A few days ago a Facebook friend posted the above poster on her wall. I believe she got these points from this blog which she enjoys reading, and the bloggers on the Marc and Angel Hack Life blog derived their discussion of these points from this book, available on Amazon - you're welcome! I have to admit, I haven't read the blog or the book I've just mentioned but wanted my readers to have access to the sources of the poster for their own reflective purposes.
The New Year will be upon us in but a few days and I thought this a great opportunity to do a little personal assessment on how I'm playing the happy game. I'm often not very happy at all - I don't need to be happy all the time, let me just say that up front - I personally believe that life is a balancing act and those who seek euphoria often will also often feel desolation because in all things there must be balance. The great riches of the few on this planet come at the personal cost of the many as is shown over and over again in graphs such as this...
And in fact, based on financial wealth alone, there seems to be an overbalance towards poorer people - but we all know financially wealthy people experience other forms of poverty, as well... Balance is my point here.
So, I don't expect to be happy all the time, but I am aware that my happiness levels are out of balance with my anxiety levels and so I thought I'd use the 12 Things Happy People Do Differently poster to reflect on that today.
I'll go through the points one by one.
#1 - Express Gratitude
* When you appreciate what you have, what you have appreciates in value.
I find I often don't appreciate what I have - oh, I manage to appreciate it when prompted but I really need to be prompted, and that is a bit of a problem because often the prompting isn't there just when I'm at my most self-pitying. So, I need to find a way to prompt myself regularly until appreciating what I have become a habit - I will set a regular daily reminder on my phone!
* If we aren't thankful for what we already have, we will have a hard time ever being happy.
I honestly believe this, and can see it in other people quite readily, but I think I've slipped up on seeing it in my own attitude and in recent years I've slid further and further in a quagmire of not being thankful - not authentically thankful in any case. I will be conscious of this now and will use the word authentic in my daily phone reminder so that I don't just go through the paces, but really feel the gratitude.
#2 - Cultivate Optimism
* People who think optimistically see the world as a place packed with endless opportunities, especially in trying times.
This used to be me. Before 2009, this really was me inside and out, but since the trying times really kicked in my optimism has depleted - mostly because I haven't fed it with gratitude. I guess it's easy to be optimistic when the scales seem tipped in your favour, the challenge is maintaining optimism when they consistently tip the other way - but that is also a matter of perception because even trials have their silver linings - it's all part of the balance! If I work on accepting that things will not always work out the way I hoped but that even in those situations there are real positives to be garnered, I will be a much happier person!
#3 - Avoid Over-thinking and social comparison
* Comparing yourself to someone else can be poisonous
* The only person you should compare to is yourself before now
This really is a challenge for me, at least the over-thinking part. I've always been an over-thinker. Just this morning, I had made plans to go to my brother's to have some more ink done, but as I was getting ready to leave, Erik told me my brother had called early this morning to say he was unwell and we'd have to postpone the session until another time. As this was the second time the session had been postponed, I started to convince myself he really doesn't want to do the work because I'm not paying him. The fact is, he has probably caught the nasty head cold my eldest had when he was visiting - and which my second has come down with just today. Over-thinking causes me a lot of anxiety and unhappiness.
I never used to compare myself with others socially, well not negatively anyway. Having had less income than the average family in our area in recent years has encouraged the habit of negatively comparing our situation. Especially as it has been difficult to keep up with the financial demands of our children's primary school which has caused me embarrassment and caused me to question my ability as a parent to provide for my children. I need to kick this bad habit. It's not serving me in any positive way, and I think it has contributed to my decline into agoraphobia and not feeling worthy of socialising with people who seem better off and therefore more worthy of respect than me. I say 'seem' because appearances aren't everything, and I may well be seeing what people have instead of seeing who people are and shutting myself off to lovely people because of my projections of judgement onto them.
#4 - Practice Acts of Kindness
* Selflessly helping someone is a super powerful way to feel good inside
I admit, I haven't done this as much as I used to because I've convinced myself I have nothing worthwhile to offer. That's a convenient way of thinking, isn't it? If I have nothing to offer, I don't have to make an effort but then I rob myself of the opportunity of feeling worthwhile as well, which feeds the belief that I have nothing to offer. Ah, the mind games we play with ourselves, hey? From hereon in I'm going to look for opportunities to help others and offer of myself.
#5 - Nurture Social Relationships
* The happiest people on the planet are the ones who have deep, meaningful relationships.
Herein lies the rub. Social anxiety; fed by over thinking and believing I have little to offer because I've been comparing myself negatively to others socially has led to a breakdown in most of my relationships in recent years. I've backed away from people who have reached out because of my own sense of social self-worth based on what I believe I have to offer others which may be worthwhile to them. I will have to meditate on how I can remedy this in future relationships. Which leads directly into the next point...
#6 - Develop strategies for coping
* It helps to have healthy strategies for coping pre-rehearsed, on call, and in your arsenal at your disposal.
This reminds me of another two posters I saw on Facebook this morning...
I will have these posters printed out and hang them were I can refer to them often.
#7 - Learn to Forgive
* Harboring (sic) feelings of hatred is horrible for your well-being
Aha! Finally something I feel I am doing well. I don't hold onto grudges and I almost never feel hatred toward anyone or anything - and if I do it is very short lived, mostly because I find it too sapping and I'm a bit too forgetful to remember to hate anyone for very long. There is hope for me yet!
#8 - Increase flow experiences
* Flow is a state in which it feels like time stands still.
* It's when you're so focused on what you're doing you become one with the task.
* Nothing is distracting you or competing for your focus.
To an extent I do this already - having ADHD means I occasionally hyper focus on what I'm doing. At the same time, I'm very much aware that I tend to be very easily distracted from what I'm doing and hyper focusing is not a conscious engaging in the moment so much as working automatically at something - and still the background channels play in my brain. It's like when I'm playing a computer game and I score very well, this is often as a result of not focusing on the game but one something I'm listening to - such at the television - so in that sense I'm focused only because I'm distracted. It's not an easy thing to explain to people who haven't experienced it. The closest likeness to this experience I've heard of is when people drive while deep in thought and end up at their destination without remembering how they got there.
Consciously engaging in the moment is something different, I believe. I will work on being more present in the moment - and not just when I'm playing computer games!
#9 - Savor (sic) life's joys
* Deep happiness cannot exist without slowing down to enjoy the joy
I believe I do this most of the time, I'm pretty good at recognising joy in my life and savouring it. I do this in the moment fairly regularly, I just need to remember those moments more often and tap into those memories more often.
#10 - Commit to your goals
* Magical things happen when we commit ourselves to doing whatever it takes to get somewhere
I do this with some things. I've achieved a lot of goals doing this and achieving those goals has caused a lot of happiness in my life. Other things - perhaps smaller things - I tend to let slip. The smaller things are often just as important as the big things though because they underpin the big things so I need to commit to those goals as well!
#11 - Practice Spirituality
* When we practice spirituality or religion we recognise that life is bigger than us
* We surrender the silly idea that we are the mightiest thing ever
I know this point might not sit well with all my readers, but I do believe this - though I probably would not have used the qualifier 'silly' and just left it at 'idea'. I have had a stronger spiritual life than I've had in recent times and I need to get back there because lower spirituality does leave me with a feeling of disconnect and isolation. It leaves me feeling vulnerable in an unloved sort of way which causes me to feel defensive of myself and my ideas and weaknesses because I feel I am all I have. When my spirituality is stronger I feel connected and purposeful and part of something bigger than myself which provides a sense of comfort and security.
#12 - Take Care of Your Body
* Taking care of your body is crucial to being the happiest person you can be
It's true that when I have done this I have felt happier. It is also true I have not put any energy into caring for my body in a while. This is something I will need to focus on specifically now.
So, if you did your own reflection while reading this, are there areas you can work on to feel happier?
The New Year is always a good time for starting afresh (and you don't have to wait until Tuesday, you can start today - I'll give you permission if you can't give yourself permission. Start now - we'll do it together!).
Also, today is a full moon, and for those of you who like moon rituals, today is a great day to focus on letting go of negativity; negative thoughts and feelings and actions, just imagine them melting off your body and flowing away from you and every time you feel them creeping back in, visualise the heat of love melting them away again! I'm going to do this. Then when the new moon begins, you can start focusing on growing the positive thoughts and feelings and actions which are left in place of the negative ones that have melted away!
Give feeling happier a go!