Do More of What Makes You Happy

Inspiration for today’s post came by way of a meme with these words:

“Do more of what makes you happy.”

It sounds like such a simple command. However I know from experience that adding to my happiness by doing more of the things that I enjoy is not as easy as it sounds.

Do More of What Makes You Happy

What is Happiness?

Being happy is more than having a positive mindset or a Pollyanna attitude. The word origin, from Middle English hap and y, literally means lucky implying good fortune contributes to being happy.

Happiness is a state of well being that encompasses living a good life, one with a sense of purpose and deep satisfaction. Being happy can include strong, high frequency emotions such as joy, love, amusement, gratification and hope.

Psychology Today wrote:

“Research suggests that happiness can improve physical health. Feelings of positivity and contentment seem to benefit cardiovascular health, the immune system, inflammation levels, and blood pressure, among other things. Happiness has even been linked to a longer lifespan—providing more years to continue striving for fulfillment.

Those are powerful reasons to cultivate happiness. So why does being happy seem to be such an elusive state for many people? To do more of what makes us happy, we have to know our own particular brand of happy.

Do More of What Makes You Happy

In Pursuit of Happiness

We have a tendency to put the happiness of others ahead of our own, because we fear doing otherwise is selfish. Ignoring our own state of well being not only harms us, it ultimately doesn’t make others happy either. Not really.

There are times when it’s important to put the needs of another ahead of our own. Parents often make sacrifices for their kids to ensure their wellbeing. However, to ignore our own happiness, thinking we are benefitting someone else, skews perspective and creates bitterness.

In reality, I can’t “make” someone else happy nor can another create happiness in me. We are each responsible for our own state of joy and wellbeing. In fact, one of the best things I can do, to encourage another, is to live, really live, in happiness. Being happy gives other people permission and freedom to be happy too.

Gretchen Rubin, author of The Happiness Project, points out another important truth. If we pretend to be other than who we really are, in an attempt to make others happy, then our choices will lead us away from our happiness.

Do More of What Makes You Happy

What Makes Me Happy

Once we understand that happiness is an inside job and we are responsible for creating that state, we can focus on doing more of the things we enjoy. Regularly indulging in small pleasures, trying new experiences, going on adventures and being with people we love increase our joy.

I’ve learned, during my life’s journey, to accept responsibility for my own happiness. Cultivating my joy becomes a matter of doing more of what makes me happy.

Currently my list of happy-inducing activities includes:

• being creative – writing, drawing, creating vignettes, repurposing items, coloring

• gardening and being in nature

• spending time with family and friends

• spending time in solitude and reflection

• learning new things, trying new experiences

• traveling

• watching movies and listening to music

• daily ongoing conversations with the divine

• living in optimal health and wellbeing

• afternoon tea time

This is my unique list. I make sure that I practice some of these activities everyday. As I shift and grow, my list shifts as well. I become aware of what I need to do more of…and do it…not because I have to but because I want to.

Do More of What Makes You Happy

What Makes You Happy

Your list of what makes you happy will look different from mine. And it should. What makes you happy will differ from what makes me or your best friend or your spouse or anyone else happy.

What brings you joy? Which activities make you smile, brighten your day or create anticipation? Do more of those things. Everyday.

And if you don’t know what brings you joy and contributes to your happiness, start there. Fear can block the path to happiness. Do you fear that pursuing your happiness lessens someone else’s? Have you been shamed or ridiculed for doing things that are meaningful to you?

Work through the blocks, clear old energy, focus on who you are right now and make a list of what you would love to do. And begin to do more of what makes you happy.

Continually feeding happiness feeds the heart and soul as well. You…and me…being happy are beautiful gifts to offer to the world.

Do More of What Makes You Happy

Searching for Happiness

Several times this week, a simply drawn cartoon popped up in my various social media feeds. One character asks another where she found the object she carries, because he has been searching everywhere for it.

I smiled every time I saw the cartoon, because of the object bearer’s response. My heart and soul resonated with an enthusiastic Yes!

This evening, as I considered topics for today’s blog post, the cartoon, which I mentally titled Searching for Happiness, made the list of possibilities. Just as I looked over my options, a song began to play. I don’t even know what song it was but the word happy caught my attention. I laughed, my decision made.

Searching for Happiness

What is Happiness?

That’s a big question that people have been trying to answer since ancient times. Philosophers, writers, poets, artists, actors, theologians, singers, psychologists and countless others have sought to define what happiness is.

What it is not is just another emotion, or a positive mindset, or a fat bank account. People agree that happinesses is a state of well-being that encompasses living a good life imbued with meaning and purpose. However the road to happinesses is different for everyone, as is the exact meaning. Living my version of happy will look different from yours.

Searching for Happiness

Creating Happiness

What is essential is understanding that happiness cannot be supplied by an outside source. No one can “make” us happy or sustain that state of being for us. What a heavy burden to place on another person. Happiness is something we create for ourselves, and it is sometimes hard won.

The journey to bliss can involve pain, challenges and letting go of past hurts and the need to control people and outcomes. As we grow in awareness, we grow into a happiness that is not dependent on circumstances or what others are thinking, doing or saying.

My personal journey to happiness included facing and defeating fears, embracing my whole heart and accepting who I am, practicing gratitude, seeing the presence of the Divine in everything and recognizing that I am the only one who can create my happiness, which lets everyone else off the hook.

Searching for Happiness

Feeding Happiness

In my state of happiness, there are many ways that I contribute to my sense of well-being. I regularly feed my happiness by doing the things that bring me joy: spending time with family, laughing with grandkids, gardening, traveling, expressing my creativity, cultivating solitary time, watching movies, writing.

Taking care of my health contributes to my happiness, as do ongoing conversations with the Divine, nurturing my dreams and walking alongside other people as they journey. Can I be happy and still experience sadness, anger or disappointment. Yes! Do any of those erode my happiness? No! Happiness is core to my being. No matter what else is going on in my life at the moment, happiness is what I return to. Like those toys from the 1980s, the Weebles, I can wobble and tip off my center, but I won’t fall down and stay there.

Defining Happiness

As I often do, I looked up the etymology of the word happy. It comes from the old English word hap, in the 14th century, which meant “lucky”. The word worked its way into many cultures, however from the Greek to the Irish happy originally conveyed the meaning of being lucky and having good fortune.

Isn’t it interesting that some still perceive happiness as an elusive state of being, and that only the lucky few ever achieve it. How empowering it is to realize that searching for happiness begins with a solitary inward journey, and creating it is the uniquely personal experience called “living our best life”.

Searching for Happiness

Healthy…and Happy

This is the blog post I wasn’t going to write this evening. I knew this morning that today was one of those unusual holidays, Evaluate Your Life Day. I decided not to engage in that celebration, even though a kernel of an idea arose at the thought. Throughout a busy day, that little idea grew. And when “happy” kept coming into my awareness, through signs and the actual song Happy by Pharrell Williams, I accepted the nudges and invitations.

I consider myself an optimistic, positive, happy person. I have been these last seven years especially, after facing my fears and moving beyond them. However, an intriguing thing has been happening to me. The last two or three months, people have told me repeatedly that I look happy, seem happy, appear to be so happy.

When something happens repetitively, it gets my attention.

I’ve been thinking about the fact that I appear to be happier, even though in my own estimation, I have lived on Happy Street for a while. People who tell me I seem to be happier are linking this high level of energetic being to my increased healthiness. And I find that fascinating!

Could there be a correlation between feeling good, health wise, and feeling GOOD, happiness wise?

For Evaluate Your Life Day, I considered that possibility and did a little research.

When I began a plant based lifestyle, 15 months ago, I wasn’t thinking about happiness. I was focused on healing and finding relief from chronic pain. It was the right focus. Changing my diet to one of fruits, veggies, rice, legumes and nuts literally changed my health…and my life.

It is an ongoing journey that has brought me many unexpected benefits. Not only did my pain subside, other minor health ailments cleared up as well. I began to experience episodes of euphoria that at first puzzled me. Then I realized this was what good health felt like.

People noticed that I lost weight, quit using a cane, stopped limping. And now they notice that I am happy. I wondered today, is it because my face is relaxed, rather than carrying a slight frown? When at rest, the subtle drawing together of my eyebrows was due to the pain I felt but didn’t verbally express. And often my apparent “lost in thought” look was me considering how much it was going to hurt when I stood after sitting through a long meal or a meeting. I no longer battle pain like that. Was this the difference in my countenance?

Or was it deeper than that? Had those bouts of euphoria developed into joy and happiness?

I found many studies online, linking positive thoughts to better health. And only one finding a correlation between improved health and happiness. A new study out of Australia suggests that eating more fruits and vegetables may make you feel happier.

Researchers studied more than 12,000 Australians for two years. They asked people whether they normally ate fruits and veggies and how much. They also asked the participants how satisfied with life they were, on a scale from 1 to 10. Then they tracked diets for two years, and whether people increased their fruit and veggie consumption, while also studying their satisfaction levels.

Results showed that those who added more fruits and veggies per day to their diets, increased their levels of life satisfaction as well. Research has suggested that greater levels of carotenoids, found in some fruits and veggies, are linked to greater optimism. Plus an increased intake in vitamin B12, also present in fruits and veggies, boosts a neurotransmitter in the brain called serotonin, which helps to regulate mood.

Redzo Mujcic, one of the study’s researchers wrote, “Perhaps our results will be more effective than traditional messages in convincing people to have a healthy diet. There is a psychological payoff now from fruits and vegetables, not just a lower health risk.”

Perhaps, indeed!

Many of the people that I talk to about their health are afraid their happiness will decrease if they give up foods they enjoy. What if the opposite is true? What if, by increasing fruits and veggies, they felt happier while feeling healthier?

And if adding more fruits and veggies increases levels of satisfaction with life, what would switching entirely to a plant based diet do? Perhaps it results in bouts of euphoria…that becomes a high level of sustained happiness!

I think it warrants more thought on my part, and more research. But what an intriguing correlation. I am willing to be the guinea pig and live it out, as I continue in my journey of pursuing greater and greater health, and see what happens. The best way for me to impact others in a positive healthy way, is to live my life openly.

I am an ambassador for health…and happiness.