So maybe you’ve had a bad day . . . week . . . month . . . year. Maybe you’ve got the holiday blues. Maybe you’re frustrated because you have every reason in the world to be happy and thankful, but you just can’t seem to pull yourself out of this ho-hum slump. All you know is that there is something dragging you down these days, and you can’t seem to snap yourself out of it. You are not alone my friend. I know for a fact that happiness ebbs and flows, and sometimes those ebbs seem to be daunting and endless. I have compiled a few words of wisdom from others (as well as a few gems spawned straight from my endless, inner monologue) that have helped me find the happiness flow when I’m feeling blue.
Act the Way You Want to Feel – according to one of my absolute favorite authors, and my personal happiness guru, Gretchen Rubin, “[a]lthough we presume that we act because of the way we feel, in fact, we often feel because of the way we act.” I’ve gleaned so much wisdom from Gretchen’s books, blog, and podcast, that I can honestly say she has changed my life. Just the other day I was feeling super negative. My friend came to pick me up for a movie, and I immediately started complaining. Literally opened the door, sat down, said hello, and began ranting and raving about how annoying my day had been. She sweetly sat in silence and let me vent my frustrations until I talked myself right into the realization that I was being a Negative Nancy. Recognizing that I didn’t want to bring down our movie night with my negativity, I just started laughing. I was frustrated, tired, annoyed, and irritated, but I wanted to feel happy and positive, so I just started laughing at how ridiculous it all was. I’m not going to pretend that everything that I was originally annoyed about went away, but laughing at it all definitely made me feel more vibrant, and the stressors of the day didn’t seem to be as relevant as the night wore on. (PS since you are on your epic quest for happiness, I highly recommend checking out Gretchen’s website)
Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – I’m sure you’ve heard it before. After all, Richard Carlson, coined this phrase as the title of his bestseller, and with over 25 million copies in print, maybe he was on to something. This one might be tough to implement in the moment, after all, the dog peed on the carpet again, your husband forgot to pick up toothpaste on his way home from work, the baby has an ear infection, and you haven’t slept for more than two consecutive hours in over a week. Each and every one of those things is reason enough to be completely bugged, and here you are dealing with all of them simultaneously, how are you supposed to be happy in the midst of it all? So here’s a tidbit of advice from Richard Carlson himself, “you will never be completely free from life’s little annoyances, but you can become free from feeling annoyed.” If it isn’t the dog urinating, or your hubs forgetting to run an insanely small errand, it’s going to be the leaky faucet or the toddler who doesn’t pick up his toys. There is always, always, always going to be something looming over your head, and the actual, literal, only thing you have control over is your reaction to it. Easier said than done, I know. This isn’t one of those “oh, okay, I’ll just not be stressed by that thing anymore, gotcha.” This takes practice, sometimes years of practice, but a little goes a long way. So, when you stub your toe later today, choose to take a deep breath instead of spewing out your favorite four letter friends, find a go-to mantra to utter on repeat, and walk it off, because let’s be real, you’ve been through much worse, and you always come out ahead.
Enjoy Small Things – I know what you’re thinking. We can’t “sweat the small stuff” but we should “enjoy small things,” isn’t that kind of hypocritical? It’s not, and here’s why . . . both ideologies center around the same focal point: positive mind = positive life. While we shouldn’t let those tiny annoyances bring down our days, we do have the opportunity to allow those tiny victories to uplift us. So, as you entertain your nephew with a silly face, drink up that baby belly laugh. When you schedule lunch with a childhood friend, put your phone away and enjoy a few chuckles over the good ol’ days. When you whip up pancakes for your daughter, make a happy face out of blueberries just to see her smile. Play cards. Cook dinner. Take a bubble bath. Workout. The list is literally endless.
Do Unto Others – I’m sure I’m not the only one who gets bogged down with life sometimes. We all do a million things everyday, and there still seems to be a million things on the To-Do list when we can’t fall asleep at night. In fact, the other day I was feeling ridiculously unappreciated, and I was beginning to wallow in self pity until these words danced into my stream of consciousness. At that moment, I decided to heed this advice: I have a friend who bends over backwards for his family, friends, and coworkers, and I suspected that he wasn’t receiving the appreciation he deserves either. So, I sent him a brief text letting him know how much I appreciate everything he has done for me. I immediately felt the weight of self deprecation lifted off of my shoulders, and his thankful response later in the day sent me another jolt of happiness knowing that I was able to make his day a little bit brighter. Sometimes, we just need to take a few moments out of our busy lives to brighten someone else’s day in order to bring a little perspective to our own disorder. In other words, even when you’re not feeling it, pay it forward.
Set Your Intention – this concept first struck me as I was sweating through one of my 21 Day Fix workouts and Autumn Calabrese said “set your intention for your workout.” It never occurred to me before. I had never realized that so many times I would start my day, or a workout, or a project, with half-assed intentions, and then I would sit wondering at the end of it why I wasn’t satisfied.
The first time I heard her utter these words, I immediately changed my outlook, not just for my workout (although that was truly the best workout I’ve ever had), but for my day and my life overall. Even though I’ve always known that my mind could play powerful tricks, I never fully grasped how true that was until I began to willfully set my intention each and every day. I’ll be real here, there are days when I do NOT set my intention, and I absolutely, 100% know the difference by the end of the day. If you’ve never tried it, I’m sure it sounds crazy, but trust me on this. Start small, set your intention for a workout, a meeting, a presentation, a blind date, anything. Tell yourself before it begins that this is going to be a fantastic workout/meeting/presentation/date/etc. Give yourself a few minutes to let a few negative thoughts come at you (I’m not strong enough, smart enough, pretty enough, whatever), and then debunk those thoughts with the truth about you (I AM strong enough, I AM smart enough, I AM pretty enough, and so on). Eventually you’ll be able to translate those small intentions for moments throughout the day into large intentions for your day as a whole, or your week, your month, or maybe even your life.
As you can see, I don’t quite have the happiness gig perfected. There are clearly moments and days when I throw myself a pity party for a little while until I recognize that I actually have the tools to just BE happy. The reality is, I think that’s okay. It’s normal. Is there really a person out there who can be happy in all things at all times? Nope!
That being said, it is completely and totally possible to find happiness when it doesn’t actually seem so obvious. It is possible to pull yourself out of a slump. It is possible to look for and see the good around you. It is possible to spread joy when you’re feeling like a Debbie Downer.
What about you? Do you have any tips or tricks to staying happy when times are tough? I’d love to hear your thoughts on the matter, so drop a comment below and let’s chat!