This week I have been thinking a lot about happiness. It all began when one of my oldest and dearest friends, Sarah Messer, posted a link on Twitter about the topic (her first of two on the subject this week). In the first, Paula Davis-Laack, writes about the “10 Things Happy People Do Differently”. In the second, Ashley Fern writes about the “20 Things You Need To Let Go To Be Happy”. Both articles are filled with great advice, a lot of which I’ve used over the course of my life.
I have always been blessed by being a very happy person. However, as life gets busier, and stress levels get higher, I’ve realized that it is important to reflect on the things that make you happy and to focus on using certain practices to improve happiness and overall well-being. With that in mind, I have decided to spice up my blog by not only focusing on the wonderful culture and city that is NYC, but also on other things that are important to me. Today, that is happiness. In reflecting on what I think are the keys to happiness, I came up with the following.
Take 5 minutes for yourself every day. It may sound odd, but when I’m having a bad day, the first thing I’ll do is go to Starbucks and indulge in my favorite $5 drink. For some reason, there is an extremely calming effect that a Venti Ice Non-Fat Chai has on me. I don’t know why, and I don’t need to, it just works. Do whatever it is that makes you happy for 5 minutes each day, especially on a bad one, whether it’s meditating, reading a few pages of a great book, or sipping on Starbucks. I promise after those 5 minutes, you’ll already start feeling better.
Live a healthy lifestyle. As a lifelong athlete, I’ve always spent a lot of time playing sports, working out, and being very active. It was 7 years ago when I also began to realize how food could completely change your lifestyle. When I was told I could no longer eat gluten, I was totally bummed, but I’ve realized over the years how good food and an active lifestyle can completely make or break your mood. By thinking about the things you are putting into your body, and how they are making you feel, you can be on the track to happiness with even minor adjustments. Do whatever is right for you, but that probably does not mean a sedentary lifestyle with non-nutritious food.
Value your friendships. I have absolutely wonderful friends in my life. I know they will always be there for me, and I for them. That being said, friendships take work. Stop thinking about how you need to call that friend you haven’t seen since last year – do it today. By regularly checking in with your friends, and telling them how much you appreciate them, you will feel better, and so will they. Start the cycle, and it’s going to lead to increased happiness for all.
Fall in love and give it everything you’ve got. I never thought that I would add this to a happiness list, since for the first 25 years of my life, I was extremely independent and totally happy in my singleness. For some, this part of happiness may come sooner (or already be an amazing part of your life), while for others, you might not have found it quite yet. Wait for when it’s right. I was always told that I was “extremely picky” when it comes to men, but I was confident that I would know when it was right. And when I fell madly in love this year, I realized that I had been right – it truly is worth the wait. I would be remiss not to include my new favorite quote, from Bob Marley.
“He’s not perfect. You aren’t either, and the two of you will never be perfect. But if he can make you laugh at least once, causes you to think twice, and if he admits to being human and making mistakes, hold onto him and give him the most you can. He isn’t going to quote poetry, he’s not thinking about you every moment, but he will give you a part of him that he knows you could break. Don’t hurt him, don’t change him, and don’t expect for more than he can give. Don’t analyze. Smile when he makes you happy, yell when he makes you mad, and miss him when he’s not there. Love hard when there is love to be had. Because perfect guys don’t exist, but there’s always one guy that is perfect for you.”
Find a job you are passionate about. When I was a senior in high school, someone said something to me that struck such a chord that I still think about it often. I was on my fourth year of being a tour guide, and I was starting to feel senioritis. This person said to me, “Kate, I think you should bow out, because I don’t think your heart is in it anymore.” I was shocked. I have always done my best to go above and beyond in everything I do, and all of a sudden I was not. It was the first time someone had ever called me out on it. Living a full and happy life is truly about finding what you love to do, and pursuing it with your whole self. If you start to feel otherwise, re-evaluate and find your new career happiness.
Give to Others. A book recently came out, entitled “Give and Take”, by Adam Grant. Adam talks extensively about the idea that giving can be the secret to getting ahead. I also know that giving makes you happy. My office wall is plastered with printed e-mails from students who have written to me about how important I was to their success, and how they are so happy to have been a beneficiary of my time. Nothing makes me happier than that.
Let Go of your past. This is the area I struggle the most with, when it comes to being happy. As is referenced in Ashley Fern’s article, you need to let go of your baggage. We’ve all been hurt, but we cannot judge current relationships or situations by those that may haunt us. Now is the time to just let it go. Drop your insecurities, and be confident in who you are and where you are in life. If you continue to have trouble in this area, there is no shame in asking for help.
Get in touch with your spiritual side. I was raised Catholic, and going to church was always a big part of my life. As I got older, I became less religious, but more spiritual. I still go to church often (though have found I am more comfortable at the Episcopal Church) and pray almost every day. Do I really know what I believe in? No. But, I find it calming to think about the possibility of something greater than us out there.
Have Goals. Write down your goals. This is said again and again, but it is critical to success and happiness. Think about where you want to be 5 or 10 years from now. And then create specific goals for the next 1-2 years. I promise that when you look at your goals every day, you will be more excited, passionate, and happy.