What if we told you to think about happiness as a means instead of an end? Sounds counterintuitive, right?
OK, OK, but hear us out. We’ve probably all heard the saying that things won’t make us happy; we make us happy (or something similar). But how often do we hear that sentiment, marinate on it, and then go right back to chasing after the things we think will lift our spirits?
Sure, a vacation, a healthy relationship, or a new outfit can boost our moods, but none of those things can ultimately sustain us. In order to be truly content, we have to stop seeing external things as a way to become fulfilled and instead see happiness as a means to living our best life.
That’s when our happiness can begin to inform our circumstances — not the other way around!
When happiness becomes part of your makeup, seeking out wonderful relationships and making major life moves will click into place more easily. The best news is, happiness is like a muscle you can stretch or a skill you can practice.
So here are five ways you can start practicing happiness today!
1. Pay attention to what you digest.
We’re not talking about what you ate for dessert (although cookie dough is, in our opinion, a fast track to goodness). We mean the content you’re allowing to take up real estate in your mind.
Plenty of important information can be found on the news, podcasts, and even social media — but those are also easy avenues for depression, comparison, and anxiety. Unfollow the accounts that break down your self-esteem and plan a time in your evening when you switch off the news and turn to something that boosts your spirit.
What you consume greatly determines what lives in your mind, so consume wisely.
2. Cut down on your “yeses.”
This is a tough one, but ohhh is it a good one. When we are being pulled in a million different directions by our kids, significant others, friends, or jobs, we can get stretched too thin pretty quickly. It’s time to look for opportunities to say “no.”
You can’t give your absolute best to everyone when your tank is almost empty, so try to turn down those extra activities in your life that are unnecessary, or seek support from your coworkers and family members to divvy up your load. Then you can be fully present for the things that are truly important.
3. Train your mind to make positive substitutions.
Whether it’s coming from an outside source or from your own inner voice, negativity feeds negativity. Resist this mindset by actively trying to reframe negative thoughts as positive or even neutral ones the minute they enter your mind.
Even if your heart is not fully behind whatever positive substitution you’ve come up with, what’s most important is that you’re building the habit of doing it.
4. Turn your attention to someone else.
Have you ever had a friend Venmo you $5 for coffee just because it was a Tuesday and they missed you? Well, be that person for someone else!
On those days when your mood is anything but “happy,” take a second to sit in gratitude — for your job, your home, or your support system. Then turn your attention off yourself and onto all the ways you can channel that thankfulness into making someone else’s day. We promise you, that’s instant joy!
5. Prioritize what fills you up!
Make more room in your schedule for the things that make you feel like your truest self. Remind yourself what it is that you love most about yourself and recall the times when you felt the most free and accepted.
Try to pinpoint what it was that made you feel that way so you can try to seek out a similar place.
Maybe it’s picking your favorite sport back up, joining a Big Brothers Big Sisters program and volunteering with kids, or starting a book club with friends. Whatever it is, do the things that light up your soul and make you feel the most you.
When it comes to adopting a lifestyle of happiness, set yourself up for success by giving these exercises a try!
Share these tips with a friend or two to help them smile a little bigger today.
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