Happiness is an elusive little bugger and, like a perfectly ripe avocado or a trust-worthy presidential candidate, sometimes it seems impossible to hold on to (before it turns gray and cues your gag reflex that is…).
As a suicide survivor, coming back from the unhappiest a person can possibly be, I’ve learned a thing or two about what makes me feel fully and recklessly alive. While I am not always walking around like a human glowstick, I can safely say life at 27 is the happiest I have ever been.
*Cue white boy DANCE PARTY*
As I’ve reflected on this past season and all its joy, I realized the biggest change happened when I started giving myself permission to ask this question:
“Sam, what do you want to do?”
It might seem simple, but this little phrase reminds me that I am in complete control of my life, that I can lit-er-ally do whatever I want to do (and say heckz no to anything else). I am the author of my own story. My happiness is completely up to me. And that my friend, is super freaking fantastic.
So get up and do whatever it is that makes you come alive and say no the crap that doesn’t. Any questions?
Okay, so it’s going to be a little more complicated than that, but to get you started on your journey, today I share with you:
1. You Don’t Volunteer
We are designed to feel good when we give back by helping someone in need in both big and little ways. Volunteering, according to this study featured in the Hufftington post, improves your mood and feelings about one’s overall health. Check out these stats:
94 percent of people who volunteered in the last twelve months said that volunteering improved their mood
78 percent of them said that volunteering lowered their stress levels
96 percent reported that volunteering enriched their sense of purpose in life
Volunteers have better personal scores than non-volunteers on nine well-established measures of emotional well-being including personal independence, capacity for rich interpersonal relationships and overall satisfaction with life.
If your glowstick status is still in progress, check out a site like Volunteer Match and try giving back.
2. You Don’t Know Who You Are or What You Stand For
This one is a tad more involved but do you know what you are on earth to do? Do you know what you believe? Last year I wrote the Recklessly Alive Manifesto – 13 truths that I try to live by every single day. Make a list of your own and read it every once in awhile to see how you’re doing.
Consider picking up an inspiring book like Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis or A Million Miles in a Thousand Years by Donald Miller to jump start your brainstorm.
3. You Don’t Actually Trust God’s Plan for Your Life
That job you didn’t get. That relationship that went south. That perfect trip that fell through. Life isn’t always going to go the way we think it should but do you trust, do you actually believe that God has a plan for you and will use all things for your good? Most days I say I do and most days I actually don’t.
Let go of the past and the regrets and just live in the beautiful gift of today. Hand over your stress and anxiety to God because he’s totally got you covered.
4. You Spend Your Time Complaining Instead of Actually Changing
Once upon a time I took a challenge to not complain for an entire week and it changed my life. Then I started applying to other areas like the No Complaint Winter Challenge. While it feels completely ridiculous, optimism actually makes you feel happier. And there is research to back it up.
According to Psychologist Martin Seligman, author of “Authentic Happiness, “Optimism is a tool with a certain clear set of benefits: it fights depression, it promotes achievement and produces better health.” So choose to be a positive person and BONUS more people will want to be around you.
5. You’re Not Getting Enough Exercise
In my long battle with depression I found that exercise and eating well were the two greatest weapons I had to feel better -especially when feeling low. Exercise increases endorphins and other feel-good chemicals in your brain and reduces levels of cortisol (the stress hormones). Even 30 minutes of walking a day can provide a significant boost in happiness.
Check out this awesome infograph over at Happify.com for more great exercise facts:[If you want to read more about my fitness journey, read my post Yes, You Can Overcome Anything. Caution, it involves puke. :)]
6. You Still Think Chemicals and Material Things Will Make You Happy
There was a time in my life when I loved to party. I drank so much one of my top five friends was a toilet. Classy, right? While I still enjoy a drink now and then, it took me a long time to see that many of us spend our whole lives trying to buy or ingest some form of joy, but that type of high will always fade.
The key to sustained happiness is quality relationships and making a difference in the lives of others. (Well, that and a Cookie Dough Blizzard)
7. You Forget to Say Thank You
For those of us living in the United States of Advertising, we are bombarded all day with ads telling us what we have is never enough. The greatest weapon we have against that mindset is stopping to be thankful for the many blessings we do have.
For years I have written 3 things I am thankful for before I got to sleep (and most days I go way past 3). Once you get that down, tell people how much you appreciate them! It will change your life and theirs.[click here for tips on starting your own Gratitude Journal]
8. You Don’t Make Space for Jesus
While writing my book I keep coming back to this verse over and over:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your mind, —and love your neighbor as yourself… do this and you will live.” -Luke 10:27-28
Here’s the truth, while all those other things will help your happiness, the greatest joy on the planet is found in a deep and on-going relationship with the God of the universe. We were created to love him and follow his suggestions for a beautiful life. And that life is as simple as this: Love God and Love Others.
That is where TRUE HAPPINESS is found.
So there you have it friends, just a few tips on finding happiness in this crazy, wonderful spinning ball of messiness we all call Earth. What has worked for you? What would you add to this list? Leave your thoughts in a comment below!
Life is too short to be anything but ridiculously happy. So choose happiness, because I like you happy.
If you’re looking for more happiness inspiration, I recommend The Happiness Project by Gretchen Rubin, a book where she focuses on one aspect of happiness every month for an entire year.
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