Monthly Archives: December 2015

Top 13 Ways To Be Happy

Top 13 Ways To Be Happy

 

What is happiness?

            Happiness is defined by the dictionary as the state of being happy, and happy is defined as feeling or showing pleasure or contentment.  But as you just read, these definitions seem very superficial.  Maybe there are levels of happiness.  This article points to that deep-seated feeling of well-being and joy that is long lasting, not the type of happy that is only momentary.  When thinking about happiness one must also consider whether it comes before, or after what we consider success.  Most of us think that in order to be happy we must first succeed, first get that nice house and car, and get the standard 2.5 kids.  We mostly feel that we need to add something into our lives in order to be happy.  In some cases it might be true that can gain a certain level of happiness after achieving certain goals.  But more and more research is showing that happiness itself can bring about success.  Imagine taking a long journey to a special destination. Most of us would expect happiness after reaching the destination, but why wait? Why can’t we be happy not just along the way, but also when we’re planning the trip?

These tips have been studied many times and proven to bring about real, actual, long-lasting happiness.  Some are very simple and fast, others are meant to be routine practices.  But hopefully you won’t take my word for it and that in turn will make you try them for yourself and see if they work.  They are all simple habits you can develop and use on a daily basis, or you can also make them lifelong practices.  Please let me know what you think, and share with your friends and family.

  1. Hold the Superman pose for at least two minutes.

According to Amy Cuddy and her Ted Talk, simply holding a confident pose, or power pose, for two minutes will change your hormonal chemistry.  She conducted studies of people and showed that doing this practice reduces cortisol, a stress hormone, and increases testosterone, for both men and women.

  1. Smile for two minutes or hold a pen with your teeth without your lips touching it.

This is again from Amy Cuddy and her studies on posture.  She discovered that not only does our mind influence our body posture or facial expressions, it is actually a two-way street.  Our body posture or facial expression can also influence our mind and our emotions.  Holding a smile therefore, is correlated to being happy or being well, and if you smile, or at least activate the same muscles by holding a pen with your teeth, you will feel happy.  I’ve read of similar effects just from seeing the word SMILE, and also from seeing others smile, or even pictures of people smiling. Another reference for facial expressions influencing our mood comes from Malcolm Gladwell’s book Blink.  He mentions scientists that studied facial expressions and their related moods or feelings.  And after trying the different facial expressions they started noticing their mood being affected by whatever facial expression they were mimicking.

There are other poses that Amy mentions.  One is the typical celebration pose, you’ve seen it I’m sure, it’s when you hold up your hands in a V formation, with your chin raised up, and chest open.  Amy mentions that even people born blind from birth who have never seen such a pose, will perform the pose whenever they have a cause for celebration.

You can find Amy’s video here.

  1. Hug someone for at least 20 seconds.

This simple exercise has also been scientifically studied and has showed that holding a hug for at least 20 seconds will increase your oxytocin levels.  More oxytocin equals more bonding with the person you are hugging and those around you.  It can also help alleviate anxiety and reduce stress.  So hug someone!

  1. The Five Minutes That Can Change Your Life

The following is from the book 59 Seconds, Think A Little Change A Lot by Richard Wiseman.  In the book Richard devoted a lot of time to digging deep into research about what really makes one happy.  He wasn’t convinced by all the typical Self-Help books about, he wanted actual, scientific studies that had concrete evidence of what works and what doesn’t.  The exercises he recommends only take about a minute each, and you do one per day for five days, and these simple little exercises really do help!

It is very important to write these things down, not to just say them.  Saying and thinking about them will help, but there’s something about writing them.  Writing is deeper than just thinking or speaking.

Monday: Be grateful.  Write down three things that you are grateful for.  Here’s my example:

  1. Hey I have all my limbs! And I can move them! They help me get around, they are my tools for making stuff and for giving giant bear hugs! I am grateful for my body and its abilities!
  2. I rarely get sick anymore, I am grateful for my health!
  3. I am truly rich! I have a wealth of love from my family and friends. I am grateful for them.

Tuesday: Think of a most terrific time in your life.  Think of a time in your life when you were very happy.  What happened? Where was it? Who was there? Remember as many details and write them, and especially point to what specifically caused you to be happy. Here’s my example:

            In 2012 my friends and I went to Havasupai Falls.  We started planning in January of that year.  We called and made our reservations.  To get to the falls you can take a helicopter ride, or ride a horse or mule. But we all decided to take the challenge and hike.  It’s about a 12 mile hike all together, AND you have to backpack all your supplies for your trip.  We did a 2 night stay.  So we had to prepare ahead of time.  Most of my friends and I are in ok shape, but carrying all the weight and combining that with a 12 mile hike was still challenging for us. So we started hiking at least 2 times a week together.  That was very fun and we built comraderie since we were all aiming for the same goal.  So the hiking and preparation was very fun.  Then the anticipation excitement kept increasing as we were nearing the date.  The day before the long drive we all went shopping together for all our food and supplies which was also very fun.  Along the drive we stopped at a microbrewery and had some lunch and that was especially enjoyable. We finally got to basecamp and the views of the area were spectacular! The day of the hike we got up early, around 3AM, to eat breakfast and beat the sun.  The breakfast was spectacular, I don’t know why, but food always seems to taste better when we’re on the road.  We finally took off and the scenery, the hike, and being surrounded by you closest friends was a great feeling. And finally reaching our destination, exhausted, but surrounded by such natural beauty, being hot and then taking a dip in refreshing blue water!  All that was absolutely priceless! Check out the pictures here.

Wednesday: Imagine your future as being perfect and write about it.  Imagine that everything you’ve been wanting is consistently coming right at you.  Think of your personal love life, your family life, your social life, business life, and spiritual life, if any, and imagine everything being just right. Describe it, imagine it, see it in your mind’s eye and write it down.  Here’s my example:

“I found you!” I say to myself as I finally start doing the things I love as a way to earn a living.  I get up every morning with absolute ease, no longer dreading having to go into work.  I now can’t wait to get up early and start doing my “work.” And it now seems very odd to me to call what I do “work” because I no longer see it as work, I just see it as ‘what I love to do.’  I work from home, there is no longer a need to have to drive through traffic to get there.  My kids and wife get home and they tackle me with giant hugs.  It’s the end of the month and I don’t have to worry about paying the bills since everything is on Auto-Pay, I can now do that since the income is consistent and more than enough to cover everything.  I no longer need vacations from my life.  Happiness is my natural state.

Thursday: Write a sincere letter of appreciation to an important loved one or friend of yours.  Act as if this is the only opportunity you’ll have to let them know how you feel. Write down what they mean to you, how they have helped you and how much you appreciate them.  Here’s my example:

            Dear mom, thank you for being an actual life Super Woman.  You had bad experiences with most of the men in your life, yet you always had your children on the top of your list of priorities.  You have sacrificed so much for us all, and all your hard work was not in vain.  We are all doing really well in life, and we all experience great happiness when we get together.  We’re no longer just siblings, we’re also aunts and uncles to each other’s kids.  You taught us how to love and how to allow ourselves to be loved also.  I love you mom, you are my Super Woman, and you are my hero!

Friday: Review these past few days and write down at least three things that went really well for you.  It could be something trivial such as finding a parking spot. Here’s my example:

  1. This past week I learned how to do a few new things at work.
  2. I feel really sore from working out, and I have now associated this as a positive feeling.
  3. I had to review a few books for this article which has solidified that information in my mind.

You should get results fairly quickly with these small exercises, and your happiness level should be long lasting.  If you feel your happiness level go down, just repeat the exercises as needed.  You can also just make these a life-long practice.  They don’t take very long to complete, just keep in mind that writing them is very important, even typing them out on your PC or on your mobile phone will be fine too.

5. Exercise.

Need I write about all the benefits of exercise? I’m sure you’ve read and heard about all of them.  But just in case here are a few: Better sleep, longevity, better health, better bone strength, better muscle strength, weight control, reduced risk of several diseases, it’s a powerful antidepressant, improved sexual function, improved mental agility, faster learning muscle, better memory, stress reduction, better immune system, better self-esteem, better focus and motivation, and the list can go on and on.  The important benefit from exercise we’re concentrating on here is an increased happiness level.  Exercise helps you increase your levels of serotonin, therefore, increasing happiness.  The problem with exercise is that a lot of people get a negative stigma even from hearing the word.  You don’t have to join a gym or a club to get your exercise.  A quick walk or run can do just fine.  You need to find an exercise that you’ll enjoy, so find it and practice it.

6. Meditate.

One of the most important, in my opinion, of all the things you can do to attain AND maintain a higher level of happiness is to meditate.  And no, you don’t have to shave your head, and sit cross legged in a Buddhist temple in order to do so.  I love this quote by Jon Kabat Zinn: https://twitter.com/FreeSlfHelp/status/618295357273845760  (btw, feel free to follow me on Twitter for useful and inspiring tweets)  Meditation doesn’t have to be religious, or cultist.  Meditation simply means to become aware of as much as possible.  The main thing to become more aware of is our mind and our thinking.  A famous author, Sam Harris says that the worst thing we could do is to be lost in thought and not know it.  But to be lost in thought and then to realize that you are lost in thought is a big improvement, and is ok.  Because that moment when you catch yourself lost in thought is very important.  And it doesn’t matter whether you realize you are lost in thought during the thinking or afterwards.  I think the reason a lot of people can’t stick to meditation is they over commit right away.  It is better to meditate for longer periods of time, but what good is trying to do so and then giving up right away.  It’s better to just cultivate the habit at first.  You can start with a minute or two and work your way up from there.  You could even use any of the exercises mentioned here as your meditation.  For more info on meditation check out my other article. http://freeselfhelpforyou.com/top-ten-ways-to-meditate/

  1. More than likely you are cock-blocking yourself, stop it.

In general I think we are our own worst enemies, we mostly tend to blame our failures or hardships on outside forces instead of focusing inward on ourselves.  For any who might get offended by the phrase ‘cock-blocking,’ I apologize, but I think it’s the perfect term to describe what we do to ourselves.  Whenever I hear the word I imagine two people that love each other, that are perfect for each other, that would make a great team, and that would be very fruitful, either with having a family or just helping humankind in general, BUT there’s someone or something preventing them from getting together.  The couple keeps trying to get together but that thing or that person keeps coming back and cock-blocking.  In the same way I think we deny ourselves happiness, we put happiness off until we get X or accomplish Y.  Just like in the example about that word, that thing or that person that’s interfering is more than likely ourselves.  So it’s important to be alert and see how and when we are cock-blocking ourselves.   It’s up to you to decide to be happy, you must see happiness as a choice that is under your direct control, not as some distant unattainable thing. So make your choice, don’t cock-block, be happy.

  1. Use positive affirmations daily.

I’m sure some of you might see the word “affirmations” and might be thinking that affirmations are just a bunch of mumbo-jumbo, self-help-gimmicks created to sell books.  But there has been research done that they can actually help.  More than likely, we all use affirmations unconsciously.  A lot of us have a lot of negative self-talk in our minds.  You know, the things we tell ourselves whenever we mess up, we call ourselves idiots, or put our own selves down in some way.  Those are affirmations, negative ones of course, but affirmations nonetheless.  So why not have intentional affirmations instead?  And affirmations are not magic phrases that will just make good things come to you simply by saying them.  What happens when you do affirmations is just that you are focusing your attention on those specific things.  When you say or write your affirmations they start to be at top of mind more and more, and what that does is that it helps you notice things that are similar in your regular day to day life.  The best example I’ve heard of is Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert.  He used an affirmation in order to become a famous cartoonist.  The affirmation was, “I, Scott Adams, will be a famous cartoonist.”  He kept writing down and repeating his affirmation, and he said one day watching late night television infomercials he noticed a commercial for a how-to-become-a-cartoonist course, or something like that, and that’s how his career started. (You can listen to Scott Adams on the Tim Ferris Podcast).  So it’s not that saying that phrase caused him to be a cartoonist directly, what he did was just tell his brain, “Hey, I want to be a famous cartoonist, so let’s be on the lookout for cartoonist stuff, and for becoming-a-cartoonist opportunities.”

I stumbled on affirmations one day when I needed some packing tape.  I was at my office packing some stuff to ship out and ran out of tape.  So I told myself in my head, “Get tape, get tape, get tape.”  Later that night on my drive home, believe it or not, a few blocks from my house, at night, in the middle of the road I noticed a roll of tape!  I pulled over, picked it up and took it, and it was an almost full roll! And that got me thinking, would have I noticed that roll of tape had I not mentioned it to myself earlier?  If I didn’t need the roll of tape would have I still stopped and picked it up? So that’s what affirmations do, they just help your focus.  You might not find what you’re looking for directly like I found my roll of tape, but you will definitely start to notice opportunities that lead to getting what you want.  So affirm happiness!

A side note on number seven and eight.  These two ideas came from the book The Big Leap: Conquer Your Hidden Fear and Take Life to the Next Level by Gay Hendricks.  Just the universal affirmation mentioned in the book is worth the small price of the book.  I highly recommend it.  In the book, he doesn’t say it directly, but the basic theme is, “you are cock-blocking yourself but you probably don’t know it and here’s how to fix that.”

 

  1. Get more sunshine.

I’m sure you’ve heard the stats: people that live in states with low exposure to sunlight are more depressed.  And although there haven’t been conclusive studies that show a direct correlation, there is a correlation, nonetheless.  Some studies say that depressed people are very low in their Vitamin D levels, but the scientists aren’t sure if depression causes a drop in Vitamin D, or if a drop in Vitamin D causes depression.  What is known is that sunshine affects Vitamin D levels, and Vitamin D is very essential for many human functions.  Sunshine also affects our brains. Exposure to sunlight directly through the retina makes your brain produce more serotonin, and serotonin is the feel good hormone.  So as you can see, nowadays everyone wears sunglasses all day, and they use sunblock all the time.  But you only need those things if you are sensitive to light or if you are going to be exposed to heavy sunlight for extended periods of time.  But caution must be used anytime you are exposing yourself to sunshine.  Too much can cause sunburns of course, but too little might make you sad.  The best time to get sunshine is right at sunrise, or right before sunset.  At these times, usually within 15 minutes of sunrise, or within 15 minutes of sunset, the sun’s rays will not hit you with full force.  So get your sunshine.  In case you live in a place like Seattle, where it’s cloudy a lot, then try out a sun lamp. 

  1. Eat more plants.

What you eat has a big effect no only on your mood but on basically all aspects of your life.  Eating processed foods high in refined sugars, bad fats, and refined flour is just asking for sad life.  You might get an immediate rush of pleasure, but don’t confuse that with happiness.  There’s a big difference between happiness and pleasure.  I like the quote my Michael Pollan, “Eat Food, not too much, mostly plants.” He has written several books on nutrition and has condensed all he’s learned to just that one sentence.  He starts with “eat food,” because you have to eat or you die! Simple as that.  Then the next important part is “not too much,” eating too much of anything, no matter how healthy it is can also be bad for you.  And the last part “mostly plants.”  That’s what his research has shown him, that eating more plants than animals is the optimal way.  So what to do, what to do.  Am I saying you should get on some extreme diet in order to be happy? Not at all, “getting on a diet” has such a negative connotation nowadays that just hearing the phrase can bring about unhappiness.  Just start by noticing what you eat, pay attention to every bite you take.  If you notice that you are not eating a lot of plants then decide to eat more plants.  You don’t have to go extreme, just add a piece of fruit or a handful of greens to a meal or two, it’ll make you happy.

  1. Play more.

How often do you play? Play meaning, you go and do something just for fun, something that has no point or no end goal?  For example playing catch?  To be happy you must play.  Playing is not just for kids.  A lot of us, at some point in our lives, suddenly decide that we are now adults and that we must start doing certain things, and stop doing others.  And one of the things we stop doing is playing.  It doesn’t have to be physical, as long as it’s playing.  You deserve to play, you deserve to invest time in yourself and just play.  A lot of us get stuck on routines and deadlines, and put off our health for later, we go on vacations and just sleep.  What good will working so much be if later you’ll have to spend all your hard earned money of medical bills?  It’s up to you.

I’ve always played throughout my life.  Whether it was video games when I was younger, or sports now that I’m older.  I’ve always made time for myself to and just play, even if I’m tired, I’ll still go out and play, and once I do, I feel great afterwards and I sleep great.  So I don’t know what not playing is like because I’ve never ‘not played’ for long periods.  But if someone were to tell me I can’t play anymore, that I have to grow up and start being an adult.  That would probably be the torturous decline of me.  I can’t imagine not doing something fun and enjoyable like playing.  The thought itself make me anxious.  I thought everyone knew that playing was very good for your health, but I was wrong.  I first heard of someone applying just this technique alone to get rid of their anxiety and burn out.  I heard it from Charlie Hoehn’s book Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure for Anxiety. This is a very fast read and I highly recommend it for all you weirdos that don’t play. You can also check out Charlie’s blog, sometimes he gives his books away! http://charliehoehn.com/blog/

 

  1. Pet a pet or get a pet.

Petting and animal that you have a bond with has been scientifically proven to reduce blood pressure, reduce anxiety, and even boost your immune system.  It has also been proven that people with life threatening diseases and that have pets are less likely to get depressed.  Getting a new pet is a big responsibility, and it can be counterproductive to get one if it’s going to stress you out even more.  So do your research before you go out and get a new pet.  And if you already have a pet then spend more time with it to be more happy, or better yet, combine number eleven with your pet.

  1. Go outside.

We come from nature, nature is our home.  So why do we deprive ourselves of our true homeland?  This is one downfall of our modern society, in a way, it traps us indoors for a larger part of our lives.  I remember the first time I went to Vegas we stayed on a high floor and I was able to see the mountains that surround the city.  I thought they were beautiful.  But then we went inside the MGM and I was sadly amazed at the square footage of these things.  They cover so much space, it measures around 171,000 square feet, taking the average size of a house that equals to about 65 homes!  Vegas is meant to keep you indoors.  When you’re outside, and I don’t mean just outside your house, I mean outside in nature, you get more sunshine, you breathe fresher air, you can meditate outside, you can play with your dog, do exercise, or any of the other exercises in this article.  So go outside often in order to be happier.

 

 

There you go, thirteen easy-to-do things that have been backed up by research to prove that they will make you happy.  Above all you must learn that happiness is a choice, it is not some random thing that only certain people can get.  The people that are happy are people that have set that intention for themselves.  Also remember that you don’t have to wait for success, or for a certain amount of money, or for certain material wealth to come your way in order to be happy.  Happiness precludes success! Do you want to be successful? Then be happy first.

 

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