When will you be happy? Will you be happy when you find the perfect partner, save up enough to take that trip, when your children get straight A’s, when you stop smoking? The answers are endless for most people. But you can be happy TODAY. Right now. It’s that simple. But many form attachments or create disclaimers to their happiness. It’s almost like a contingency policy in a happy life contract. If you really think about it, you can probably recall several “wants” and “wishes” that you’ve anguished or anticipated over.
Do not postpone your happiness. Here are some basic tips which will help you re-program your mind and find happiness TODAY.
- Be Realistic. Every day and every moment of your life is not likely to be happy. When trouble comes (e.g., someone you care about becomes ill or passes away), your joy will, temporarily, be replaced by grief. There will be days when situations occur which will be challenging to you. You can approach them with confidence and trust, or you let the trouble devour your happiness. You can be content, if not euphoric, almost every day of your life. Be flexible and realistic. Trust that trouble will come to an end and joy will follow on its heels. Life is chaotic by nature; it fluctuates.
- Feel Gratitude. Look around you at what you have. Make a list of what you are grateful for. The people, your job, your skills, your experiences, your friends, your family, your health. What about the air that you breathe, a beautiful tree, the birds that sing you awake, the sun which brushes your face each morning? Celebrate what you have and be thankful. Focus on what you have and not what you wish to have. Take ten minutes each day to sit and say thank you for what you have. Speak the words with joy and appreciation.
- Laugh. It is the ultimate song of the soul. If it’s been a while since you’ve laughed, do it now. Yes, now. Do it for 1-2 minutes, and don’t stop until it is real. It may feel awkward at first, but rest assured it will become the most genuine, deep belly laughs you’ve ever experienced. If you laugh long enough, others will certainly follow suit. As they do, be sure and watch them. Laughter is contagious. It may reach epidemic proportions. Imagine a world in which laughter ended all war. It is that powerful. Many scientific studies have been done to show how laughter positively affects healing. Both physical and emotional well-being are improved when one laughs and hears laughter.
- Be Silly. Give yourself permission to be silly each day. All are born as children, and though your exterior changes, your hearts are young forever. Even the most jaded, cynical person has moments of freedom when he or she revels in a spontaneous moment, a childhood memory relived. Perhaps it was the snowflake you caught on your tongue. Maybe it was the surprise rainstorm that soaked you to the skin and made you smile at your sodden reflection in the store window. Have a treasure hunt. Buy a toy for yourself. Eat a popsicle. Make silly faces or have a burping contest. Ask absurd questions. Dress in unmatched colors. Wear two different shoes. Stare or point excitedly at the sky and observe how others follow suit. Ask the attendant if you can have some mayo, as well as mayonnaise on your sandwich. Make up a new expression or word and use it daily, like “Oh, cahooties!”
- Be Silent. Quiet the mind and spend at least 30 minutes a day in silence. Sit or lie down somewhere away from others for much needed solitude. Spiritual teachings from nearly every culture share one aspect: the practice of silence. In silence you will find yourself. You will find serenity. In silence, you hear the inner voice, unencumbered by society’s imperatives. You will stop hearing the words, “I should” and “I have to,” and begin to hear, “I am.” With practice, silent meditation can bring the highest joy of one’s life. Additionally, there is empirical evidence which connects noise pollution to mental and physical illness. According to one scientific publication, “Noise health effects are the health consequences of elevated sound levels. Elevated workplace or other noise can cause hearing impairment, hypertension, ischemic heart disease, annoyance and sleep disturbance. Changes in the immune system and birth defects have been attributed to noise exposure
- Focus on the Present. It is natural to think of yesterday, ponder tomorrow. But moderation is the key. Too many people spend the majority of their lives reflecting with regret or melancholy over events of yesterday or agonizing over what may occur tomorrow. What of today? If you were walking in the Sahara desert, parched and dying, and you came upon a fountain of crystal clear water, would you not drink it? Of course you would. You would swallow mouthfuls, reveling in the glory of that much-needed sustenance. Think of the present as that fountain of water. It is here for you, waiting for you to drink. Will you consider the past or future? No, you will drink. Because now is the only element of time which you can actively participate in.
- Service. Discover the natural gifts you’ve been given and share them. Can you paint or draw or take lovely photographs? Does your song put a smile on someone’s face? Are you proficient in the Sciences, History, Literature? Are you physically strong? Witty? Patient? Are you a good listener? Whatever your talents, it will bring you the greatest joy on earth to simply share them. Practice service, or Seva (as it is called in Eastern cultures) every day, in everything you do. The next time you are in a crowd of people, look around you, look into the eyes of strangers and smile. They are your sisters and brothers. Feeling love for your fellow man will bring the highest form of joy and your connection to them will make service as natural as breathing.
- Learn. The mind is a vast, empty chest. The goal is to accumulate knowledge and fill it until it is so full that it cannot be closed. As long as you are filling your mind or sharing its treasured contents, it is open. One’s own potential for wisdom is limitless. An open mind shares with others. It is flexible. It is free. A closed mind, however, will suffer inevitable disappointment and sadness, cynicism and regret, anger and resentment. Learn everything you can while here. Knowledge is the key to enlightenment. Knowledge of oneself, of mankind, of the earth and beyond.
- Be Humble. Validation is very important to many people. It is a terrible crutch to depend on for support. It cannot come fast enough or frequently enough. The thirst for personal validation is never-ending; nothing can fulfill it. Yet many build the entire foundation of their lives with bricks, one by one, that are the recognition, acceptance and/or glorification from others. Too easily it topples or builds walls instead of bridges. Happiness comes from inner sustenance. Satisfaction comes from the very act, in the present moment, of doing, giving, loving and living. Significant wisdom can be found in the phrase, “You are special . . . just like everyone else.”
- Love. Look into the mirror and love who you are. Love and know that you are what you were born to be. Accept your flaws as only markings of your own uniqueness, nothing negative nor in need of repair or change. Accept the physical and the emotional variations in yourself, and celebrate them. Then walk into the world and love it with as much reverence as you love yourself. Give love freely without regret, expectation, judgment or control. In absolutely every facet of life, the dearest, most precious element is love. Love is joy. Joy is love.