Make It a Habit
In my twenties, I had horrible eating habits and was completely unhappy. I’d go three days without eating in hopes of losing a few pounds, subsisting only on cigarettes and ice pops. Other days, I’d eat until I was sick to my stomach. The unhealthy cycle continued until I made a conscious decision to change, and the experience forced me to learn how to exercise and build strength the right way.
By my early thirties, I was strong and healthy — and I felt great. I continued adopting new healthy habits and as I mastered each one, I found myself feeling happier, more confident, and more fulfilled. By the time I reached my forties, I was transformed. I ate healthy foods all day long, Rollerbladed 60 miles a week, and felt beautiful. I was truly happy.
But, of course, life doesn’t always work out the way we plan. In 2006, my marriage started to break down. My husband and I had been through many trials as a couple, and after many years, I made the decision to leave. This was the saddest I’d ever been in my life, yet I found the strength to wake up every morning. I had a strong core — the most central part of my being — from all the years I spent working on myself and creating habits that made me happy.
What I’ve learned is that happy people don’t have fewer problems, they have better skills to deal with them. In my book, Happiness Is a Habit: Simple Daily Rituals That Increase Energy, Improve Well-Being and Add Joy to Every Day, I share simple habits that helped me weather some of the most difficult times in my life. Here are nine you can start today to help you deal with life’s unexpected turns — and ultimately, make you a happier person.
Inspire, Motivate, or Educate Yourself in the Morning
Just like eating a healthy breakfast gives your body the energy it needs for the day, a good diet of morning inspiration, motivation, and education gives your mind and spirit the emotional lift it needs. Read a few pages of an uplifting book, journal your intentions for the day, or meditate on a positive thought and reflect on it throughout the day.
I go back and forth between those three activities as much as possible. I keep an inspirational book and my journal with me at all times, even when I travel. I keep guided meditations on my phone so no matter where I am, I have access to this morning ritual. I find when I practice this habit, I feel more positive and hopeful for what the day may bring.
Nourish Your Passion
Passion is what feeds the soul. You may be able to check off a long list of accomplishments in your life, but without passion, you will never be satisfied. So make time to nurture your passions, whatever they might be: Read. Write. Listen to music. Watch movies that inspire you. Engage in deep and meaningful conversations. Travel.
Do something you’re passionate about every day. It’s easy to get bogged down in lengthy to-do lists, but take time to stop and watch the sunset, listen to your favorite music, or spend time with someone you love. These simple — and free! — acts, done consciously, will satisfy you.
Share Your Talents With Others
What are your gifts and strengths? I believe the happiest people are those who found ways to use their talents in the service of something bigger than themselves. Your gesture doesn’t have to be extravagant: If you love books, volunteer to read to children once a month. If you like to garden, make beautiful flower arrangements for your friends and family. If you have an artistic flair, paint a mural in your community. My passion is sharing, teaching, and helping others to find their own paths to happiness. When I'm speaking to a group my heart comes alive, and I know I am using my talents in service to others.
If you aren’t sure what your talents are, take a moment to remember some of the compliments people have given you over the years, and think back over the moments and accomplishments you are most proud of. Have your parents always talked about how you’re good with numbers? Do your family and friends gush every time you host a dinner? The compliments you receive for things that come naturally to you are where your talents lie.
Celebrate Your Wins
Happy people are grateful people. It’s hard to maintain a bad mood when you flood your mind with thoughts of gratitude — when you focus on what is going right in your life instead of what’s gone wrong.
Take the time to celebrate your wins, big and small. Most people remember to celebrate what they deem the most significant milestones in their lives, like birthdays, anniversaries and graduations, but neglect to notice the small wins they experience every day, like eating a healthy lunch, getting in a good workout, or spending time with an old friend. Focus on these things instead when you’re tempted to beat yourself up when life doesn’t go your way. For years, I wrote down my “weekly wins” in my day planner. The act of writing them forced me to take inventory of the good and celebrate what I had accomplished.
Ditch What Isn’t Working
If you want to increase the quality of your life, you have to be willing to eliminate what isn’t working. Start by paying attention to how you spend most of your free time — watching TV, scrolling through social media, reading emails, cleaning your house — and decide which activities you want more of and which leave you feeling tired or depleted.
Shift your focus to what educates, motivates, and inspires you. Maybe that’s spending more time with friends and family, reading a book, or being outside. By shedding time wasters and things that aren’t important, you can make more time for what you truly value — and what will ultimately bring you joy.
Have a Bad-Day Emergency Plan
We all get in bad moods sometimes; they’re unavoidable. We might wake up feeling terrible, hit unexpected traffic on our way to work, or our best laid plans just don’t work out. But don’t let one bad mood spoil your entire day.
Create a bad-day emergency plan before you need one. Think of the friend who makes you laugh — someone who always lifts you up — and add her to your phone's favorites list. Keep your go-to movies on hand, create a playlist you love, note which classes at the gym make you feel great after you finish. My first defense against a bad mood is always music. I can’t seem to stay in a bad mood when I'm listening to a song that gets my foot tapping.
Guide Your Thoughts
Your thoughts are the ultimate creator of your life. Sometimes they’re empowering — they tell you that you are intelligent, creative, and strong. But often, we find ourselves thinking about the opposite. It’s easy to get caught up in “safe” thoughts — ones that reinforce that you shouldn’t speak up, take chances, or try something new for fear of looking foolish.
Once you start to tune in to your thoughts, you gain power. You have control over your conscious thoughts, and you can guide yourself to think differently. The power to think a new thought — one that tells you that you are beautiful, capable, and intelligent — is a choice.
Many people believe rigid discipline and harshness are the keys to strength. Yet these are characteristics that make people avoid connecting with you and tiptoe around you in conversations. Openness to consider others’ opinions is the attractive quality that encourages people to connect with you.
I have practiced saying the words, “You’re absolutely right,” to people whenever I find myself feeling defensive. When my ego gets hooked, it’s usually a sign that someone has struck a nerve. By saying the words, “You’re right,” I allow myself to stay open and validate someone else. That’s the type of person who people want to build lasting relationships with.
Start a Mastermind Group
A mastermind group is a group of people who hold each other accountable to their goals and dreams by providing ideas, guidance, and council. Most people find that when they have someone hold them accountable, they accomplish their goals much faster. The beauty of goal setting is not only the achievement of the goal, but what you become in the process. Reaching your goals makes you feel like a winner.
Ideally, your mastermind group will consist of five to seven people who commit to working together personally and professionally. But, if you prefer, your mastermind can consist of only two people. Just make sure to select people who have a positive outlook on life and will give your meetings energy and vitality.
Happiness is our true nature, but so often in a world that is moving way too fast we have lost touch with ourselves. To learn more about how to tune in and adopt health and happy habits for yourself, check out Michele's book, Happiness is a Habit: Simple Daily Rituals That Increase Energy, Improve Well-Being and Add Joy to Every Day.
Adapted from “Happiness is a Habit: Simple Daily Rituals That Increase Energy, Improve Well-Being, and Add Joy to Every Day.” Copyright © 2013 Cedar Fort, Inc. All Rights Reserved.