Are you happy? What does that even mean? Does it mean people see a smile on your face as you walk by? Does it mean you are able to pay your bills and buy the things you desire? Perhaps you have a life rich with family and friends?The pursuit of happiness is ingrained in the very foundation of the United States. “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” words in the Declaration of Independence that provide three instances of the “unalienable rights” which the Declaration says has been given to us by our Creator, and governments have been created to protect. Powerful stuff, and yet, you don’t have to go far to find those you are bogged down by discontent, often we only have to look in the mirror to find stress, weariness, and unhappiness.
Have you heard of the World Happiness Report? Since 2011, annual surveys are done in participating countries, 80% of countries participate, and are ranked using “GDP”, “Social Support”, “Health Life Expectancy”, “Freedom to Make Life Choices”, “Generosity”, and “Trust”. If you are curious, Happiest People in the World, the United States #13. Being happy keeps us healthy, it spreads to those around us, and it makes us shine. So what are some of the best ways to make your soul smile?
- You Are What You Eat. Simple. Putting good things into your body makes you smile from the inside. Unhealthy food makes you sick, overweight, and not feel good about yourself. Happy: whole, organic, free range, cage free, hormone free, fresh. Sad:processed, corn syrup, MSG (and its many aliases), artificial sweeteners and preservatives, just about any ingredient you can’t pronounce. Want to start eating healthy? If you just stop buying products with MSG and corn syrup you will eliminate hundreds of other poisonous ingredients from your diet because companies that put either of these into your food care about profits and not your health. Be kind to your body, and your body will be kind to you. The cherry on the cake? You will also reduce your global footprint; and rather than being part of the problem, you become part of the solution.
- Follow Your Heart: Find Something You Love to Do. You have one life to live, make the most of it. Do you hate your job? Is your career simply a means to make money? Don’t settle! You will most likely spend about half of your adult life working, do something you enjoy, something that lights a fire in you. Work is rarely all roses, there will always be good days and bad days, times of satisfaction and times of stress. But, when the bad days and stress outweigh the good days and satisfaction, it could be time to make a change- don’t just think about it, make it happen. Remember, your life is your car, you are the driver and the navigator, no one else can get you to your destination except for you.
- Exercise, Your Body Is a Temple. 35.7% of Americans are obese. We spend tens of billions of dollars each year on health issues caused by being overweight including heart disease, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and depression… just to name a few. Weight gain, and loss, is not rocket science. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain. Exercise is a key to happiness. You will control your weight, feel good about yourself, and live a healthier life. 20 minutes of quick walking a day not only greatly reduces your chance of heart disease, but it also helps clear your mind and gets you away from your smartphone or television- an oasis of clarity in our often busy days. Feeling more motivated than the walk? Join the gym, enter a 5k, challenge yourself and reap the rewards.
- Volunteer. Gandhi said, “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” Volunteering comes in a countless number of shapes and sizes. The first thought may be that it means working at a soup kitchen, and while that can be an incredible and humbling experience, there are literally tens of thousands of ways to volunteer. Whether it is helping people, animals, or the environment, there are ways to get involved. Not everyone has time every week, don’t let that deter you. Start out by volunteering one time, people will grateful, and you will be rewarded by feeling the strength that comes from doing something for someone other than yourself and those in your immediate circle. Idealist.org and VolunteerMatch are great resources, don’t be shy, reach out and give… you will be amazed at the Karma that back.
- Stay Connected to the People in Your Life. It is a well-known fact that people with strong support networks have a better chance at fighting disease than those who face their problems alone. The science behind this? Love, friendship, support. It is easy to get caught up in our busy lives and forget about friends and family. Especially as we get older, we can often care less about making friends and being social, but the importance of these things never fades. Call an old friend, go visit your family, take a break from work to have lunch with a co-worker that you would like to get to know better. Talking, listening, sharing thoughts over a healthy meal… this is the essence of life and one of the gifts been given in being human.
- Pursue a Hobby. Has binge-watching Netflix series become the most significant tour de force in your day? Have you become jaded, passionless? Press the restart button and live! Try a yoga class. Pole dancing anyone? Try a local social sports network, dodgeball! Knit, cook, grow some plants, take a hike, go camping, paint, draw, do a DIY home project, play some board games, go to a concert, try cooking a new recipe, look up some free community events and go to some, write, take dance lessons, read a book, learn a language, go to a museum, learn photography and share your pictures, fly a kite, get a pet… there is so much to do- LIVE!