It's easy to think of happiness as a goal or something that is dependent on material things. Many of us say, "Once I'm making this or that income, then I'll be happy" or, "Once I'm ten pounds lighter, then I'll be happy", or "When I retire and can do what I want, then I'll be happy."
While the conditions of our lives may contribute to part of our happiness, happiness is also highly dependent upon our ability to live in the present moment. About how we relate to ourselves and others. About how we choose to walk through life.
I'll admit, it's not easy to be with what is and still be happy. Our constant thoughts and mental talk can be a powerful and sometimes negative force.
The picture I chose for this post is of my 5 year old son Samuel holding his first ever fishing rod which his grandfather gave to him this week.
It reminded me of the following quote by Maxim Gorky: "Happiness always looks small while you hold it in your hands, but let it go, and you learn at once how big and precious it is."
It also inspired me to share these 12 lessons I've learned about happiness.
1# Count your blessings.
Begin each day by acknowledging how much you have to be grateful for. Perhaps it's having supportive family or friends. Maybe it's simply being alive and able to breathe air in your lungs.
There are many opportunities in our day to pause and bring attention to the present moment. Try bringing your complete attention to the experience of brushing your teeth. Notice what it feels like, looks like, tastes like, smells like and even sounds like.
3# Drink water.
Drink warm water with fresh squeezed lemon every morning. This is a great way to cleanse the body and an instant pick me up.
4# Hug someone.
Hugs make us feel good for a reason and it's not just that warm feeling we get in our hearts. It's much more. It affects the body to the extent that scientists claim it is the equivalent to the effect of many different drugs. It stimulates oxytocin, a neurotransmitter which acts on the limbic system promoting feelings of contentment. It lowers heart rate. It stimulates dopamine, responsible for giving us feel good feelings and motivation.
5# Fake a smile.
We communicate our emotions mostly through facial expressions. When we notice an expression on someone's face, we often feel that emotion too. This is our mirror neuron system. It plays a key role in our ability to empathize and socialize with others. When you're feeling unhappy, put an intentional smile on your face. Notice the positive impact it has on others. Then notice how good it makes you feel.
6# release your expectations.
When you release expectations, you are free to enjoy things for what they are instead of what you think they should be. Keep on open and curious attitude. You'll almost always be pleasantly surprised.
7# Get in touch with an old friend.
I recently got in touch with one of my childhood friends. We hadn't spoken in years. It's truly enriched my life. It's never been easier to connect with anyone we want instantly.
8# Get sleep.
Sleep is one of the things we tend to sacrifice and yet so important for our happiness and well being. Something you can change in your life today.
9# Be comfortable with who you are.
No one else can do that for you. Don't worry what others may or may not be thinking. Just be you.
10# Show your appreciation for someone.
It's such an easy thing to do. A simple sentence telling someone how inspiring and great they are, may be the most important thing you ever do. Don't put this off till tomorrow.
11# Read a positive message or uplifting quote.
Everyone has their own preference and way of doing this. I'm a big fan of and enjoy daily quotes and inspiration from Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter.
12# Be present for someone.
Really listen to someone. Avoid the temptation to talk. Giving our full presence and undivided attention to someone is a powerful gift. It gives someone a safe space to work through their own challenges and strengthen self-confidence.
What does happiness mean to you and what's the one thing you do to create more of it in your life?