5 little ways to feel happier

Sunshine and shadows in the garden
When was the last time you felt happy? I don't mean the little 'yessss' moments in life, like when there's a seat on the bus or the good cheese is on sale at Sainsbury's. I mean truly happy, the kind that makes you feel calm and content? For some people, that might be hard to answer. 

It's not that we don't feel happy in our day-to-day lives, most of us do. The problem is we're so busy thinking of yesterday or tomorrow that we don't stop to register the feeling properly. Just as the emotion hits it's chased away again by work, stress or a stream of over-active thoughts.

Since I've started learning about what it means to be mindful, I've realised my mind is often so preoccupied with the future (job, flat, life, money, ahhh) that I don't give it a chance to be happy with the present moment. Instead of crashing through life worrying about what's happening next, I decided to try being more mindful and to fully embrace the happy moments in every day. 

Below are a few things which I do to make myself more mindful so that I'm aware of the happy moments.

"Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your actions." – The Dalai Lama 

Golden afternoon sun always makes me happy
Nature
Being outside, surrounded by nature, is a good place to start if you want to feel happier. Remember the last time you were by the sea, watching or listening to the waves probably made you feel very calm. Back at home, away from the beach, it can feel a million miles from that calm feeling, but you can recreate it in your everyday life. 

Breathe in the cold, energising wind as it brushes your cheek on the train platform, notice changes to the light as you leave the house each morning, take ten minutes on your lunch break to walk through a park or notice the colour of the sky on your way home from work

Write it down
When I was travelling around India and Sri Lanka I kept a journal. Every day I wrote three happy moments, sometimes big and sometimes small, to keep me feeling positive (even when I was worried or homesick) and make sure I enjoyed my time away to the fullest. I never included a negative thought, if something bad happened I would change my attitude and say "I was really happy when we survived the overnight train..." It meant that during the day I would often think of how I could write each moment in a positive way. 

Keep a journal next to your bed and try writing one happy moment at the end of each day.

Stretch
Whether it's a sweaty class or 15 minutes of gentle stretches before bed, yoga always makes me happy and gets good energy flowing. It's not just about the endorphin-high which comes with exercise. It's the combination of deep breathing, connecting mind with body and using all your muscles. It's impossible not to smile after a good yoga practice! 

Don't be put off if you're not flexible or can't touch your toes, when I went to my first yoga class in Goa I was as bendy as an ironing board. Start slow with some breathing and basic stretches. For a more guided practice, I like Yoga With Adriene or Alo Yoga on YouTube.

Practice gratitude
I first read about gratitude when I was in Sri Lanka, in a book about the basics of buddhism. It's a way of appreciating and finding joy in what we have right now, instead of wishing for something to be different and believing that will eventually make us happy. The longer we spend living in the past or future, the more unhappiness will continue to grow. I do this mostly when I'm feeling like I need a boost and it always leaves me feeling more optimistic. 

In the morning or before bed, mentally list things you're grateful for. Or write them down in your journal. 

Eat something that makes you feel good
For me, sometimes that's a big bowl of fresh, crunchy vegetables with tofu and tahini and other times it's two helpings of homemade macaroni cheese. Listen to your body, only you know what you need. One evening in Sri Lanka I was so homesick, I couldn't get myself out of it. Jack said "what can we do to make you happier?" My reply was "I need dessert." As soon as I demolished a giant chocolate, banana and coconut roti with ice cream I was smiling again. 

1 comment:

  1. Nice post Issie :) I like all your suggestions and try to incorporate them all (I really need to work on the nature one!). I personally find the thing that affects my happiness most is my faith. When it is stronger I can find happiness and even joy in even physically and emotionally painful times. I also find that I am happiest when focused on the happiness of others. Making my own happiness a priority never seems to achieve more than temporary pleasure, rather than the deeper happiness or even joy that seems to flow from this times when I manage to go against my selfish nature.

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