I’ve been feeling down lately. Things just haven’t been going as planned. I’ve been stressed, I’m having some medical issues, and I’m still not making as much money as I’d like. Sure there are good things in my life too, but I’ve been focused on the negatives.

People are just as happy as they make up their minds to be

No wonder I’ve been feeling bad! Our thoughts really do create our reality, so by choosing different thoughts, we can actually shift from bummed to happy pretty quickly. Here are my favorite five questions that consistently boost my happiness and they’ll increase yours too.

1. What do I enjoy about this moment?

Finding Joy:

Asking this question requires us to notice what’s happening in the moment, and discover what we most enjoy about it. If I’m having trouble figuring out what I enjoy, I often turn to my five senses, asking myself, “Is there anything that I can see that I enjoy right now? Is there anything I can hear that I enjoy in this moment? Can I smell or taste anything wonderful right now? Or is there a texture or sensation I can enjoy now?

Practicing appreciation and gratitude has been one of the most life-altering experiences of my life. It has helped me let go of worry, anxiety, and fear and celebrate the beauty in life. Through these practices, I’ve found true and lasting joy, and you can too!

In fact, just last week when I was feeling down, I decided to practice gratitude every day, and I already felt happier by day two. I mean really, every breath is a gift, so let’s celebrate.

2. How can I help?

Being of Service :

When we help others, we take our attention off of ourselves and put it on others in need. Instead of ruminating about what went wrong in a recent meeting or fretting about a conversation we’re dreading with a loved one, we can let go of our own troubles and focus on the challenges someone else is facing. This can happen in big and little ways throughout the day.

We can help our family members with daily and weekly tasks, volunteer at a local soup kitchen, or adopt an animal from the shelter. Being of service to others brings a deep and lasting sense of accomplishment. It feels so good to make a positive difference in some else’s life! And often, after connecting with someone in need, our own troubles come into perspective as the petty annoyances they often are, rather than the life destroying tragedies we make them out to be.

3. What can I learn from this?

A Love of Learning :

Striving has a direct connection with happiness. When we strive to learn and grow, we enjoy life more, naturally. That’s because we humans like to feel a sense of accomplishment and meaning in our lives. If we’re not learning and growing, then what’s the point of all this anyway?

When we begin to focus on opportunities for growth, instead of disappointments and failures, we start to see that everything that happens is just another chance to learn and grow. And that causes us to set goals, strive for those goals, achieve them and feel successful.

Since learning and growing is a lifelong process, we’re never really finished—instead, we’ll just find new things to learn. For instance, my mom learned to draw and became a portrait artist in her fifties. My mother-in -law learned to make jewelry in her sixties, and I had my very first voice lesson last month!

So, what’s on your list? Do you want to learn to ski? Or beat your best running time? Are you striving for a business goal? Or are you trying to improve your marriage? Just in case you’re wondering, going after these goals is already making you a happier person.

SEE ALSO: What Can We Learn From Children?

4. How would I like it to happen next time?

Envisioning What’s Next:

Recognizing our true power to create our reality can be an overwhelming responsibility. We can no longer blame others for our experience, and instead we have to stand up and say, “I created this.” The benefit of this view of reality is that when things are not as we’d like, we have the power to change them. By asking ourselves how we’d like things to go next time, we’re offering ourselves the opportunity to create more of what we want and less of what we don’t want.

Envisioning the future is an art, and there are subtleties about the process that can make a huge difference in how successful you are at it. Here are my four rules for writing an effective vision:

  1. Everything is stated in the positive (no exceptions)
  2. It is written in present tense, as if all of this is already true.
  3. It is a narrative and when you read it you truly FEEL how you will feel when you accomplish the goals within.
  4. You MUST share your vision with at least three people.

5. What’s funny about this?

Playful Presence:

Maintaining a sense of humor in the midst of your stressful life is a huge key to happiness. Laughter triggers the release of endorphins, a virtual feel-good cocktail for your brain. When we can laugh about something, it just doesn’t seem so awful anymore.

Plus, the ability to be lighthearted about a difficult situation is a skill that comes in really handy, especially at the most challenging moments of life.

A few years ago I cut my finger badly and my husband took me to urgent care to get it stitched up. I was a mess, and I was embarrassed, upset, and scared since I’d never had stitches before. My husband was lighthearted and cracking jokes while we waited for the doctor, so that by the time he came in, I was relaxed and at ease. The whole process was quick and much easier than I had anticipated. Thank goodness my husband was there to lighten the mood and get me laughing. Now I just have to figure out how to do that for myself!

If there is a question here that seems strange, confusing, or difficult for you, don’t worry about it. Just practice the ones you feel drawn to and revisit the others at a later time. After all, this is not about achieving perfection it’s about achieving happiness! Go forth and enjoy your life even MORE.

Warm hugs, Shelly

SEE ALSO: How to Create the Ultimate Habit of Happiness

Featured photo credit: Umbrella woman jump and sunset silhouette via Shutterstock

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