How to be Happy in 19 Fairly Painless Steps

 

I may not have found the holy grail of happiness just yet, but I have managed to eek out a little bliss every now and then in these stressful shark filled waters I call my life. So I have decided to take a look back at the things I have done or tried in my journey thus far. It seemed like a good time to sum up the specific steps I’ve taken so I can take stock, move forward, readdress those things that didn’t take the first time, or reassess why things didn’t work at all.

  1. Identify what is great about you. You might be surprised at how awesome you already are. Make a list to see the awesomeness on paper.
  2. Really make those traits of your life a priority or use them more often to shine. If you take what you do well or the traits about you that rock and you do them more often, of course you are going to find more reasons to smile.
  3. Make a conscious choice about who you are. A choice not driven from history or others labels, but one that is truly you, or the you you would like to become. Make the choice of happiness when you do this. Stop blaming others for your position in life and take charge. Blaming others gives them the power, taking charges puts you in the driver’s seat. I prefer power every day of the week.
  4. Formulate your personal identifiers. These are the attributes you want to live by or be known for. This is your chance to chose who you are going to be. This list doesn’t have to be true at this moment, it is a work in progress. Include your current attributes as well as those you are working towards. Many people find happiness in reaching toward goals. Easier to reach for them if you know what you are reaching for.
  5. Review the people in your life and decide if they help or hinder your progress in either happiness or your intentional identifier goals. They may be friends or family and you may love them dearly, but if they don’t get your new life then they may hold you back from truly succeeding. I’m not saying let them go, I’m saying put them in perspective.
  6. Clean up your financial mess, or at least put it all out on the table and in the open so you can start looking at it. Knowledge is half the battle, the truth really can set you free. This is the path to fixing it.
  7. Take action to implement or move toward an intentional identifier. It isn’t enough to make a list, you have to take action. You have to remind yourself everyday of who you want to be and you have to do something to work toward that goal as often as you can.
  8. Let go of all the negative things that draw you down or hold you back. Whether it is people, things, habitual thoughts, or ruminations on your past, let it all go and start new.
  9. Stop patterns of behavior that do not work for you or bring you closer to your goals and happiness. Stop doing everything that negates who you want to be or what you want to have in life. Just stop it.
  10. Adjust your beliefs to allow your goals to be reached. If a belief is preventing you from reaching a positive lace or a remarkable goal it is time to rethink why you are chosing to believe something tat is clearly holding you back.
  11. Live on the edge and do things that scare you; you might be surprised at what you find or discover about yourself. Often living in the safety zone prevents growth and opportunity to make your life the way you really want it to be. You must be bold to move forward and out of your comfort zone and onto the edge. Those who make history or are fabulously happy are out there on the edge, trust me.
  12. Learn to live in and experience the Now- I I know it sounds new agey. Let go of the past and stop worrying about your future. If you live in the now the past is nothing but a memory and the future will only be brighter if you really truly just live in this moment.
  13. Be better to your partner. Give them what you want and they are likely to reciprocate. If not then have them read this. Remember they have value and possibly are right.
  14. Write your best about me. Avoid titles and roles you play in life and instead focus on the true things about you, See mine for inspiration.
  15. Choose to be healthy. Make one small healthy change every week and be surprised at how it catches on and how good you feel.
  16. Be productive. Do things that create peace or simplicity in your life. Do things that need to be done and can shrink your to do list. Do things that instill a great sense of accomplishment. Do the trivial things that get in the way of your greatness.
  17. Get creative! Do something new and creative everyday. This is to get your brain working and firing neurons it usually doesn’t use. Brush your teeth with your opposite hand, paint a mural, bake cookies, make an obstacle course… just do something new and interesting that is totally for fun or nonsensical. There is a lt of brain up there just going to waste.
  18. Exercise, but use your limited time wisely. Moving everyday can make a huge mood shift. If you don’t have time for a big workout just squeeze in something, anything. It will make your mind feel  happy and your body relaxed. This morning I did 20 min of yoga with a two year old on my back. It wasn’t proper, it wasn’t “correct” but I did feel better and he sure laughed a lot. :)
  19. Stop taking on responsibility for others feelings. You cannot control what they choose to feel or what they choose to believe. If you have not been hurtful or intentionally cruel then their emotions are not your responsibility. You will waste a considerable amount of time in life trying to solve the problems of other people. Usually those people have made the decision to be miserable and their beliefs have less to do with you than their own choices to feel unhappy. It will hurt, it will be hard, but you have to realize at some point in your life, you are only responsible for your own reactions and feelings. Not those of others.
  20. Fake it. Fake everything you want to do or be until you reach your goals. You can get where you are going, it just takes a little bit of creativity and embellishment sometimes.

I have now been on this quest to find a better way of life since July of this year. And the really cool, if surprising bit, is that I really do feel better. I really am seeing a difference in my mood, my outlook, and my life. Just imagine if you had been following the journey and doing it to. What might your life look like now? What changes would you have made? How far could you have come?

For those keeping score, or are simply curious. I have accomplished the following by taking the steps above:

  • I’ve lost 5 pounds without dieting
  • I now fit in my pre pregnancy pants, I’m talking the ones before our first child
  • I’ve cleaned up our finances and we can now pay all our bills with a little left over to fix an ailing truck and toddler
  • I can find things in my organized house
  • I’ve sold or given away much of my clutter
  • I’m nicer to my children and we have a lot more silly times together
  • I’m sleeping better
  • My to do list is remarkably shorter
  • I am reading like a fiend
  • I am halfway through a new fiction book I hope will be the winner winner to getting published and being a true writer
  • I have eaten gluten free with only two breaks ( this was for my son’s Celiac Disease, but I won’t lie and say I don’t think I am healthier or that it didn’t improve my mood)
  • I feel more at peace
  • I feel like I have found part of me I thought was forever gone
  • I can cope with the unknown with less anxiety
  • I no longer have ruminating thoughts about things I can’t control

What I am Reading: Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hall a man buys a ghost off the internet… enough said, if that doesn’t make you curious, nothing will.

What I am listening to: Life is Beautiful by Keb Mo.  Thank you Carri, for giving me his voice.

What I am watching: Before you poo poo me… I am a HUGE Star Wars fan (see first edition original movie poster in my house or my son being practically named after Darth Vader), but I am also a huge believer in raising amazing little men. I hope when asked who they liked best they will choose wisely. Food for thought. Honestly though, at 8 years old I chose Chewbacca.

Inspirations from the ether: I clearly didn’t utilize my baby’s sleep time well enough. Must see photos. Seriously,  no really, click it!

Now moment of the week: A potty trained two year old who did it all by himself one day and  hasn’t looked back. Bonus moment, finding out from his special doctor that he only has 6 more months of leg braces! 1 regular doctor visit down! Three more to go!

 

8 Things I’ve Done to Feel Better

It is easy to overlook the little things we do on a daily basis, or the unusual stuff we do less often, as unimportant or trivial. But often it is the sense of accomplishment from doing lots of little important things that can make you feel awesome and amazing. You don’t have to do something grand or make a giant gesture, all you really have to do is keep track of the really cool little things you do so you can look back and say, “Wow! I actually kind of rock!” So here is a short list of the things I managed to get done in the last few weeks. Its all small stuff, but once I wrote it down, I was pretty amazed at how much I’ve actually gotten done. And I felt a weird sense of pride and happiness.

  1. Trimmed dog nails. May not sound like an accomplishment but with 5 dogs, 4 paws each, 4 nails per paw, and some dew claws, that’s over 80 nails trimmed. Not too shabby.
  2. Cleaned my kitchen trash can. If you haven’t done this to your own, you really should. It doesn’t take very long and it makes you feel good just knowing your trash has a clean place to go to when it dies. Seriously, I kept going back to marvel at it.
  3. Cleaned my bedroom closet. Wow, that would be the before and after pictures that probably frightened you at the beginning of this article. Our house is small, our closets are smaller. So it was a mess and a job to get that done, but now I can actually find things. I got rid of a lot of clothes including maternity wear and my “fat” clothes. Because I am proud to say I finally fit in my pre-pregnancy clothes. Whew! And before my son’s 2nd birthday even! Woo hoo! Go me!
  4. Changed my shower curtains. Call me wasteful, but sometimes you just have to throw shower liners away. There is no amount of cleaning product that is going to help that petri dish. So after 2 years, I decided the liner had more than paid its dues and I bought a new one. $5 later and I feel fresh as a daisy taking a shower.
  5. Changed hepa filters. We have hepa filters in every bedroom and I am notoriously bad about not changing them and convincing myself that the change schedule suggested by the manufacturer is just a scheme to make you spend more money. But since I finally had a little money in my pocket, and my youngest son has lung issues, it felt good to change the filters and feel like I’d really improved his quality of sleep life.
  6. Steam Cleaned my carpets. We aren’t the dirtiest people in the world, but with 5 dogs and 2 toddlers, plus living in a giant sand box, we generate lots of dirt inside the house. My children also regularly eat off the floor so I like to clean the carpet as much as possible. Nothing feels better than clean carpets.
  7. Went for my yearly physical. Not the girl doctor, just the regular doctor. I think it is really important to monitor your health, especially when you have children and they are dependent on you living for a significant period of time. She is a great doctor who practices Eastern Medicine as well as Western and I love that she wrote me a script for a vacation and more sleep. Hilarious.
  8. Purged Toys. Purging toys is hard for me because what one child has outgrown another might still be playing with. And of course, once you pull out a never played with toy and stick it in a box, then it is automatically more interesting and the most important toy in the room. It took a week with a box sitting in my living room but I was finally able to get through all the toys and get the box out to the garage. We will store it for awhile and I am hopeful we will sell our baby and toy stuff in the Spring. Simplify and make money. Win win.

I bet you can make a list  of things you have already done. And if you can’t, then make a list of things you’d like to do. Don’t pick big stuff, like reorganize the garage. Sure you will feel great, and it needs to be done, but the goal of this is to find the accomplishment and happiness in the little things. Think cleaning out your wallet, finding the bottom of your laundry basket, or organizing a shelf.  Heck, running a duster over a shelf makes me happy.

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Letting Go of the “Things” in Your Life

I will let you in on a secret that not many people know. In my garage are several (ok probably 10) boxes full of my childhood. In them you will find old stuffed animals and horse statues, notes from girlfriends in junior high and probably t-shirts I couldn’t part with (luckily no old gum or rocks). I have been lugging these artifacts of my past around for almost 20 years and I can’t really tell you why or what I am hoping to do with them. Sure, one day my sons might play with my Ewok Village and Star Wars figures, but I highly doubt either one of my boys will get excited over my old Barbies and doll house furniture. Every couple of years I sort through the boxes again and cull a few more items out for the trash or donation box. Every time I do this I am flooded with memories of playing doll house with my sister or waking up on Christmas morning to the one present I had really been hoping for. It is kind of nice to stroll down memory lane, but couldn’t I still do that without keeping the actual items? Isn’t it time to let them go? Is there a time to let them go?

I know part of me loves knowing that they are still out there and available to me, but the other part just wishes that a fire would send the whole garage up in flames so I didn’t have to deal with them anymore. I’d be sad yes, but I also suspect on some level I’d be relieved. I’m not that little girl anymore and keeping the items almost feels like an albatross around my neck. It reminds me of the scene in the old Jim Henson Movie Labyrinth where the junk lady is just walking around with all her treasured items literally weighing her down and hanging off her body. It’s a burden but yet, I still can’t say goodbye.

I guess maybe I am still hoping for the happy ending where all my childhood friends and happy feelings will be there if I need them. This will never happen if I give the items away. Okay, it may not happen because it is impossible too, but I prefer to believe the  unbelievable.

I recently read a blog (sorry, I can’t remember which one) where the person suggested that the best way to let go of the past, especially childhood memories, is to take pictures, salvage one or two items that truly define that time period, and let the rest go. This is what I will try to do with my memories this weekend. Who knows how successful I will be, but I’ll keep you posted. I might not be ready to let it all go yet, but I feel confident I can make a dent in the pile and at least lighten my load (9 boxes instead of 10?). I like the idea of taking pictures to keep as memories, certainly pictures will be viewed and remembered more often than items in a box.

Childhood memories are the hardest to part with for me . The rest of life’s tangible items get easier and easier to let go all the time . I have two methods of keeping my life clutter free and simplifying. The first is I just don’t buy things. I know you are thinking that is monumentally un-fun, but I have never bought anything that made me feel as good as money in the  bank does. There is no pair of shoes,  outfit, decoration, or toy that has ever lasted longer in giving me the happiness high than about the same amount of time it takes to use it or wear the first time. After that the high wears off and now you just have something that is no longer new, no longer makes you happy but you still have to maintain or find a place for in your life. Or worse you may have to one day let go of it and the unfulfilled promise it once held of making you happy. This is how I refrain from buying things beyond the necessities (I do not consider new clothes a necessity btw)

  • Think about how many hours you have to work to make enough money to buy the item. This puts things into perspective and gives you a better idea of an item’s true value. If you consider you have to work X hours to buy something specific, you may rethink its value compared to the value of your time.
  • Think of how often you might use the item, if it is less than once a week then you probably don’t need it or you already own something that does something similar.
  • Consider if you already own something that does the same thing or fulfills the same purpose. If you own 10 pairs of shoes, you probably don’t need 11. If you have a rice steamer, you probably don’t need a veggie steamer too.
  • Honestly assess if you have room or a space to store the item when you aren’t using it. We have a small house, to bring in a new item truly means we will be displacing another item. If you are already living fairly simply this means you may not have room for the new item.
  • Does the item align with any of your intentional identifiers? Does it help in your creation of your intentional identity? If one of your identifiers is to be a photographer, then perhaps you should hang on to that tripod, even if you haven’t used it in 5 years.
  • Don’t buy it. If you still want/need/or are thinking of it in 30 days then consider buying it, but ask yourself the first 4 questions here first. Be honest with yourself, impulse buys are usually the most disappointing over time.
  • Don’t watch commercials or read magazines, they only make you want stuff you don’t need. I once read a Parents magazine on the treadmill at the gym. By the time I finished my cardio I had figured out I was not only a lazy parent, but my children “needed” a whole bunch of crap I had never heard of before. Don’t get trapped, just don’t read it to being with.
  • If it doesn’t sustain life, you probably don’t need it.

Consumerism is a real problem for most people. We buy items we don’t really need based on a compulsion or belief that the item will make us happy. It is important that you assess the value of “things” vs the value of living creatures. People and animals are always worth investing in, owning the new thing or another gadget rarely is. Really assess your level of happiness and what makes you happy. If you truly feel that only buying new things or owning new gadgets is your source of happiness you need to consider why and how to change your perspective.

As for letting go of what you already have, I suggest simplifying your life. It doesn’t matter how much or how little you own, how big or how small your house is, there are likely items in it that you no longer need or find useful. Nothing feels half as good as purging your house of things you no longer find value in. Nothing feels as cleansing as dropping off a load of boxes to the Salvation Army. The best way to tackle item clutter is to start small in a drawer or closet. Work your way up to rooms and then the house or garage. Consider each item carefully. If you haven’t used it, touched it, thought about it, looked at it, or picked it up in 6 months consider tossing. If you haven’t done those things in a year you absolutely should toss the item. Try not to get nostalgic or convince yourself how you are about to find a use for the item. Trust me, you aren’t. If you aren’t sure and are torn about certain items put them in a box and store it in your garage. Put a date on the end of the box, 6 months out. When the date comes and you haven’t needed the items in the box, and possibly can’t even remember what is in the box, just take it to donate right away. Don’t even open it. You won’t know what’s in there, but that’s ok, that just means you don’t really need what’s in there and you just proved it. Case closed.

I keep hoping my newly cultivated skill at de-cluttering the tangible items in my life will lead to the ability to de-clutter the other intangible things in my life. It seems if you have the skill for one, you should have it for others. I am hopeful of what tomorrow will bring me.