“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.Advertising
1. Move Your Body
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!
2. Fake it!
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.Advertising
3. Go Play
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.
4. Watch Something Funny
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.Advertising
5. Forget Your Schedule… For an Hour!
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.Advertising
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?
The Gentle Art of Saying No
It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.
But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.
What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.
But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:
- Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
- Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
- Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
- Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
- Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
- Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
- Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
- Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
- Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
- It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.
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