I’ve had a happy, carefree childhood. For that, I feel lucky. Unfortunately, along the way I’ve picked up negative thinking habits. It was getting worse for me month by month. It felt like cooking a frog. If you slightly add to the heat, the frog won’t even notice. And when you do notice, it’s too late.
Or so it would seem on the surface. I was there and got back again (yes, the Bilbo Baggins reference was no coincidence!) Basically, I went from happy, to mildly depressed, and to happy again.
As I feel I had no real control over how I felt as a kid, what made me happy in the first place, and how I became slightly depressed later, I won’t write about the two. The choice to become happy again was conscious, and what worked for me can work for you too!
Like I noted in the first paragraph, I had no control over myself in my childhood. The first task is to become aware of simple truths – you alone can make yourself happy.
I’ve started researching topics like how to stop procrastinating and how to motivate myself when I was in high school. The search has led me to Tony Robbins, and I loved his stuff. It might seem silly, but until I listened to him, I didn’t know that I could change how I think, how I feel, I didn’t even realize that I could control my life to a much higher degree.
At first I was ecstatic, until this realization led me even further down the bad path. It culminated when I was about to start college. I went to seek professional help, but it took only one session with the shrink to realize that that is NOT what I need.
Instead of going to a local college, I made a radical decision and decided to go far away…
Moving is like a reset. You start living in a new apartment, spend your time with totally different people, go to different museums, bars and stores, walk on different streets.
Not that I knew it at the time, but this allowed me to take the easy route and install new habits, a new way of thinking. It’s the “easy route” because, like it or not, a lot will change whether you want it or not.
So, I chose to make the best of it and decided that I will start doing things that will help me in the long run. These boiled down to exercise, meditation and volunteering.
I was never the one for too much exercise. As I walked a lot while getting to know my new surroundings, I realized that I actually became happier and calmer when I got physically tired, and I could fall asleep easier.
I then forced myself to take up running, to amplify this feeling. And after a few weeks, I got addicted to it so much that I can’t stop myself but go out and run for at least three or four times a week. I would suggest some form of regular physical exercise to everyone. Trust me, it will help you feel happiness, just try it.
Meditation doesn’t have to be complicated, in fact, it can be a very simple practice. I’d usually just sit down in any position that felt good, and tried to concentrate on one thought alone. Meditation both calms the mind and helps you realize how you really feel about what is going on in your life. It’s the perfect downtime that can recharge you and refresh you for the rest of the day.
Volunteering is altruistic, or so many people think. I am inclined to think that that is not true. My motives for volunteering were purely selfish.
For one, when I moved and met new people, I’ve realized that people you hang out with the most change you, a lot! So I figured, why not join an organization in which I can both feel satisfied by contributing to the world, and in turn get a good feeling of accomplishment, and an organization in which I would also get to socialize with altruistic, positive people full of joy.
Other reasons people would volunteer is to develop a new skill, or to practice their hobbies, or to get new experiences.
Having new experiences is key. It is so true that people rarely regret things they didn’t do, but rarely regret those that they did. New experiences help us seeing the world through a new lense, they allow us to broaden our consciousness.
I truly find volunteering a key activity that boosts my happiness. Many people claim that they have no time to help out. And I can understand that. I always ask them to donate, although it is sometimes hard to get donations, as people don’t see the actual results behind the money they give. Thus, charities have to be inventive about their funding. From great social media exposure where they can show what they are about and how the money helps, to adding a clear benefit for people to donate, like in a charity lottery in which they can win a new home, a new car, money, a paid vacation, etc.
Key to Happiness
If you take one thing from this article, I’d like it to be this: happiness is compromised of a feeling that you belong, of a feeling that you contribute, of being around people that constantly challenge you to be a better version of yourself (volunteering does that for me), of being mentally challenged (I am at work!) and of having enough time left to take care of your physical needs and to be still and soak in everything you’ve experienced (meditation and exercise do this for me).
Take some time aside and think of how you can integrate all of that into your daily routine. I’ve laid out what works for me, but your journey may be totally different, and that’s OK.
|Written on 3/3/2014 by Anita Reid.|
Photo Credit: Paul Love