Practice being happy? What the heck, you ask? That sounds both illogical and impossible. You may think that you can’t practice an emotion, but you are wrong! I know what you’re thinking, though. I used to think the same way. Emotions just happen, we don’t fundamentally have control over them. Maybe we can control how we REACT to them, or how we EXPRESS them, but we can’t control HAVING them.
Why do you go to an amusement park? Because you know you will be happy there.
Why do you watch a tear jerker movie? Because you know it will make you sad.
Why do you go to a haunted house on Halloween? Because you know it will scare the <censored> out of you.
Okay, you say, I concede that point. But still, I can’t spend my life in an amusement park. And even you, Carrie, stated in your last post, How To Be Happy – Understand What Happiness Is, And Is Not, that you can’t watch Star Trek all the time and expect it to make you happy. .
When you practice being happy, you aren’t going to worry too much about which different kind of happiness you are feeling, you will just be aware of the fact that there is a difference. Some things will bring you joy, some exhileration, some satisfaction. Other things won’t – in and of themselves – bring you happiness, but things like pride, compassion, health, or financial control. But all will contribute to your overall happy state of mind and feeling of contentment.
And no matter what the feeling is, you have to practice having it. You have to remember to DO the things that make you happy. That means, making a conscious effort to feel them.
Becoming emotionally fit is no different than becoming physically fit or nutritionally fit <groan>. It takes hard work, sweat, and most of all SHEER DETERMINATION <double groan>.
You will actually FORGET to practice being happy. It’s hard to get in the habit of doing something new, even if it’s something that makes you happy. It’s easy to slip back into your natural way of thinking and doing things – and NOT doing things. These are some of the things I did originally to remind myself to practice being happy:
- Leave yourself notes.
This was especially helpful for me in three areas. I had to put a note on my bathroom mirror that said, “floss your teeth”, a note on my car steering wheel that said, “be happy”, so I would remember to let go of road rage, and a note on my computer screen that said, “used car dealers need love too”, so I would remember to be nice to them even when they are acting like <censored>. (My “day job” is insurance agent, and I deal with a lot car salesman, whose customers need to get insurance before driving off the lot) 😉
Put a note up anywhere that you need a little extra reminder. Please note, the refrigerator usually doesn’t work (I tried), because how often do you ACTUALLY look at it? Perhaps, if you put a big sign hanging down from the INSIDE, that might get your attention. 😉
- Make lists.
This was essential to me when I wanted to start eating healthy foods. I tried to “just eat better”. Tried that for years. Never worked. Finally I made an actual Word document of my grocery list and put on it things like: bananas, salad, cherry tomatoes, yogurt, etc… Every week, I print out a new shopping list and circle what I want to get.
Also, there is a distinct LACK of junk food items on my list. If you focus on the list at the store, there will be no need to go to the junk food isle. Now, I’m not saying we don’t ever eat junk food, or that my diet is the epitome of health. But at least 4 times a week, I eat a huge salad and drink a whole fruit smoothie. And for the most part, not a day goes by that I don’t eat both fruits and vegetable.
I even made a list, of sorts, of our meal plans. I actually print them out and hang them on the refrigerator. If you have a healthy meal of salmon and steamed broccoli on the list for Friday, then you are more likely to actually COOK that healthy meal!
Lists are also helpful when you need to, in some way, prepare for a “happiness activity”. For years, I kept thinking it might be a good idea to try some form of relaxation music or guided meditation to help me sleep. It wasn’t until I actually wrote it down on a “to-do” list, that I bought some and tried it (and it works miracles for my insomnia!)
Simply making a list of all the things you can do to be happy is a great place to start! Then make a list of all the supplies and/or preparations you need to make in order to start doing those happy things.
Check out my original post, How To Be Happy, for help getting started with your list!
- Throw out (or at least store away) the things that counter happiness.
These are the things that you practice being UNHAPPY with. You don’t want any more practice with that emotion. Get those things away from you, at least for a while.
Pictures can be particularly detrimental to your happiness, especially pictures of your ex or deceased loved ones. You may think, “I have to leave that picture out as a way to remember the person.” Do you really think you will forget them if you stop looking at their picture? It could even be things like baby pictures of your kids if you’re experiencing “empty nest” blues, or pictures of your younger self, if you’re experiencing mid-life crises blues.
Sad movies, old love letters, that giant bag of cheese puffs, your divorce decree, those political blogs that get your blood boiling on a regular basis. What are the things that you focus on that instill negative feelings? If you can’t throw them away all together, then pack them up safely and store them as far away from you as possible.
- Enlist the help of others.
I asked my kids and husband what kind of healthy food they would eat – and put it on my shopping list. I asked them to point out when I say a bad word. I told my son that if I don’t feel like walking the dogs, for him to push me out the door. Also, dog walking is now a group activity for me and my son. We go together. It increases the joy I feel when walking the dogs, and also gives me extra motivation to get out the door! 🙂
Try to enlist others to participate in an activity with you, like walking, that will bring you happiness. Peer pressure can work for good as well as evil!
Simply telling those around you to point out when you are being grumpy goes a long way in helping you stay focused on being happy.
I love chocolate. It brings me – fleeting – joy when I eat it. My husband knows this, and bless his heart, would bring me chocolate all the dang time. But after the joy of eating chocolate always comes the sadness. 😦 Ladies, you know what I’m talking about. I finally just told my husband NOT to bring me chocolate any more. Man, my hips wish I had asked him that years ago. 😉
- Schedule your happiness.
Make every Tuesday board game night. Every Sunday, pizza and movie night. Attend a social gathering every other Saturday of the month. Find groups that interest you on Meetup.com. Schedule dog walks at the same time every morning.
Schedules help keep you organized, focused, and give you the ability to easily monitor your progress. It’s also easier to say no to things that counter your happiness. The guys from work ask you to go out for a drink with them (and you have a drinking problem), “No, sorry, it’s game night”. Feel like sitting in front of the TV all evening doing nothing? Too bad, you’ve got knitting club tonight.
- Don’t try to do too many happy things at once.
If you try to incorporate every happy thing on your master list all at once, you will become overwhelmed, and in turn frustrated. That will lead to you giving up on all this “happiness business”. Implement these changes slowly, one or two things at a time. Give each thing a chance to become a habit before moving on to the next thing.
Of course, the more positive things you can infuse into your life, the better, so by all means if you are the person who can do a complete turn-around, go for it. Just be aware of the fact that you may have to slow down and take baby steps. If you find that you have taken on too much “happiness” all at once, slow down! 😉
Okay! So, now you know what happiness is – and is not. And you know that you are going to have to start practicing being happy on a regular basis. By now, you should have a master list of happy things you want to start doing. The next step – start doing them!
My suggestion is to start with the simplest things, and work your way up to the more complex, labor intensive ones. Check out my original post, How To Be Happy for ideas, but definitely write down your own master list.
My next post on happiness: How To Be Happy – Say Happy Things.