to adopt that attitude, and you will learn that you can choose happiness.
2. Make a point to laugh with your friends and family every chance you get
Life can be very serious, very sad, and very overwhelming at times, don’t get me wrong. It’s one of the hazards of the road. But that doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy life along the way. When was the last time you sat down and watched a funny movie with a friend? When was the last time you went out and had a good time at a local event, or went to a restaurant with your friends and just kicked back and relaxed? Good company and good laughter are incredible sources of energy and happiness.
If you aren’t as naturally funny as you’d like to be or have a hard time finding company like that, try the comedy channel. Get a laser, point and play with a cat. Play with a friend or relative’s toddler or your own and get them to laugh. It’s contagious, trust me.
However you find joy and laughter, seek out more of it. Laughing together is one of the best exercises that you can undertake. Just laugh, relax, and smile more. You’ll be glad you did.
Take this action step: write down the last three times you laughed really hard. Think about ways to recreate new experiences like that. Put it on the calendar for this week!
3. Drink more water
Ok, I never promised this wouldn’t be a health article, and it’s not really one anyway, but I do want to tell you something important that will help you change your life for the better. Drinking more water will make a drastic difference in your life!
Without even realizing it, many of us are dehydrated because we don’t drink enough water, but we drink pop and other salty sugary liquids instead. When you try to hydrate yourself with these fluids, you only end up feeling dehydrated at the end of it. I know, I did that for years.
A couple years ago I decided that I wanted to start to think about my health, and I really meant just “start” to think about my health, because I had zero interest in working out. So I just decided to drink more water. I set a small goal of one big glass of water each morning before I went to work and I worked on that. Over time, I have worked my way up to much closer to 64 ounces a day (which is what some experts say is enough), and let me tell you, I feel so much better. Our bodies need water, but somehow we can easily forget or get away from that. Don’t deprive your brain (which is responsible for choosing happiness, laughter, and the other things I’ll mention below) by dehydrating it.Just drink more water. I promise it will greatly benefit you.
Take this action step: put out a glass where you’ll see it each morning before starting the day, and drink that glass. Set a small goal and stick to it and then build on it from there.
4. Keep a journal
I realize that you may be already telling me that you aren’t a good writer, or don’t have time, or don’t like to write, and I just want you to know that those are all good excuses. Those are good excuses if someone asks you to write the next New York Times best seller, but that’s not what I said! Keeping a journal is not writing a book. You don’t even have to put words in there all the time. You could draw stick people and smiley faces if you wanted to.
It’s really the habit of reflection and journaling that will help you change your life for the better. Taking time to reflect on your day, your week, and the year so far are very positive activities. When we take time to self reflect, we can assess where we are and make changes as need be. Journaling is something I’ve done on and off for many, many years now, and it is one of the things that I enjoy the most these days. There are countless benefits that you will see immediately and over time as well, so why don’t you give it a shot?
Take this action step: get yourself something to write on; digital, notebook, or art pad, but whatever it is, find something you enjoy using. Put some time in your calendar each week, or even each day if you can, and sit down and write one line about your day. That’s all you need to do – start with one line. The rest will take care of itself.
5. Do something for someone who cannot do anything for you
In life we are taught experientially and also theoretically that we should help those who can help us. This is very true. Helping people that can help you will work out in the end for both parties in many cases. But it can, at times, lead us to do things with less than pure motivations.
Sometimes we need to step back and get a little perspective, and sometimes we need to invest in others with no hope of return. Why do I think we need to do this? I actually think that serving someone who cannot serve us is one of the best ways to take care of yourself (as odd as that sounds).
This past Sunday, I had the great pleasure of being able to sit down and feed my grandmother lunch. She is staying at Briar Hill now after having a stroke a few months back, and she can’t do very much for herself anymore. At first, when I walk into a place like that, it’s easy for me to feel uncomfortable and be unsure what to do, but once I realized that I had the chance to do something simple for her, it really gave me great perspective and joy. Years and years ago she fed me when I couldn’t do anything for her, and it was so nice to be able to return the favor. Focusing on what she needed and her comfort was good practice for me. The world around us often tells us it’s all about our needs and wants, when, in fact, we need to also be concerned with those who need our help that can do nothing in return for us.
Take this action step: find someone today whom you can help who can’t do anything in return for you. Just give without expectations. The more you do this, the more your own life will improve. I promise.
So that’s all I’ve got! Five ways you can change your life for the better.
What do you think? Have you ever tried any of these?
What do you recommend that I try that’s worked for you?