Equipped With Happiness


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Be Happier By Consulting The Impossible

impossiblecartoonWhen making decisions, people naturally tend to limit themselves to options they deem “possible.” This seems like a logical approach, since focusing on impractical ideas uses up time and energy that could be spent on formulating a feasible plan. But sometimes, considering impossible, best-case-scenarios can lead to decisions that are actually more satisfying.

Occasionally, this satisfaction comes from discovering that the “impossible” is actually doable.

In order to avoid wasting effort, we often limit ourselves to ideas we are certain will work. This means we quickly label riskier options as impossible, never giving them a second thought. But some of these uncertain paths may be more possible than we think, and pursuing them can lead us to happiness.

Identifying those kinds of situations requires changing the way we initially categorize our ideas. Instead of trying to find the most practical options first, we should try to find the most appealing ones. Once we find an idea we like, we can begin to evaluate the steps necessary to make it a reality. Examining these steps in detail, after we are already fond of the idea in question, can make something that seemed impossible into a completely viable option. And that option could be just what we needed.

Even if our favorite idea does turn out to be impractical, contemplating the idea is still beneficial.

Decisions can be a little overwhelming at times. Thinking of a perfect outcome, no matter how impossible it is, can be a good starting point in the decision-making process. A brief fantasy about the best-case-scenario can help end the feeling of mental paralysis that often seems to accompany difficult decisions.

Not only that, sometimes working backwards from an impossible idea leads to an alternative that is still pretty great. It may be that a few simple sacrifices can be made to bring the idea into the realm of possibilities. If not, the original idea can still provide a direction for future ideas. By identifying factors that made the original idea appealing, new options that offer similar benefits can be developed. This process may illuminate opportunities that wouldn’t have otherwise occurred to us.

Considering impossible ideas also helps us understand ourselves better. When we think in terms of “possible,” we depend on a predetermined evaluation of our capabilities. This leaves little room for growth. But, when we think in terms of “ideal”, we gain insight about what truly makes us happy. This allows us to make efforts to grow in ways that maximize our happiness and to make decisions that bring us greater satisfaction.

It is important to remember that impossible is not the same thing as useless, and uncertain is not the same thing as impossible. If we consider the “impossible” when making decisions, we increase our likelihood of finding opportunities to be happy.

 


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30 Simple Ways to Spread Happiness

take a smile

Today, March 20, is International Day of Happiness, a holiday dedicated to increasing happiness throughout the world.  In its honor, here are some easy ways to bring happiness to others (and hopefully make yourself feel good, too).

1. Give sincere compliments.

2. Pay-it-forward.

3. Bring donuts to work.

4. Give someone a gift “just because.”

5. Leave post-it notes with kind messages around the house.

6. Plan a nice surprise for someone.

7. Offer to cover a shift for someone who needs a day off.

8. Watch that movie your friend has been begging you to see since last year.

9. Volunteer with a charitable organization.

10. Help someone with chores.

11. Share your lunch.

12. Remind your loved ones how much you care.

13. Let someone else go first.

14. Give someone an uninterrupted chance to talk about their day.

15. Bake treats and deliver them to friends.

16. Help pick up trash in a public place.

17. Give someone a massage (preferably someone you know).

18. Be polite. 

19. Cook someone their favorite meal.

20. Take an interest in things that matter to others.

21. Leave a generous tip.

22. Host a get-together.

23. Make extra efforts to express your gratitude.

24. Call/visit/email/text friends or family just to say “hi.”

25. Tell jokes (that are appropriate for the given context).

26. Fill out a positive comment card for a business you like.

27. Treat someone when you go out together.

28. “Like” some extra Facebook posts (or the equivalent on a different site).

29. Reminisce with others about shared fond memories.

30. Smile.

Happy people tend to pass positive feelings on to others. Sometimes all it takes is one kind gesture or friendly smile to start a chain reaction of happiness. As more and more people start feeling good, they, too, will spread happiness. If enough people join in, eventually there might just be worldwide happiness epidemic.


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Be Happier By Reaching Out To Others

reach out cartoonWhile our happiness should by no means be entirely dependent on others, there is certainly joy to be found by connecting with fellow human beings. The happiness that comes from interacting with others can be found in a variety of relationships and come from many different kinds of connections. This means it’s available to all of us, regardless of our circumstances.

 Reaching out is beneficial to us, and others, in a few ways.

1.  It is a chance to share joys: Good news gets even better when someone else is just as excited about it as we are. It seems that happiness feeds on itself, and the more of it we share, the more of it there is. Happiness is contagious, so when others share their joy, it can improve our moods, too.

2.  It is a way to unload burdens: Sharing our struggles with others can help lift some of the weight off our own shoulders. Another person can be a shoulder to cry on so we don’t feel alone, a sounding board to bounce ideas off, a source of a fresh perspective and advice, or a helping hand that relieves us of some stress.

3. It is an opportunity to improve the lives of everyone involved: Actively making an effort to bring joy to other people increases their happiness as well as ours. It is satisfying to know that our actions put a smile on someone else’s face.

 The great thing about these benefits is that they are found in close relationships, casual relationships, and even with complete strangers.

In close relationships: If we are lucky enough to have friends or family members with whom we can share intimate details of our lives, these people can be a source of emotional comfort. They’re our loudest cheering section when things go well for us, and they are able to figure out exactly what to say when we’re down. Bringing joy to our loved ones is often especially satisfying, since we are likely to know precisely how to make them happy. Since we care about these people so deeply, good things that happen to them can make us just as happy as our own good news.

In casual relationships: Neighbors, coworkers, classmates, etc. can also provide a place to share joys, unload burdens, and inspire happiness. When something positive happens in our lives, it’s possible we could brighten someone else’s day, and our own, by sharing it. And, by seeking information about the joys happening in the lives of those around us, we get the opportunity to find extra happiness in their good news. Not only that, sometimes the people we form casual relationships with have similar struggles to our own. For instance, the people we work with may feel equally stressed about recent company layoffs. Talking about these concerns with them might provide some relief. We can easily generate happiness for our acquaintances, and ourselves, by doing them favors or giving them compliments.

With strangers: Sometimes simply observing happiness in others can be a source of joy. Seeing a child playing or a couple holding hands can inspire a smile. If we are the ones having fun, a stranger’s day may be brightened by our smiles. And if our own days are in need of brightening, we can find similar happiness in a stranger’s delight. Strangers can also help in times of need.  During natural disasters or other emergencies, people who have never met before often band together and even save each other’s lives. We can experience the satisfaction of bringing a smile to a stranger’s face by participating in charity, offering a friendly greeting, paying it forward, or engaging in any other gesture of kindness.

 Even though we increase our opportunities for happiness by connecting with others, it isn’t always easy to do so.

Sometimes we experience internal and external struggles that cause us to shut out the very people who matter to us most. Sometimes we hesitate to interact with casual acquaintances because we fear that they will judge us or that we will accidentally overstep boundaries. And sometimes we are too shy or distrusting to risk being friendly to a stranger.

If we experience these kinds of difficulties, we can challenge ourselves to take baby steps toward reaching out.  That could mean making small efforts to communicate more openly in our close relationships, baking a treat to share at work, or simply making eye contact and smiling as we pass someone on the street.

Reaching out to others increases the number of happy people in the world. And the more happy people there are, the more happiness there is for everyone to catch. It’s a wonderful cycle to be a part of!


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20 Little Things to Smile About

Photo by Debbie Mann

Photo by Debbie Mann

Happiness comes in all shapes and sizes. Sometimes it is inspired by grand experiences, like graduating, getting married, or winning a championship game. Other times, it simply comes from small pleasures found in daily life. The great thing about these little joys is, when we take the time to think about them, they seem to be present everywhere. Here are just 20 of life’s many little sources of happiness.

1. The feeling of warm sand between your toes

2. Flipping your pillow over to the cold side

3. The irresistible smell of popcorn when you walk into a movie theater

4. Reaching into your pocket and finding money you had forgotten about

5. Those rare occasions when the amount of cereal left in the box is the exact amount you were hungry for

6. Turning the radio on right as your favorite song starts

7. Thinking it’s only Thursday and then realizing it’s actually Friday

8. Getting into bed after a full day on your feet

9. The feeling when your ears pop

10. Getting an annoying bug that’s been buzzing around in your car to fly out the window

11. That moment when you are at a restaurant and you see your food coming

12. Waking up exhausted, looking at the alarm clock in dread, and discovering you still have plenty of time left to sleep

13. Stepping on a crunchy leaf

14. Dropping something small in the grass and actually being able to find it

15. Walking out into the sun after being in a cold room and/or walking into an air conditioned room after being outside on a hot day

16. Biting into a freshly baked cookie

17. Shaking a malfunctioning electronic device out of frustration, and having that actually fix the problem.

18. Seeing the bounty in the pantry on grocery day

19. Sitting in a chair that both rolls and swivels

20. Finally getting to use the bathroom after a long car ride

The best thing about life’s simple little pleasures is that they can always provide a reason to smile, even when a given moment is falling a bit short in the happiness department.


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Be Happier By Treating Yourself Lovingly

treatyourselfwithlovecartoonAt some point in their lives, most people have felt mistreated by someone else. But sometimes the greatest cruelty we face actually comes from within ourselves. When this happens, we often aren’t even aware we are treating ourselves poorly.

That’s why we might benefit from living by a new “golden rule”: Treat yourself the way you want others to treat you. Before we perform actions or engage in thoughts directed towards ourselves, we should stop and consider whether we would appreciate that same treatment if it came from someone else.

Of course, each of us has unique desires regarding how we would like to be treated, so the way we should act toward ourselves may also differ. But the following guidelines might be a reasonable place to start. After each “don’t” is a happier, alternative “do.”

Don’t criticize yourself too harshly: No matter how much we wish it wasn’t true, we all have less-than-perfect moments.  When we make mistakes, we often fling mental insults at ourselves. Sometimes we are so good at this that we manage to convince ourselves we really are terrible people. But I think most of us would feel abused if another person tore us apart over our failures that way. So, we should be careful to show ourselves compassion, even when we are disappointed by our imperfections.

Do praise yourself: Compliments make us feel good, and we like it when others notice and express positive things about us. We can extend the same courtesy toward ourselves by acknowledging our personal successes and valuing our strengths.

Don’t Make Excuses For Yourself: While it is important to avoid being overly critical, we should not go to the other extreme of allowing ourselves to get away with everything. Almost anything we do wrong can be justified somehow, and it is tempting to accept questionable justifications to avoid the pain of admitting a mistake. The problem is, doing that means being dishonest with ourselves (which is treatment we wouldn’t want from others). It is better to acknowledge our errors, forgive ourselves, and try to do better in the future.

Do Encourage Yourself to Grow: Moments of imperfection can be great opportunities for self-improvement, if we take the time to analyze them and correct whatever went wrong. Rather than feeling bad about mistakes, or pretending they don’t exist, we can take on the challenge of bettering ourselves by not repeating them.

Don’t Punish Yourself:  Sometimes feeling bad about ourselves escalates into a belief that our shortcomings are so severe  we don’t deserve happiness. We end up undermining relationships, missing opportunities, and denying ourselves satisfactions because we feel unworthy of them. But the natural consequences of our mistakes are punishment enough. After all, if we accidentally spilled tomato sauce on a friend’s shirt, we would hope the friend would simply allow us to pay for a new one, rather than seek revenge by attacking our own wardrobe with grape juice.

Do seek enjoyment for yourself: When other people take the time to do nice things for us, it generally makes us happy. So, we should take the time to do nice things for ourselves, too. This could mean indulging in a favorite dessert, taking a day off from work, going for a long run, planning a day with friends, or engaging in any other activity that brings us pleasure.

Frustrating as it is, we can’t always control the injustices inflicted on us by others. But we can avoid mistreating ourselves, and we even have the chance to create some extra happiness in the process.


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Smile-Worthy Holidays to Celebrate in March

Photo by Debbie Mann

Photo by Debbie Mann

St. Patrick’s Day isn’t the only opportunity for fun in March. Here are some other great chances to celebrate this month:

Oreo Day (March 6)On March 6, 1912 an invention was made that would change waistlines forever… the Oreo Cookie. Now there are over 20 different kinds of Oreos. Why not celebrate the day with one of each?

International Fanny Pack Day (March 8, always the second Saturday in March): According to an article in Boise Weekly, it all began when a man named Nick Yates stuffed some fruitcake in a fanny pack on his way to the bus. He came across a homeless man, who complimented him on the fanny pack, and Yates decided to give the man his fruitcake. After that, Yates began a tradition of feeding the homeless from his fanny pack and officially established the holiday in 2007. Now, it is an opportunity for all of us to honor charity, as well as a questionable fashion accessory.

World Sleep Day (March 14)This holiday was established by the World Association of Sleep Medicine, and it is a day for celebrating sleep and raising awareness about sleep-related issues. Sounds like the perfect excuse for a nap!

Awkward Moments Day (March 18): We’ve all faced those painful situations that turn the cheeks uncomfortably pink and make us wish we could just crawl into a hole and hide for all of eternity. But, this is one day for us to put shame aside and proudly acknowledge our embarrassment.

International Day of Happiness (March 20)This holiday, established by United Nations, is simply a day dedicated to spreading happiness. Join the festivities and offer a smile, a compliment, or a helping hand to everyone you can!

National Corn Dog Day (March 22, at least for 2014): The date for this holiday changes from year to year, because it’s planned to coincide with the Saturday on which the NCAA basketball tournament is down to 32 teams. It is a day for celebrating basketball, as well as that tasty fried delicacy known as the corn dog.

International Waffle Day (March 25)This holiday began in Sweden, where it is called Vaffeldagen. It’s an opportunity for people around the world to indulge in the deliciousness of waffles. So whip up a batch and make sure not to miss any squares with that syrup!

Grass is Always Browner on the Other Side of the Fence Day (March 30): Sure the title’s a bit of a mouthful, but the idea it stands for is certainly worth celebrating. This holiday gives us a chance to focus on curbing envy and finding joy in what we have.

Have a happy March full of Oreos, fanny packs, sleep, acceptance for awkward moments, happiness, corn dogs, waffles, green grass, and many other amazing things!

References:

Morgan, T. (2010, March 10). International fanny pack day. Boise Weekly. Retrieved from http://www.boiseweekly.com/boise/international-fanny-pack-day/Content?oid=1515848.


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Be Happier By Finding Your Self-Discipline Sweet Spot

self discipline cartoonSelf discipline is a tricky ingredient to work with. It is often difficult to determine exactly how much of it we need and the best ways to mix that amount into the rest of our lives. But when we are able to use it effectively, self-discipline can help us find tremendous satisfaction. If we want to optimize our self-discipline, there are some common mistakes we need to avoid.

1. Having too much or too little self-discipline.

It is undeniable that all of us need a basic amount of self-discipline in order to avoid getting fired from our jobs, letting down those who depend on us, or permanently fusing to our couches from lack of movement. But beyond that basic level, we actually have a fair amount of choice about how disciplined we are. That’s why it is important to recognize the signs that we need to adjust our level of self-discipline.

You might need more self-discipline if: You are constantly frustrated by how little progress you are making toward your goals, you know what steps you could take to make more progress, and the reason you aren’t taking those steps can really only be described as “laziness.”  

You might need less self-discipline if: You are constantly working toward achieving your goals, no amount of accomplishment ever feels like enough, and you are starting to feel burnt out and exhausted.

2. Using self-discipline in all the wrong places.

Unfortunately, life often gives us responsibilities we would rather not have, and handling those responsibilities requires self-discipline. When we give those things our best effort, we often find ourselves with no energy left to be self-disciplined about anything else.

In order to ensure that we have enough self-discipline to go around, we have to budget it carefully. We need to determine where in our lives we can afford to make some self-discipline cuts, and where we might benefit from some extra self-discipline. This means evaluating which areas are most important to us, and focusing our resources on those areas.

Sometimes this gets confusing, because there are certain things we would rather not put effort into that are actually very important to us. For instance, we might dislike going to work, but having a source of income is important to us. So we have to use up some of our self-discipline on work. However, if we don’t care about being promoted, we may be able to put in slightly less effort, giving us more self-discipline to use on something else.

3. Basing our own self-discipline needs on the opinions of others.

It is important to realize that there is no universally accepted ideal for self-discipline. Some people are happiest with more self-discipline, and others are happiest with less. Neither way is right or wrong, so we just need to figure out which type of person we are and embrace it. Most of us fall somewhere between the following categories.

 A) People who benefit from high self-discipline. These people are happiest when they are actively engaged in a challenge. The feeling of satisfaction they get from putting in a full day of work is worth any stress they encounter in the process. They are easily bored with downtime, and spending a while relaxing makes them feel lethargic, rather than recharged. People like this might be able to maximize their happiness by pushing themselves as hard as they can.

B) People who benefit from low self-discipline. These people are happiest when they are able to put their feet up.  A full day of hard work is likely to leave them feeling frustrated and exhausted.  They don’t mind taking a longer time to accomplish a goal, if doing so prevents stress. For them, downtime is rewarding and enjoyable. People like this might be able to maximize their happiness by not pushing themselves all the way to their limits.

Once we finally master the use of self-discipline, we can create our own perfect recipe for happiness. Then, all that’s left is smiling and enjoying the delicious rewards of our labor.