The BS-Free Happiness System – Part 1

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.

(This comes from: “Important Life Lessons: What’s The Most Important Life Lesson Older People Feel You Must Know?“)

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.

Bronnie elaborates:
“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…

“Women Have Always Fought” – Choosing Blindness when it Comes to Exceptions in Stereotypes.

Recently I read George Orwell’s book, 1984. One of the themes throughout the book was the control of media. Essentially, if you control all media, even going so far as to edit our historical records of things, eventually you can “change” history. When everyone who remembers that things were different has been silenced by one higher power or another, all that’s left is books, videos, pictures… So what happens when you alter history?

This became all the more interesting to me as I had a fresh realization that we are guilty of altering history as we write it. It’s impossible to be human without also having a bias. Just the fact that we experience life differently from someone else from the moment we’re born makes us biased.

I read this article by Kameron Hurley yesterday and was surprised to find that:
“Women fought in every revolutionary army…and those armies were often composed of fighting forces that were 20-30% women. But when we say “revolutionary army” what do we think of? What image does it conjure? Does the force in your mind include three women and seven men? Six women and fourteen men?

Women not only made bombs and guns in WWII – they picked up guns and drove tanks and flew airplanes.”

This article, which I would definitely recommend reading fully here, highlights the way that it’s much easier to keep telling stories that fit in with stereotypes. If we hear over and over and over again that women don’t fight, then when we hear of an exception, often our first reaction is to think that it’s the only exception. We are surprised by it because we’ve been taught that it doesn’t exist! Although you’d think that exceptions should probably be written about so that we can see both sides of something, instead the voices which differ from the majority silence themselves.

Kameron describes sitting down to write a story and feeling uncomfortable writing about something that goes too far outside the stereotype, for fear that her audience will feel that it’s unrealistic.

“It’s easier to tell the same stories everyone else does. There’s no particular shame in it.

It’s just that it’s lazy…

Oh, and it’s not true.”

Although I feel like we’re certainly getting somewhere when it comes to the voices of minorities being heard, I am almost shocked when I realize how true this still is to me:

“Half the world is full of women, but it’s rare to hear a narrative that doesn’t speak of women as the people who have things done to them instead of the people who do things.”

It drives me nuts that when a woman does something great, much of the media surrounding it is essentially saying “Wow, a woman did this?! How strange and unusual! Women rarely do exceptional things. When they do it is worth spending most of an article or news piece discussing just how strange and unusual it is…”

Why is it that we say “soldier” to mean a male soldier, but if it’s a woman we say “woman soldier”?

A fascinating example of how negatively this can effect us is the dramatic drop in women who code:

“A lot of computing pioneers — the people who programmed the first digital computers — were women. And for decades, the number of women studying computer science was growing faster than the number of men. But in 1984, something changed. The percentage of women in computer science flattened, and then plunged, even as the share of women in other technical and professional fields kept rising.”

I am definitely not the most normal female. I have a lot of things that separate me from most other females. What’s interesting is that I find I have silenced my own voice for a lot of the same reasons. I think that because I’m not seeing others out there like me, they mustn’t exist. In an odd way I feel this might be connected to normalcy bias. (I realize this a bit of a leap, but stay with me, I’ll circle back around and connect it.)

“The assumption that is made in the case of the normalcy bias is that since a disaster never has occurred then it never will occur.”

In emergencies, 70% of people will continue to act as if nothing is happening. They will ask an average of four other people “What is that?”, “What do you think we should do?”:

“People mill, asking for opinions, because they want to be told that everything is fine. They will keep asking, and delaying, until they get the answer they want.”

I think this highlights an inherent discomfort we have with things being outside of the norm. We desperately want everything to be normal. We can’t bear to think that something so absurd and unlikely as a disaster might be happening. We shy away from the things that happen a minority of the time, very clearly to our detriment in some cases.

On a more subtle level, I believe that we treat exceptions to a stereotype the same way.

Just something to think about…

If you’d like some further reading on this topic, I found this article on the narrative of women in history very interesting.