We all lead fast-paced lives, but within that busy-ness, we need to take an active role in our own happiness. But there’s no one way, and no one right way, to positively impact our contentment, so we need a variety of strategies in what I like to call our “happiness toolbox.”
Like a parent who uses an array of methods to motivate or discipline a child with different circumstances requiring different tools, it’s important to have options and ideas for your own well-being. The key is to stock up on pick-me-ups so you always have a selection of fresh ways to improve your mood.
Like any skill, the more we practice something, the easier it becomes. Focusing on the good in our lives works the same way — the more we deliberately shift ourselves toward noticing the positives, the more natural it feels.
So, the next time you’re having a tough morning getting the kids out, or experiencing a stressful afternoon at work, open your happiness toolbox, and find something that will work best for you at that moment. Perhaps it’s calling your mother to apologize for the times you made her crazy and to tell her you appreciate her, or taking a few deep breaths and a cup of tea alone. Identify a collection of ways to consciously improve your state of happiness.
Here are some ideas to get you started:
- A brisk walk, alone or with a friend. Enjoy the companionship — or the silence — and the outdoor air; look around, and savor and observe the details along the way.
- Write in a gratitude journal. Pausing to recognize even the smallest thing that makes you grateful can fill you with peace.
- Clip and give away flowers from your garden or prepare extra portions of your dinner and surprise a neighbor with a meal. Research consistently shows that giving is an instant boost to your spirit.
- Handwrite a note to a friend, a parent, a spouse or one of your kids. This simple act of sharing what you feel with someone you care about can be worth more than any purchased present.
- Take a moment to stretch out in any way that feels good to you. Slow and deepen your breathing while you reach for the floor, ceiling, and each wall and corner of the room. Elongate and open yourself physically and emotionally while you release negative thoughts and bodily tensions. Breathe.
- Thumb through an old photo album. Reliving a vacation or a meaningful family moment can instantly lift your mood.
Like in parenting, a tool we use on Monday may not be as effective on Tuesday, but try it again next week and it’s magic again. So take out a happiness tool, test it out, see how it feels. Take action and try new tools to actively construct your own happiness.
Your happiness toolbox can be stored in your mind or you can create a special box or an envelope of pretty paper and tuck in ideas. Having physical reminders or lists to choose from can be effective if you’re in a grumpy mindset. Write your tools on wooden clothespins and clip them to a ribbon or around a throw pillow, write them on slips of paper and put them in a jar, or paint words on stones and pull one from a glass bowl when you’re deciding what to do. Creating a toolbox that shows your style is an act in itself that can make you smile.
Learning about what affects happiness and how you can have an impact on your own joy puts more tools at your disposal. Explore by setting and achieving goals — this week, maybe you’ll select and wrap the perfect gift or stop to notice the morning frost on a leaf. Or, perhaps, you’ll experiment by pausing to imagine how someone with whom you disagree feels or by making a list of everything you’re thankful for today.
These tools are all gifts to yourself and, in turn, to those around you.
What can you add to your happiness toolbox today?