The Dali Lama said the purpose of our lives is to be happy. But is it easier said than done? Surely there are circumstances into which you are born that would make you happy, like being healthy, for example. Yet, many people who have health problems manage to be happy in spite of it. Are they just endowed with a happy personality? Possibly. But there are practical things you can do to make yourself happier.
- Put your money where your family is. Do not spend money on stuff. You know that, already. Right? A beautiful piece of jewelry is nice. A fancy car is fun. But an investment that leads to time with your friends and family is money well spent. And since time is money, try to buy time with those you love. Go on a trip together. Or rent a vacation home for a place and time convenient to your family. If you must spend money, do it in ways that will help you spend time with people important to you.
- Engage in social activities. Join a club, preferably one that interests you. In other words, find a club that fits what you like to do, and you’ll find kindred spirits. That’s always a happy thing, and other folks of like mind make you feel like you belong. It doesn’t need to be a formal club or an expensive club, it just needs to allow you to associate on a regular basis with other folks with similar interests. It could be a church, or a tennis club, or a poker club. Whatever floats your boat. Being a member will protect you from feeling alone and isolated.
- Keep mentally active. If you manage to develop the habit of using your brain you will be developing a habit of happiness. Or at least, being happier. Feeling fit mentally is a good feeling. Take that idea a little further and find a way to use your creative brain. Maybe write in your journal, or do some creative cooking, or take up calligraphy. Or whatever. When you use your creative talents—and everyone has them—you will feel better.
- Keep physically active. Once again, developing a habit of regular physical exercise is a habit of happiness. Take a walk every day. Have a positive exercise plan that goes beyond your regular walk. Switch it up with yoga or bicycling or any exercise that you like, because when you like it, you’re more apt to do it. And when you do it, you’re more apt to feel better. Exercise enhances your mood. So, get up off your sofa and get moving.
- Spend time in nature. You can combine your exercise with this to get great happiness benefits. When you walk in the woods, for example, as opposed to the city, you will lower your stress levels, increase your good feeling, and generally feel better. But just sitting on a rock with a view can make you feel great, too. Being outside in a beautiful setting is sure to increase your happiness.
- Be nice. It seems simple, but when you make an effort to be nice and polite, you feel better. Take that advice a little further and find something pleasant to say to someone, even if it’s only, “You have a nice smile.” Behave altruistically toward others and you will boost your levels of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. As the Dali Lama said, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”
- Stay healthy. It’s hard to be happy when you’re in pain or anxious. So be vigilant about visiting your doctor and dentist regularly. Take your meds as prescribed. Floss twice a day. Follow your doctor’s and dentist’s advice to the letter. Monitor your mental health, and if your emotions are interfering with your work or family life, seek a qualified therapist and follow-up regularly to keep your mental health in tune.
- Pay attention to your spirituality. If you belong to an organized religion, great. But if you don’t, try to seek out a spiritual or philosophical path in life that enriches you. Take some time to contemplate and be quiet, allowing your mind to settle. Seek out purpose and meaning greater than yourself. Explore religion in the broadest sense and find comfort, joy, and peace.
One more quote from the Dali Lama: “Happiness is determined more by one’s state of mind than by external events.”
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact