1. Seek the Inspirational
Everyday, be it a poem, a podcast, church service, stories of success and miracles, or a self-help book- a happy person has their sights set on the inspirational. Always keep your eyes and hearts open to the beautiful, the magical, the up-lifting. Whatever excites you and sends you singing to the joys of being, reach for it, and reach for it regularly.
2. Exercise regularly
When was the last time you got out and looked at the trees? Took a hike? Went for a stroll on a bicycle, or swam in a creek? Even going to the gym can give a great boost, not only to your physical well-being, but also to your mental and emotional state. Exercise releases endorphins, which naturally generate happiness. So if you are feeling down and out, or even lethargic, especially in the wintertime, give yourself a quick half hour, and just get your blood and body moving. Take a dance course, or just go out dancing. Try yoga, aerobics, jogging, walking, swimming, anything that moves you. It is recommended to do a minimum 30 minutes of some kind of aerobic exercise at least three days a week. Once you feel how elated a good session makes you feel, you are going to want more of it. I promise. Just begin.
3. Help someone
The fastest cure for depression is to make yourself useful for somebody else. Its only natural to have ups and downs in this life, so first be gentle with yourself, and recognize that its perfectly ok to have your feelings. Let yourself feel and let go. Then, get out of your own problems for a moment, realize there’s almost 7 billion other people who also have problems and pain, and take the time to do at least one small thing to help someone else. At least, this will temporarily allow you to forget your own worry, but even better- it is likely going to make you feel great about yourself. You will feel useful, beneficial to the world, and you will likely receive and share love with another human- one of the most gratifying experiences you could ask for.
4. Eat healthy
Your body is telling you all the time what it needs, but are you listening? Eating too heavy makes one feel heavy. Eating light, makes one feel light. Try it. How many times, in your life, have you gone about a day when you didn’t have a chance to eat much, and then suddenly you are walking somewhere and you begin to feel epically buoyant, like you are on top of the world and can do anything. Then think in contrast to how you feel after a very large and dense meal – dense and tired. Not to say that large meals can’t be shared in enjoyment and celebration with others. And also not saying at all to starve yourself. But find the balance for you, and you can do so by simply practicing awareness with what happens between you and food, when you ate, what you ate, what you were feeling, and how it made you feel after. Of course, still enjoy food, and be gentle with yourself. Food is largely made of water just as the body is largely made of water, and we know from Dr. Emoto how water crystals respond to thought – so put loving thoughts in both your food and your body as you eat, and this is going to help you get the most nutrition out of whatever you have decided to eat.
5. Get the right amount of sleep
When you don’t sleep enough, the body starts shutting down, and this will make you shut down. Sleep deprivation can bring on a sense of pending doom, and make a person feel like nothing is right. Your body uses sleep to purify itself, to renew itself, and to wake up brand new. What would it be like if the sun simply didn’t set? The whole world would freak out. What happens when you don’t sleep? You essentially don’t allow the sun to set, your whole circadian rhythm gets off, and it just doesn’t feel right. There is an Indian Ayurvedic principle which recommends getting to sleep by 10 pm, because that is when the natural rhythms of life support actually falling asleep. Try it out. If you are struggling to sleep, try a little valerian tincture just before bed (just a little though- its a very strong herb.) You also need to sleep deeply enough to enter REM. In one study on sleep and dream patterns, participants were woken up from their sleep every time their eyes showed signs of Rapid Eye Movement – the result- they went crazy. So, sweet dreams. Also too much sleep can make one lethargic! Balance in all.
5. Spend creative time doing what you love
Whatever it is that you love, that moves you- your hobby of building miniature sail boats, knitting or playing the viola, drawing comics, writing poetry, or if hardcore arithmetic floats your boat, ok – but regularly give yourself the the gift of creative expression. The world will disappear for a time as you dive in. And when you emerge you will be refreshed, happier, and ready to move into the next chapter of life. For me, sometimes I just have to disappear into my guitar and singing. The whole world sublimely vanishes, every pain and problem fades into the backdrop, and I simply allow self-expression. I’m not saying go and get a guitar, unless that’s your thing. But find your thing, or find your things.
6. Spend time with people you love
Our greatest and most fascinating joy on this planet is each other. Nothing I’ve known compares with the unfathomable depths of another. So call a friend and go out to tea, look them in the eyes, inquire sincerely about Other, and if you actually listen, with your whole awareness, you may find God, or an Angel, staring you right in the face.
People in the United States have a really tough 40 hour work-week. It really leaves little time to come home, “take care of the kids, pay the bills, work on the small business plan, oh that community garden, and yes we have date night tonight, a marriage to keep alive… I should come home with flowers, oh but I gotta get the car washed and pick up Suzy from band practice…” Or whatever, and so on. We have all the necessities of caring for the home, caring for the job, caring for the family and friends. It is no wonder there is such a large portion of the population suffering from ailments caused by stress.
If you take the time to relax, you will be ten times more prepared to take on the daily stresses of life with more ease and peace of mind. Relax a little everyday. And this is not by watching horror news and TV shows, or by playing violent video games. If this is how you’ve been relaxing, and you see that you are still stressed, you may want to try another form of relaxation. Spend time in nature. Sit at a beach. Read an enjoyable book, play the piano, meditate, do tai chi, yoga. Relaxing also means not worrying, especially when the time comes to worry. Let it go, and remember all the times the universe has perfectly supported you before, so why would it stop now? Even when it seemed everything would fall apart, and even if it did before, it eventually comes back together again. So take a few deep breathes, drink some kava kava tea, and just let it roll. Your worries are naturally going to become less and less the more you practice these 7 keys. So give yourself a nice pat on the back and a well-deserved break. You’ve earned it just by being human.
If you are reading this far, then you have step 1 down- you’ve reached for something inspirational. Now get out there and take a walk or something, and while you do that you can relax, or you can think about all the other ways you’d like to bring the other keys into your Life of Happiness. Give these ideas a try, and I promise you will be a much more contented person, very quickly. You will be able to witness everything else in life becoming much sweeter- not only for you, but for everyone who has pleasure of knowing you.