When it comes to being happy, there is an endless barrage of voices trying to tell you how to do it. While all the inspirational shit about happiness is certainly warm and fuzzy, I find that it’s often very vague and hard to actually apply to your life.
I prefer a more systematic and logical approach to things. I have started to collect information on happiness that has some kind of scientific backing to see if I can simplify it and make it as practical as possible.
There will be a few parts in this series of articles. The reason being that there are different levels to happiness. If you don’t feel comfortable in your own skin, most of the things people recommend are really hard to actually do.
An example of this is studies that say “Smile more, it makes you happier.” Let’s be honest, when you’re not feeling happy, you aren’t going to use a fake smile as a way to feel better, no matter how many times people tell you that it works.
So! My goal is to pinpoint some big things that will make you more comfortable and happy with yourself first, so that the “higher level” steps start to seem more possible and are more effective.
We’ll start with something I think is extremely important and hugely underrated:
1. Eat well. Sleep well.
If you’re not getting enough sleep at night, it’s almost definitely putting a damper on things. If you eat a bunch of processed, sugar-laden food, it’s probably making you miserable. (by the way, 80% of the 600,000 “food products” sold in the US have added sugar)
Do anything and everything in your power to eat better food and sleep well.
In fact, I would almost say not to worry about any of the rest of this until you’ve got these two things down, but if you find them truly impossible, some of the things below may lead to more self-control when it comes to food (sugar is addictive and you need some solid will power to break the addiction) and more inner peace (which may help with insomnia).
2. Ditch every negative, unhappy, life-sucking miserable human in your life. (This is HUGE)
“How incredibly selfish!” you say. Well guess what. Unless you want your life to suck, you’ve got to ditch the losers. You want to know why?
Because 70% of your happiness is coming from your relationships with other people:
“…researchers have identified the core factors in a happy life. The primary components are number of friends, closeness of friends, closeness of family, and relationships with co-workers and neighbors. Together these features explain about 70 percent of personal happiness.” – Murray and Peacock 1996
So if your friends suck, SO WILL YOUR LIFE. O.O
“Can’t I start looking for some better friends before I ditch these guys?”
That’s a great idea in theory, but if we’re gonna be straight here, the only way I have found excellent friends is by making the space in my life for them by cutting out the bad relationships first. You will have no energy for new healthy relationships if you’re still empty from the crappy ones!
And if you find yourself going, “Oh, but I’m not sure what it is that makes me feel so bad when I’m with them.” You don’t need to understand it to cut them loose! Just do it and figure it out later! Stop making excuses.
One clue that the relationship you’re in is a bad one? Your “friend” dumps all their life problems and drama on you, but never listens when you’ve got issues, and this has been happening for a long time. If you’ve been telling yourself “oh, but they have bigger problems than I do” – stop minimizing your own feelings.
If it’s one-sided, it’s not a friendship. If you can’t trust them or depend on them, and you feel awful when you get home after hanging out with them…I’ll bet anything that you’re not being fully you in the relationship. All you’re doing is listening and mirroring them back to themselves. You’re essentially playing the role of a crappy counsellor that doesn’t charge anything.
And guess what? Your friend actually isn’t getting anything from the friendship either besides encouragement to continue in their insecure and needy habits.
(Quotes from “The Way To Happiness“)
3. If you hate your job – LEAVE.
Karl Pillemer of Cornell University interviewed nearly 1,500 people between 70 and 100+ years old.
Their main piece of advice?
Do not stay in a job you dislike.
Via 30 Lessons for Living: Tried and True Advice from the Wisest Americans:
“There was no issue about which the experts were more adamant and forceful…wasting around two thousand hours of irretrievable lifetime each year is pure idiocy.”
I don’t care if you have trouble pinning down exactly why you dislike it. You don’t need to be able to explain it. If your job is making you miserable, find another one.
Yes, it will be hard, but it’s worth it.
What’s important to look for when it comes to finding a job that will make you happy? Autonomy – “The freedom to make decisions and move in directions that interest you, without too much control from the top.” and good challenges – things that enable you to use your greatest skills and that are not too easy.
4. Be yourself. Stop giving a fuck what anybody else thinks and never look back.
Bronnie Ware is an Australian nurse who spent several years caring for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog, and later, a book.
The number 1 regret of the dying according to Bronnie?
I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
“This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing that it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it.”
So to start with, are you happy with yourself? Are you truly satisfied with yourself? Are you comfortable in your own skin? Do you feel free to say “yes” or “no” to things without feeling guilty, or do you live the way other people think you should?
Are you going after your dreams? Do you even have dreams?
If you are already content with yourself, you feel like you know what your dreams are and you’re going after them, excellent! Keep an eye out for my next articles which will get into that higher level stuff.
If not, please don’t waste your life giving fucks to people who don’t deserve them.
Phew! Easier said than done, eh?
If that all seems a bit too much, just promise me you’ll give it a think, and try these easier things for now:
5. Practice Gratitude
Write down 3 good things that happened today. No really, do it right now. I want you to see how quick it is.
This is something practical you can do to change the way you think about happiness. I love how simple it is. Depending on what tends to work better for you, either pick a certain time of day to do this, or commit to do it at some point every day when you have an idle minute. The most important thing is that you find a way to make it easy for yourself.
If you spend more than 30 seconds scrolling through Facebook, you can do this instead.
6. Go Outside More.
There are a billion reasons, and you’ve probably heard most of them already. So just go do it. 😉
So now that we’ve nailed down a few practical things you can do to be happier…
On to your mind! Muahahahaha… *cough* Excuse me…
Part 2 coming soon…