It is likely that you’ve read, scanned or relegated to the trash-bin hundreds, if not thousands, of messages like this. However, I’d like you to take several minutes to move through this one. Why?
One, there is levity herein. I find that many self-help posts, and self-help advocates take themselves entirely too seriously. Ii is certain that neither they nor I have the answer, so we might as well laugh. Mind you, I take my well-being as seriously as it deserves, but humor is as essential to my life as is water and air.
Two, when I write undeniably simple, I mean it. I find that most messages in this family are not. They claim simple, they assert easy…but they neglect the fact that the process of recalibrating our brains, our habits, our addictions, and our priorities is as close to possible, let alone probable, as is the likelihood of Kanye West hitting an intended note without auto-tune.
I am not going to bog myself or you down with copious footnotes, references, and research. But rest assured, you will improve your well-being. Also, the more of these things in which you engage, the more improved will be your health and happiness. Additionally, these things can, likely will cause you to live longer and have an improved quality of life through those extra days, months, or even years. This I promise. (That and a couple of bucks will get you a cheap cup of coffee.)
In the early 90’s, on college campuses, Hare Krishnas still roamed freely. I used to laugh at them. They were generally white people who had shaved off their dreadlocks, continued to not use deodorant, and dedicated their lives to playing percussion poorly, singing “Hare Krishna” with negligible musicality, and being perpetually pleasant while smelling unusually unpleasant. I was considerably less enlightened then. I understand something now.
The theory that if one simply practices unfettered joy, chants “praise Krishna” and smiles from one’s soul that one can become authentically happy is…well, empirically valid. Really. If you just practice smiling, greeting people you meet with joy…you can literally change your brain chemistry and become a happier person. A happier person is a less anxious person. And less anxious people live longer with a better quality of life to boot.
So if you just put a little effort, even if your default brain chemistry and attitude want to drag you back to negativity, into smiling…you can make yourself happier. When you smile, regardless of the social benefit, just the neuro-muscular process of smiling releases brain chemicals that promote well-being and happiness. I’ll repeat. You can make yourself happy by just practicing smiling. (If you feel self-conscious or worry about appearing to be cuckoo crazy to the world, just do it indiscriminately, in private moments, or go with the half-smile, or whatever.) The key is to break the myth of unidirectionality. Most of us believe that when we’re happy we smile. We neglect to practice the scientific fact that when we smile we become happy. Dig that, you dirty hippies and Caucasian Hindus.
You need no gratitude journal. You need no mentor. You need no medicine. (Not yet, at least.) No meditation. You need only pay attention to the way you feel. Specifically, the way you feel around the people with whom you spend more than just fleeting time. And furthermore, I want you only to focus on the people with whom you feel the happiest, the freest to be you, the most comfortable and relaxed. With whom do you feel most “at home” in this world? Now, you don’t even need (yet) to explore the answer to “Why?” or “How?” Nope. Just figure out who makes you feel the best, and spend more time with him/her/them. Also communicate with these people when they’re not around. Text. Email. Facebook. Etcetera. Happy people attract and beget happy people.
Also pay attention to the green world around us and avoid polluting it. Just the thought of making the world better for our children should make you happy. I have some friends who run a Kentucky dumpster rental service and they tell me it makes them so happy just to know they contribute in making our environment cleaner. It is important to feel good about yourself if you wnat to feel happy and happier. And it is so simple to clean up around you.
With what activities, places, events, or things do you feel light as a feather, like the rest of the world is non-existent, completely connected and relaxed and happy? For me, a nice, easy, non-race 3-5 mile run is one of those things. Listening to the music of my youth is another. Writing these essays, yet another. Hanging with my favorite podcasts, for certain. A few others: watching Vince Gilligan produced television, reading fiction, drinking a wee dram of whiskey, showering, sleeping (…more to come on that below…), and anything that makes me laugh.
You like videos of cooing babies? Watch the heck out of them. You dig on Chaka Kahn? Well, ain’t nobody does it better than her! When I’m in the midst of MY things I am fully present and completely happy. I find ways to do these things whenever I can. Furthermore, as I’ve attended to this endeavor, my list of things that make me feel happy has grown and thus I’m doing things that makes me happy more often. It’s a positive feedback loop. Again, happy attracts and begets happy. It’s like a snowball full of pure bliss rolling down a hill of powdery awesomeness and colliding with your body like a tsunami of “Aww yeah!”
There is no question that if you sleep more you will be more alert, healthier, and happier. I’m not sure I can expand that further. It is that simple. If you typically go to bed at midnight and wake at 5, try going to bed at 11:45 for a week, then shift it to 11:30, and so on. The goal is 8-9 hours straight through, but for our purposes, fuhgeddaboutit. A journey of even 10 feet begins with one step and can only proceed one additional step at a time. Don’t worry about where you’re not. Hell, don’t worry about where you’re at. Just add 10 – 15 minutes at a time, per week, per month, whatever is doable for you.
You need more water than you are currently drinking, so drink more of it whenever you can. If you can ingest it without the addition of carbonation, sugar, and/or caffeine, all the better. However, I’m just talking about hydration. My university choir director gave me the best advice for knowing if I’m properly hydrated, and I’ll share it with you. After you pee and before flushing, look in the toilet. If your pee is clear or nearly clear and if you can’t really smell anything (…unless you recently ate asparagus…), you are well hydrated. The yellower and more pungent your pee, the less hydrated you are. Keep it clear, dear.
Walking outside gets you two things that will immediately make you happier, exercise and sunlight. The more exercise and sunlight you have in your life, the happier and healthier that life will be. Do you have a dog? Walk it out as much as you can. (Shoot…sun, exercise, and a loyal pet is the trifecta of non-chemically-enhanced bliss.)
You have a husband, wifey, significant other? Drag his or her tukus along, with the dog. Make it a quadfecta, if that’s even a thing. Find some cooing babies, carry water, take a nap mid-walk and drop that atomic happy bomb right on your cranium. Boom! A mushroom cloud of vitality rises above your head, showering you in unbreakable, unadulterated, undeniable happy.