Happiness in Three Easy Steps
The holiday season hits some people hard. The stress of managing every detail of life to create a perfect dinner, or party, or Christmas morning gets some of us feeling high-strung and exhausted. When December flips over to January, many of us are left feeling empty—in our hearts and our wallets. So, I thought this might be a good time to talk about happiness.
According to one researcher who’s been conducting trials with university students in the UK, there are three simple steps we can take to start feeling happier and improving our outlook. I mean easy peasy. This is stuff we can all do:
1. Force Yourself to Smile
Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm not much of a smiler--especially in public. Sure I smile when I'm having fun with my family and friends, but when I'm out in the world I am very straight-faced. I think a lot of that comes from living in a big, impersonal city. Nobody wants to let their guards down because the second you do--POW!--someone's going to take advantage of you. What a way to live! But that's urbanism for you.
I'm not sure I'm ready to take my smile to the streets, but apparently just the act of smiling--forcing your facial muscles into that position--on a regular basis can help make you feel happier. So, whether you're at work, in bed, or in the shower, SMILE! Smile at yourself, at your dog, at your neighbour. It helps.
2. Express Gratitude
This is another exercise that can be done alone or with other people. Every day, think about five things you're lucky to have and express gratitude for them. You'll start to focus on all the great things you already have rather than jealously coveting what you wish you had.
I'm so grateful to have a roof over my head. I'm grateful for my two happy and healthy cats. I'm grateful for my always loving, caring, and understanding girlfriend (maybe I should have said that one before the cats...) and I'm grateful that there's food on my plate every time I want a meal. When I think about all the freedoms I have, I realize I'm an extremely fortunate person.
3. Acts of Kindness
A couple months ago, I was doing some volunteer work and I met an artist who mentioned how badly he wanted to showcase his work in such-and-such a place. He said he'd tried to get in there before, but it just wasn't happening. He didn't know how to get the ball rolling. Well, it just happened that I used to work in such-and-such a place. I loved his art, so I advocated on his behalf to get him slotted in. He was over the moon. "I don't even know how to start thanking you," he said.
He didn't need to. I couldn't believe the emotional high I got just from helping someone achieve a goal. I wasn't going to get anything out of the situation in terms of remuneration. It wasn't about money, or power, or esteem, or any of those things we're taught to seek in life. I saw that I could help him out, so I did, and it made me feel incredible. Even as a writer, I don't have a word to express how good I felt about it.
That's what the acts of kindness are all about. I've started doing a lot of volunteer work over the past five years, and with no exaggeration I can tell you it has changed my life. My experiences of helping others while expecting nothing in return have made me a happier and more fulfilled person. Volunteer. Give money to charity. Feel good.
Three simple actions can boost your happiness factor:
2. Express Gratitude
3. Acts of Kindness
Start off the New Year on a happier note. Give these actions a try. See if they work. Chances are, the effort itself will make you happy!
Eroticist, environmentalist, and pastry enthusiast Giselle Renarde is a proud Canadian, supporter of the arts, and activist for women's and LGBT rights. For Giselle, a perfect day involves watching a snowstorm rage outside with a cup of tea in one hand and a chocolate truffle in the other. Ms Renarde lives across from a park with two bilingual cats who sleep on her head.
For more information on Giselle and her work, visit her website at www.freewebs.com/gisellerenarde/ or visit her Donuts and Desires blog at donutsdesires.blogspot.com.