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A dozen years ago, I bought myself a wooden sign to hang on my wall. It served as an important reminder of a truth I sought to embrace.
“Happiness is in the heart, not in the circumstances.”
During that challenging time, as I released all that was not me, faced down fears and accepted myself completely, I discovered much about happiness. I learned what it is…my responsibility and my creation…and what it isn’t…found outside myself.
And while creating happiness looks a bit different for everyone, there are habits we can cultivate that fill us up with our own specific brand of happy. It is possible to create happiness in 2022.
Create Happiness in 2022
Do you expect others to make you happy? Or do you take responsibility for your own joy and happiness, just as you do your health and wellness?
It’s easy to blame unhappiness on others or on circumstances. A romantic relationship shifts, illness strikes, the promotion goes to someone else, a friend disappoints, we lose a pet or a family member. Our joy dwindles away. Happiness becomes an elusive thing that taunts us.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
When we take responsibility for our own happiness, we discover that we are able to make choices that release others from the burden of making us happy. We find that our responses to challenging times change. Sadness, anger, and a host of other emotions still arise occasionally, however we are no longer defined by them. Our happiness remains at our core, deep, sustaining and unmovable.
Shifting from unhappy to happy doesn’t happen overnight. It’s an intentional journey. The following habits cultivate it and help happiness to bloom into a magnificent way of being.
Regularly expressing gratitude is a life changer. It’s the foundation for joy and happiness. Start small, if this is a new practice. Write or speak aloud a gratitude from the day, every evening before sleeping. A daily gratitude practice has the power to transform perspectives and raise awareness. We see how much we have to express gratitude for.
Seize the Moment
Let go of the past and refuse to dwell on it, replay it or create internal conversations about it. Doing so is such a waste of energy and contributes to feelings of regret and unhappiness.
It’s equally unproductive to worry about the future. That creates anxiety, another drain on energy and wellbeing. It’s fine and even desirable to make plans or set goals for the future. Fretting about what might happen erodes happiness.
Learn to stay present in the moment. Use meditation or a word (I use the word “adsum“) to gently bring yourself back to the present. Savor the moments. Look for the good.
Keep a Journal
Free write, record your thoughts, list the things that make you smile, jot down dreams, hopes and intentions. Capture the moments that made you feel good. The end of the year is the perfect time to read back through your writings and recognize all the blessings in your life.
If a blank page in a journal seems intimidating, try a guided journal, such as Get Untamed The Journal by Glennon Doyle.
Walk in Nature
Walking in nature reduces anger, fear and stress while increasing joy and happiness. A Finnish study found that people felt restored and happier after a short 15 minute walk through a forest.
Check out the health benefits as well HERE.
Spend Quality Time with Family and Friends
The last two years changed the way many of us connect with family and friends. It’s important, for us and for our loved ones, to spend time together even if those connections are through Zoom calls, FaceTime, phone calls or texts. Spending time with people we care about releases the feel good hormone dopamine.
Eat More Fruits and Veggies
Yep, people who eat more fruits and veggies experience greater happiness, studies in Germany and Australia found. They also possess higher levels of life satisfaction and mental wellbeing. Including more fruits and veggies improves overall health, and when we feel better, we feel happier.
After many years of experiencing chronic pain and a host of ailments, switching to a plant based diet created a level of health that I had never experienced before. As a result, I often feel euphoric. This, I realized, is what healthy feels like…and I love it.
Take Care of You
Connected to eating better, is taking excellent care of yourself. Self care contributes to wellbeing and health, which boosts happiness. Self care includes downtime, learning how to soothe yourself, yoga, meditation, Tai Chi and using positive, kind words in inner dialogues and when talking about yourself. And, don’t compare yourself to others or to what others post on social media.
Practice Acts of Kindness
Doing good for others not only benefits the receiver, it benefits the giver as well. Acts of kindness release serotonin, another feel good hormone. Serotonin does amazing things for the body, stabilizing mood and producing feelings of wellbeing and happiness.
Make a list of acts of kindness, such as paying for a coffee for the person behind you in line, complimenting a stranger, helping a young mother load groceries in the car or picking up trash at a park. Raising your awareness about possible ways to spread kindness increases the potential for carrying out such acts.
Create Rituals that Support You
Find comforting, pleasing rituals that make you smile. These might be as simple as putting a fresh glass of water by your bed at night to a whole morning routine. One of my favorite rituals that makes me smile is opening the blinds on my windows every morning, to let the light in. Another is afternoon tea time, no matter where I am.
Physically smiling raises mood. When we smile, the brain releases neuropeptides that reduce stress. And then those happiness hormones…dopamine, serotonin and endorphins get released as well. Studies show that even forcing a smile boosts mood and happiness levels. Add to your happiness by smiling at others and saying “hello”!
See the Bigger Picture
Even happy people experience challenges. What they learn, however, is that challenging times don’t last. And growth typically happens as we journey through them.
Learn to step back and broaden your view. What can you learn during this time? Remind yourself that this difficulty will pass, leaving you wiser and more resilient. Do as I did and hang a visual reminder that happiness is not dependent on circumstances. Use affirmations, prayer, positive self talk, intense self care or meditation to help you gain a bigger perspective of the situation. Especially during challenges, allow yourself to find moments of joy.
The people of Iceland are considered some of the most cheerful people on earth. One reason is due to their love of reading. Reykjavik is a UNESCO City of Literature.
Scientifically, reading is similar to meditation. It puts our brains into a pleasant trance-like state that promotes relaxation and calmness. Those who read often experience better sleep, lower stress, higher self esteem and greater happiness than those who don’t read. And, reading opens the mind to broader perspectives and fires up the imagination.
Pursue Dreams and Goals
Taking responsibility for your own happiness allows you discover what you most enjoy doing and what dreams and goals you want to pursue. By not relying on others for happiness, you can get clear on what it is that you want.
Want to write a book? Learn the steps to get that story published. Is travel what lights up your heart? Go…even if you go alone. Don’t waste a moment of your time doing things that don’t bring you joy. Feed your happiness.
A couple of nights ago, I dreamed I had a terminal illness. I’m a lucid dreamer and could have changed the dream or “healed” myself but I chose to go with it. In the dream I decided I didn’t want to spend a moment of my precious remaining time doing anything other than what was most important to me. I said “no” to things that didn’t align with me and “yes” to the things that did. I awoke thinking “Ohhh….that’s what the dream was really about…staying in alignment with what I most want to do.”
In reality, our time on earth IS limited. Do the thing. Don’t wait.
How Will You Create Happiness in 2022?
In spite of the unusual challenges of the last two years, do you feel anticipation for 2022? Is cultivating your own happiness high on your list of intentions for the new year?
I continue to cultivate my own happiness after making shifts 12 years ago. It’s an ongoing journey. Am I happier? Yes. Do I still experience challenges occasionally and move more deeply into the practices listed above to go beyond? Yes.
I’m excited about 2022. It’s my Year of Adventure and I remain open and optimistic about where those adventures will lead me and how my happiness will continue to expand.
Which happiness habits do you practice? And which ones do you want to incorporate into your life?
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