“We are about as happy as we make our minds up to be,” one of my best friends said the other day. It’s a quote attributed to Abraham Lincoln, who certainly knew a lot about happiness and sadness in his life, but when she said it recently, I could not help but wonder why some people are happy most of the time and others are not?
I appreciated what my girlfriend said. We had carved out some time during the busy holiday season to spend time together and catch up. After all, it is the time of year to be grateful, not only for friends but also for all the other good things that have so generously been given to us. Still, I wonder, why are some people generally happy and content while others find life overwhelming and riddled with problems?
Seems to me, people who are more content are better able to appreciate the simple moments that are built into our everyday routines, which at times, is not so easy considering all the distractions. We are bombarded morning, noon, and night with advertisers, marketers, and well-meaning friends and family because our culture has become obsessed with having more, buying more, seeing more and being more.
Simply being aware of this subtle bombardment makes a world of difference. It allows each of us to stay clear of mindless distractions and be content with what we already have every day of our lives. Fact is, happiness and joy surround us. They are ours simply for the taking.
Here are 8 simple tips on where and how to find contentment:
1. Develop a health routine you enjoy
Yes, as a health coach people hire me to help to them find the secret to good health habits that last so they can look and feel better well beyond fifty. Ideas we often come up with include setting up a meditation routine each morning. Or engaging in a simple exercise regimen. You can chose to move on your own, with a friend or in class with an instructor. Maybe you take a mindful approach to eating: Make grocery shopping an experience to dazzle your taste buds rather than a chore. Explore farmers markets year round. Try new recipes and add some excitement to your cooking routine, knowing you are preparing something healthy for you and others who join you at the table.
2. Say hello to nature
Welcome an orchid into your home. Water your plants. Step outside and feed the birds. Take a walk, stop and appreciate the scenery. Close you eyes, soak up the sun and be thankful.
3. Create an end-of-day, winding-down routine
Designing an evening routine is something you will look forward to as your day comes to an end. This will also ensure that something is within your control no matter how harried the day may have been. And if the day was spectacular, your evening routine becomes an additional bonus of goodness. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. Simply enjoy your dinner, tidy up the kitchen, read a good book and goto sleep. Perfect!
4. Design opportunities for experiences rather than time to buy more things
Whenever a weekend afternoon presents itself in which a movie will be showing or an art exhibit is opening that I want to see, I plan the afternoon around that experience. Not only do I watch the movie or go to the art exhibit, but also I plan the before and after as a date with myself to just enjoy the outing even more. Maybe afterwards I will bring a journal and head to a local coffee shop (if I go see a matinee), or enjoy a nice lunch by myself before heading to the theater or museum. Recently, when my husband and I were in the N.C. mountains, I went for a short walk and then headed to the local library branch to catch up on emails and read magazines. These magazines were not piled up and unread on my living room table…they were free. Set aside time for interesting experiences, time for relaxation, time to engage, time to enjoy and time to let go of…time.
5. Create and design a welcoming space
This is one I know I need to do but struggle with because my home office has overflowed to my dining room table. Slowly I’m working on organizing my office better, throwing out “stuff” no longer useful or needed and reclaiming my dining room table. My goal is to be greeted with fresh flowers upon walking through the front door, and enjoying an abundance of light filling the room and sitting down at a clean, clutter-free dining room table. Once done, I also plan to keep it that way.
Whether you can curate your entire home or simply a room of your own to always be welcoming, making the effort to do so offers priceless moments of appreciation every day.
6. Do something to let your mind escape
Read a book. Write in your journal. Meditate. Establish a routine that allows your mind to relax or even nap. It’s not only your body that can become exhausted.
7. Make progress on a project, no matter how minimal
Whether it is something as grand as completing a significant task to edge you even closer to your goal, or just adding an idea to your journal to ensure you do not forget the “aha” moment that presented itself during your day, do something that keeps the flames of your dreams burning and your hopes alive.
8. Express love and kindness
In some form or fashion, express love to someone, something or the world in general. Part of the reason I know the importance of this is because I married later in life. I did not have a spouse or children with which to express love with daily so I had to get to know my neighbors, and my friendships are an important part of my life today. I still find myself reaching out to someone whose memory dances across my mind. I simply text or call and say “Hello!”
Try to inhale and exhale love and kindness, and you will be doing yourself and others a great favor.