“There is no way to happiness; happiness is the way.” – Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh was right. You don’t have to wait to be happy in order to feel happy. There are five things you can do now to bring happy into your life. These five tips are intended to be physical and practical ways to change your state so that you physically and emotionally turn your “happy” on.
Exercise is one of the fastest ways to joy. When you move your body you change your state. You go from down and lethargic to feeling more energetic, masterful, and fulfilled. The reason is both physiological and psychological. Not only does exercise burn off cortisol (the stress hormone), and studies have shown that exercise can release endorphins (feel-good chemicals, the commonly referred to “runners’ high”), but when you exercise you also feel a sense of accomplishment, known as self efficacy. There’s a psycho-social hypotheses called the mastery hypothesis that tells us that our mood improves when engaging in difficult and significant work. Thus, on both a psychological and physiological level, exercise will lift your mood, and as a bonus side effect you’ll be healthier too!
Seriously, the next time you’re down, put down the self-help book and simply smile. Make ridiculous faces, and even say the words “Ha Ha”. Did you know there is a form of yoga called laughter yoga, that uplifts the spirit? The class is centered around saying things like “Ha Ha, Ho Ho, Hee Hee”, and before you know it the whole room is howling. You can take this strategy and employ it in your own living room. Try it right now, and see how your state changes. Happiness is often thought of as an emotion, yet our physiological state is inextricably linked with our emotional state. The moment we change what our physical body is doing, our emotions follow. There’s been plenty of research to back up these claims, but better than science is your own scientific experiment! Try it now, and see how you feel. Put on a smile that includes your eyes smiling, and see if it influences your feelings.
Life can be serious. From horrific television news stories, to deadlines, family responsibilities, and more, it’s so vital to remember to play. Kids do it all the time, and often with big smiles on their faces. So whether your form of play is taking a hike, reading a magazine, playing a sport, or literally heading over to some swings in a park and playing like a kid, play is on of the fastest ways to get in touch with our inner happy. Taking the time to go have fun, and bring some joy in your life should be part of your weekly regime. Even little doses of fun make all the difference. If it’s been awhile since you went out to play and have some fun, set up a play date now. Think of an activity you have been longing to partake in, and pencil it into your calendar.
Alright, so I am all for practicing presence and meditation, but sometimes, if you’re feeling totally bummed out, meditation may not be the trick you seek. Did you know that consciously choosing to distract yourself can be a healthy coping mechanism? Now, if you are constantly living in busyness and distraction, this is not a healthy way to cope. But, consciously choosing to engage in something to get your mind off something troubling can be a healthy way to shift your attention. You can easily find thousands of hilarious comedic routines on YouTube, or the Comedy Network. Sometimes taking a time out, such as watching something that gives you a good laugh, is a healthy way to let go of the sadness and stress. And often it gives us perspective so that we can deal with what ails us in a clearer way.
If you’re feeling stressed and caged in by your heavy duty never ending to-do list, it’s time to engage in what I call the “Forget Your Schedule” practice.
The truth is, if you don’t get everything done on your list, life will go on. Things won’t fall apart. It will be OK. Besides, feeling stressed and overwhelmed can seriously slow us down. By taking an hour to forget your chores and to-do-list, you often gain perspective that half of those things you thought you had to do are either unnecessary or you find a better way to get them done (which sometimes includes delegating tasks to others). By taking some time to let yourself be free, you get to finally live in the moment. When you are living in the moment, away from the giant to-do list and never ending stress (which leads to unhappiness), you tap into freedom which leads to space, possibility and happiness.
I hope these tips have been practical and that you will implement them into your life. Now it’s your turn, what’s your best tip to shifting your state and getting your happy on?
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