This article was originally featured in Bella Grace Issue 19
I absolutely love this quote by Jack Kerouac: “Be in love with your life.” We’re always searching for ways to bring more happiness, peace, love, and magic into our everyday lives. Tons of books on the subject line bookshelves: “The Happiness Project,” “The How of Happiness,” “Stumbling on Happiness,” and the list goes on. I’m all about the beauty of the everyday, uncovering blessings, and buckets full of happiness, so I’ve put together 10 things you can do to practice everyday happiness.
Gratitude is a form of magic. I started writing gratitude lists many years ago when I was going through a particularly rough time after moving to a new city and job searching. It was amazing how much it lifted my mood and helped me realize all the great things about my life. I still write gratitude lists almost every day, even if they’re just mini lists. They’re especially helpful on those grumpy days or when you feel lacking. Expressing gratitude helps us focus on the present moment and appreciate everything we already have. After all, everything you now have was something you once wanted.
Activity: At the end of your day, write a gratitude list. It doesn’t have to be long or complicated. Think of three things you really loved about the day and write those down.
If you’re holding grudges you’re not hurting anyone but yourself. It’s kind of like you’re keeping yourself prisoner. I like one of the exercises Janet Connor uses in her book “The Lotus and the Lily”: close your eyes and see yourself walking through a prison. Everyone behind bars are people you have not been able to forgive. One by one, say, “I forgive you,” and release them. Forgiving doesn’t mean you condone whatever the person did to you. It doesn’t mean what they did is excusable. It means letting go so that you can move on with your life. They’ve probably moved on. Why wouldn’t you grant yourself that same freedom? By forgiving, you’re taking back control and defining your life in a new, more positive way.
Activity: Practice the forgiveness exercise above, as many times as you need. See how you feel after releasing those feelings and forgiving those people behind bars.
Whether it’s an act of kindness that’s recognized or something in secret, promoting others’ happiness gives us the warm fuzzies. And there are so many ways to do it! Buy lunch for whomever is behind you in the drive-thru line; slip positive affirmations in library books for people to find; give a flower to a random person; volunteer; bake cookies for your neighbor; offer to pet sit for free. Making someone else’s day brightens our own.
Activity: Think of one thing you can do this week to brighten someone’s day. Then do it!
We all know the benefits of exercise and eating healthy: improves mood, boosts energy, lowers stress. So what’s keeping us from incorporating it into our lives? Sometimes it’s a time constraint, sometimes it’s laziness, but there’s really no excuse not to do some form of movement each day. Maybe that means doing some simple stretches in the morning or taking a dance class. Whatever sounds fun to you. Listen to your body — what is it saying?
Activity: Set aside five minutes today to move your body. Stretch at your desk or circle your joints or do jumping jacks during commercial breaks. Then move a little bit more tomorrow. The more you do it, the easier it gets.
I know what it’s like to feel stuck, like there’s no point in even bothering because the odds are stacked against you. Depressing! One small action a day can combat this. One small action towards your dream can make all the difference because it gives you concrete evidence that the dream is within reach. That it’s real. Track your progress, check things off your dream to-do list, and go to bed satisfied.
Activity: Create a micro-movements list to help you move towards your goals. For example, if you want to start a novel your micro-movement might be, open notebook/computer document and write down ideas (5 minutes). It’s only five minutes! After that you can stop or keep going. I bet you keep going.
The comparison game is frustrating. Trying to be everyone else is tiring. You can only be you, and that is enough. It’s more than enough! When you ease into who you are, things flow. You are weird/beautiful/wild/loving/gentle/daring/creative and that is amazing! What is even more amazing is that there is only one of you and there will only ever be one of you. Celebrate that.
Activity: Write yourself a love letter. Describe everything that amazes you about YOU.
Michele Connolly has a nice list of happiness tricks, and I especially like #4: Have something to look forward to. I like little rituals; transitions that help us ease into moments in our day. Like Michele says, these are things we look forward to. When I was working the 8-5, I enjoyed making that first cup of coffee before diving into paperwork and emails. Other rituals might include reading a poem in the morning, 4:00 p.m. tea, a bath before bed, or whatever makes your heart sing.
Activity: Start a small ritual that you look forward to and can easily incorporate into each day.
Magic is all around us. Sometimes you have to look a little deeper, but it’s there. Living poetry. The flicker of candle flames, the way the earth smells after it rains, the texture and color of flowers, even weeds. It’s all magical when you stop to really look/smell/touch/taste it.
Activity: Find a small bit of magic in your day and write about it in a form that is comfortable for you (journal, poem, blog post, list, etc.)
Even if you’re on a strict budget, you can allow yourself a luxury here and there. It’s like being on a diet and restricting yourself from chocolate for six months. At some point, you’re really going to crave chocolate and if you deny yourself every time, you’re missing out on some major happiness points. Little luxuries can be moments or purchases or experiences. Maybe it’s lighting a candle and giving yourself 10 minutes to daydream or journal. Maybe it’s a bouquet of peonies that you place on your bedside table. Maybe it’s walking through the park and taking photos.
Activity: Think of something you’ve been denying yourself or something that you’ve really wanted, but haven’t gotten around to yet. Now allow yourself to have it. It’s okay.
It’s time to spring-clean your life to make way for more magic and happiness. Get rid of the clothes that don’t fit, the books you don’t read, all the little knickknacks collecting dust, and the people who drain you. This stuff weighs us down, creates clutter in our minds, and stops us from moving forward. Get rid of it and watch miracles make their way into your life.
Activity: Let go, let go, let go. Donate books and clothes, clear the clutter, release negative self-talk, remove people from your list of Facebook friends. Get rid of the old and broken to make way for the new and improved.
Cassandra Key is an American ex-pat living in the Philippines and spends her days beach bumming, wedding blogging, and writing for her own blog, The Sacred Middle, where she writes about happiness, magic, and self-love. Someday she hopes to write a young-adult novel and have tea in England. You can follow along with her at thesacredmiddle.com