People often ask me if I have always been this happy. While it makes me smile to know that people can genuinely see or feel my happiness it wasn’t always so. Not only that, but I definitely still have my days and moments where everything is not unicorns and rainbows. The difference between now and when I used to “think” my happiness came in a bottle or a bump is that I’ve found ways to cultivate more happiness.
So, to answer this question I’ve been asked more than once, I’ve put together a list of:
11 Ways To Cultivate More Happiness
Which is based on practices I’ve put into play in my own life that have proved to be substantially successful. Please feel free to read in as much depth as you like or just skim the list.
1) Become a Spiritual Gangster.
If you only get one thing from this read, please let it be this. Putting a spiritual practice in place for your life can single handedly change everything. This is, hands down, the biggest factor to my happiness, Zen-fullness and peace.
For me this means prayer, reading the bible, going to church, yoga and dancing in my living room. Yes, that last one is a true story. I have snap chats to prove it. I’ve found that when I feel stressed or disconnected I fall back on one or all of these and I instantly feel better.
I would argue that without some sort of faith-based spiritual practice present in our lives, we will never be able to reach the ultimate level of happiness. Taking it a bold step further would be that the experience of pure joy is only attainable through having God at the center of our lives.
As a spiritual ganstress, my favorite gang sign is when my hands are clasped together over my heart and my eyes are turned up.
2) Be in the moment.
I know it comes across as cliché and you’ve heard about “living in the moment,” but when we really break things down, being present and mindful of our current situation is a key to happiness. Not only does it help us to focus on what we are doing or who we’re with, but ultimately it helps move us forward. The more we are mindful, the less we worry, procrastinate, become distracted or get stuck on trying to make things as they were.
This is a reoccurring commitment for me, but with practice it becomes easier by the day. Mindfulness is a big contributor to my level of happiness.
3) Practice being less reactive and more responsive.
I’ve noticed the more I stop to think before I speak, the better the outcome usually is. This practice is a delicate balance of slowing down enough to give myself time to think and dropping my ego’s urge to defend, be right, protect or lead with pride. I used to blurt out the first thing on my mind, fly off the handle and didn’t have a filter when it came to my reactions.
Plain and simple: when we move from being reactive to responsive, we take other people into consideration before we interact. This allows us to view things from different perspectives as we develop a response that is more in line with our inner spiritual gangster.
I’ve even walked away for hours before answering an email, phone call or text to gather my thoughts and to prevent myself from emotionally reacting. Not only does this make for better communication, but it also improves relationships, which in turn lends itself to more happiness.
4) Make commitments to yourself and keep them.
Sobriety has been huge commitment to myself that I have kept since 2008. I’ve also committed to Miracles Are Brewing, the subsequent writing for it and to my fitness, to name a few. I’ve found that the more times I’ve made commitments that I follow through on, the happier I am, the more my confidence in my abilities grows and the challenge of them keeps me on my toes.
Setting goals and reaching them is something no one can take away from us and it helps us to stretch ourselves to new levels. When we evolve, our happiness grows also.
5) Care less about what others think.
At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is what we think about ourselves. We have to live with ourselves, our thoughts and we are responsible for our self-love. I stopped caring a long time ago about fitting in when I gave up drinking. I used to get worried about people not liking me, not inviting me or not thinking I was fun.
Now the way I look at is: Do your best to treat people with kindness and the rest will take care of itself. When it’s all said and done, we spend more time with ourselves than anyone else, so we need live based on what makes us happy, not what we want others to think of us.
6) Say “No” to things that don’t light you up.
I’ve heard and said this before, if it’s not a “hell yes,” it’s a no. The more we say NO to things that don’t light us up, the more time we have for the things and people that do.
Part intuition and part clarity, it takes a solid inner voice coupled with clearly defined and unshakeable promises to only partake in what makes us feel good.
7) Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Is this really going to matter next week or even next month? I often ask myself that question. I’ve become a master at letting things roll off. Not everything is going to go exactly my way. And I’m OK with that because usually when they don’t, it becomes an opportunity for me to learn or gain new perspective. Sometimes being kind and understanding is more important than being right.
Not only that, but just because we are invited to an argument doesn’t mean we have to suit up for it. A mark of maturity comes with realizing that not everything requires our comment.
8) Drop expectations or the need to plan everything.
I used to go on vacations and have things planned out down to the hour sometimes. Then I’d get there and life would happen, things would get off track and I would become flustered and even angered when things weren’t going according to plan. I let that go. Now instead I much prefer having zero plans so that I can just go with the flow and allow for pleasant surprises. Such is life.
The less expectations we have, the less room there is for disappointment and the more room there is for exactly what is. I’m not saying to slack off on planning for goals, family, finances or schedules. Some things do need a plan. However, going with the flow in certain areas of life, even if you can only practice one for now, can bring happiness in to our lives that we may have otherwise missed out on by sticking to a rigorous plan or strict expectations.
9) Let go of things and people that do not serve our betterment.
Settling is not an option. I’m not interested in an ordinary life. I made a decision a long time ago that mediocre is just not my style.Therefore, there are certain things and people that no longer serve in my happiness cultivation process. And that is ok too.
It’s not about what people can do for us either. The goal of having someone in our lives is not about what they can give us, bring us, do for our career, or offer us. Each person serves a purpose, but some times people begin to take away from our happiness rather than add to it. When we feel taken advantage of, used, confused, hurt or affected by negative emotion, we may need to give some honest evaluation to things.
Life requires a genuine understanding that it is a delicate balance of holding on and letting go. Sometimes letting go is a form of forgiveness or maybe even surrender. Remember when we forgive, we don’t do it for the other person, we do it for ourselves.
Hold on to what makes you happy and let go of what takes away from your happiness. It really can be as simple as that.
10) Understanding that we are in a constant state of learning.
This has been a huge factor in my journey. When we realize we are never “finished” learning, the process becomes more enjoyable. It allows us to see obstacles, challenges, set backs and mishaps as opportunities that are necessary for our lives.
One of most valuable lessons I learned from one of my coaches is this: When you are ready for the lesson, the teacher will always appear. But you must be ready to go there, to see it and to retain the knowledge of the lesson. Learning takes courage and willingness.
11) Realize that happiness comes from inside and not anyone or anything.
Happiness is something that we actively participate in. It is a choice we make at every moment, everyday. Happiness doesn’t come from other people, material things, places or anything exteriorly.
Happiness comes from practicing radical self-love, being aware of our needs emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually and living a live that constantly strives to achieve those needs.
It’s something we fight for, insist upon for ourselves and decide upon daily.
But ultimately, happiness is something we get to share with others once we realize it’s inside of us and it has been there all along.
“Happiness is a habit. Cultivate it.” –Elbert Hubbard
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