Feeling better about anything in life is often a collection of experiences or emotions as opposed to making grand sweeping changes. Think about other times when you have felt happy, excited, content, or at peace. Those specific moments in time were probably NOT brought about by making a huge change in your life or by sticking to a worthwhile habit. If you really look at them, and dissect them for their hidden meaning, what you will likely find is a collection of random occurrences or happenstance type connections with the world that created a blissful moment where everything felt right. It doesn’t have to be hard to find, it shouldn’t cost a lot of money. Happiness is free and if you are honest with yourself, it is usually self -created. That’s right we usually create our own happiness, we pick and choose what to do, or how to think, or experiences to void and voila!- Happiness is ours. So while I’d love to win the Lottery-I’d have to start playing I guess- and I am convinced it will make my life better -seriously, I think it would (hint hint universe)- I have the power of choice and that power allows me to craft my own moments of happiness or Zen. They might be quick, they might be fleeting, but if you string together enough of them it could lead to something huge, life changing, and blissful. So here are 5 things you can do today, right now even, that will make you feel just a little bit better. They may be small, they may seem inconsequential, but baby steps are easy, and if you string them all together you’ll eventually reach the same place a leap would have taken you.
- First things first, put down your phone. Better yet put it in a different room, leave it in the car, turn it off, or ask someone to hold it for you. Seriously phones are dead useful and my smart phone has gotten me out of quite a few jams both with navigation and arguing over who that one guy was in that one movie we watched like five years ago, but the phone doesn’t make people happy; on the contrary the darn thing actually steals your time, disconnects you from loved ones, and leads to obsessive behaviors- oh let me just check Facebook for a minute. I am so tired of trying to have a conversation with someone who keeps nodding their head at what I’m saying while they are really just reading something on their phone. Often it would seem easier to just text my news to them because clearly the face to face moment isn’t working. Worse still the person who is constantly checking their phone is doing so out of obsessive habit, or feelings of missing out. Both of those motivators are not healthy. What did these folks do before smart phones? Did they- GASP- have actual conversations with people? Did they make eye contact and express emotions like happiness or empathy? Did they make a connection that is stronger and more binding that an update on social media? You bet they did. So now they no longer have that. They no longer feel connected, they no longer get a sense of true bonding or truly experiencing a moment because the smartphone woos them into touching it. Not too long ago I watched a mother almost back her truck over her own two children because she was too busy with her phone to notice they weren’t in the truck but outside it. I don’t know who she was talking to and I don’t know what they wee talking about, but I can guarantee you it wasn’t worth the lives of her children. So put the phone down. Just see how it feels for a moment. Do you desperately need to pick it back up? Do you miss the feel of it in your hand? Are you groping for real actual conversation with the person sitting next to you and you can’t find the words because you have no idea what verbal skills are? Yeah, I thought so. Now try to go one hour with no phone. I’ve done this, and I find I’m getting so much more out of life and my kids are happier because I never miss a moment.
- Play your favorite song. Seriously, it is amazing the power that music has. I’m not talking about that sad song you love because it reminds you of your last boyfriend or a dead relative. I’m talking about that song you MUST dance to because your brain leaves you no choice. I’m talking about the song that makes you feel alive and empowered, emboldened even to get out in the world and make your mark. The one that makes you feel good and straight up “lit up” inside. It can turn a whole day around, it can motivate you to try new things, it can give you the sense of fearlessness to try new things. A good song can make the world seem right. I love “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves. Its old, sure, but I have to smile when I hear it. I have to turn up the radio and sing along. I have to dance, if I’m not driving, and sometimes even if I am. This one song alone is responsible for more embarrassing singing to myself while others stare moments in my car than any other song ever. A new favorite is Bruises by Train. Seriously, the song on repeat actually gave me the strength to run 20 min today, 20 freaking minutes!! That is a big deal for someone who usually watches the clock counting down seconds to one minute. Find your song, if you don’t already know it, and turn it on, turn it up, let it take you into a moment you didn’t expect to have today. Let it make you smile. That feeling will stick there, long after the song is over.
- Compliment Someone. Seriously, compliment someone, anyone, preferably someone you don’t know. Why someone you don’t know? Well many reasons. It opens the door to possibly a new friend, possibly the best friend you’d ever had. What better story than we met when I paid her a huge compliment? Second, strangers are more inclined to believe our kind words and appreciate their personal impact. What?!? That’s right. Friends and family might think you are just being nice, or are angling for something from them, but a stranger, out of the blue, will just feel great that someone bothered to take the time to say something nice. Not long ago in a yoga class, I became mesmerized by a woman in front of me. She had long, elegant, beautiful arms. They were perfectly chiseled and sinewy with muscle and I envied her every movement. Seriously, I stared so hard and so long at this woman that it started to look like a girl crush. When class was over I toyed with just leaving and never telling her how amazing I thought she was, but I worried maybe all my staring would make her think I was judging her negatively or I thought her butt looked big. I worried she would think I was weird or coming on to her, but I took a chance anyway. I told her she had amazing arms and I wished I had some like them. I told her- red faced and properly embarrassed- that they were so beautiful. At first she was taken aback, I had after all probably said more nice things to her in that moment than her husband had all week, and I was a stranger. Then she thanked me profusely. And then, something even stranger still happened. Ten minutes later she hunted me down in the locker room to tell me that I had just made her day, she had never had anyone compliment her arms before and she works really hard on them. She said it made her whole week to know that all her hard work worth it. That was 2 months ago, and I am still riding that high of making her day. I hope she is doing the same. I hope my compliment gave her courage to tell the next person what great abs they have or how shiny their hair is. It doesn’t matter what you say, or who you say it to, complimenting others is always a big win and a feel good moment.
- Don’t watch commercials. Frankly don’t watch TV, but if you must, don’t watch commercials. If you have a DVR then skip them, if you don’t then leave the room when they come on or do an activity like sit-ups instead of watching. Commercials have one goal and one goal only; to influence your mind and heart enough to get you to buy something. That is it. They aren’t there to entertain, they aren’t there to make you smarter. On the contrary they often purposefully make you feel stupid or undervalue you in some way because of your gender or social standing. Commercials make you think you need or want something you don’t need or want and would never have even known about if you hadn’t just seen the commercial. Commercials make you feel left out, they make you feel like your life is lacking because you don’t have the product the ad is hawking or the lifestyle that goes with it. Seriously, it isn’t just his one woman’s opinion, it is a fact. Advertisers are paid very well for making you feel stupid, unworthy, unloved, and alone. Their sole job in life is to get you to buy something, go somewhere, invest in something, or change your mind. So if you are happy and content, you don’t need someone telling you that you aren’t. You don’t need someone to imply your paper towels aren’t good enough, your car doesn’t do enough, or your husband is too stupid to watch his own children (seriously a lot of commercials paint men in a very unflattering light). When was the last time you saw a commercial that made you feel good about yourself? Made you feel like you have all you need? Made you sing from the roof tops “I rock this life Mother F…” Never. Not once. Not ever. That isn’t their job. So stop watching, stop letting companies and advertisers tell you how to feel, what to want, and what you need. Make up your own mind. You’ll be happier not being insulted, and your wallet might just benefit too.
- Go outside. That’s right, just go outside. Sometimes your backyard is best, sometimes a trip to the woods is in order, but whatever you do get outside. You need the wind in your hair, the sun on your face, or the sound of crickets in you ears. The peace of being in an open space makes your brain feel good and your cells come alive. Whether its cold or hot, sunny or cloudy, raining or snowy, there is something gained by being outside. Dance in the rain, make snow angels in the winter, pick flowers in the spring, watch the sunset all year round. Bottom line just get outside. Even if all you can manage is a walk around the high rise you work in, just do it. Words cannot express the primal need all living creatures have to be one with the great outdoors. It can make you feel alive like nothing else, it can push your boundaries, surprise your senses, or simply make you appreciate home (my mother falls into this category :)) Go outside, breath in deep, twirl around, don’t worry, no one is watching you, they are all too busy on their smart phones. Take your shoes off, feel the ground on your bare feet. Your brain will thank you, your body will thank you, your spirit will thank you- once its done soaring that is.
You don’t have to do any of these, it isn’t required or mandatory, I won’t tell you that you should, but I will promise you that if you do, your day will be a little bit brighter, the good moments just a little more frequent, and your life just a little bit better. How’s that for a commercial for ya?