I listen to a lot of podcasts and lately I’ve noticed a trend. More and more they are talking about happiness: how to find it, how to keep it, why it escapes us. Strangely I realized I hadn’t given happiness much thought lately; apart from knowing when I am unhappy, I tend to just live. I think that means I must be mostly happy, but clearly so many of us aren’t. While I’m not an actual happiness expert (Y’all. This is a real thing!), I am an expert in having been very unhappy, miserable even, and turning things around.
Keys to a Happier 2018
A lot of people tend to have little idea of what meditation is apart from picturing a person sitting cross-legged, hands on knees chanting “ommmmm,” but it’s much (MUCH) more than that. In simple terms, meditation is a brain exercise that teaches you to live only in the present moment. As I said here, I am inside my head entirely too much. I think about the past, worry for the future, and almost never dwell in the here and now. Meditation is helping me to rectify that, slowly (very slowly) but surely. On the days I meditate, I sleep better. I am more patient with my children, and overall I feel much more relaxed.
What used to be thought of (and likely still is by some) as a hokey practice done by strange people, now has legitimate scientific studies to back it up. Meditation improves your immune function, tends to make you more compassionate, and actually changes your brain composition. How crazy is that?
If you’re like me and have NO idea where to begin, I suggest the Calm app. Here, you can find meditations for nearly everything (sleep, anxiety, focus. They even have bedtime stories!) for about five bucks a month. Trust me, it’s 100% worth it!
move your body
Doesn’t that sound better than simply telling you to exercise? You don’t have to join a gym or start doing crossfit or anything that feels like drudgery. All I’m suggesting is that you get out and move for a period of time that is plausible every day. Do yoga. Go for a walk. Dance. Endorphins are real, and they really make you feel amazing. As a recovering couch potato, exercise has become one of the best parts of my day.
try something new
Last year, I did two new things that terrified me: I got bangs and I started this blog. I realize that perhaps getting bangs may seem like no big deal, but it was a big deal for me.
Maybe neither of these things seems like a big deal to you, and that’s okay; the point is they challenged me and forced me out of my very cozy comfort zone.
This year, I’m doing a Warrior Dash with my husband in April (thoughts and prayers appreciated).
Whatever your “something new” is, it needs to scare you. Maybe you’ll be great at it and maybe you won’t. As is usually the case, the outcome is less important than what you learn and accomplish on the journey. Knowing you did something scary, even if you didn’t do it well, will give you a flood of confidence. You’ll stop living in fear and worrying about failure, and you’ll start feeling like you’re capable of anything. (Spoiler alert: YOU. ARE.)
do something that’s just for you
If you are a woman reading this, I am giving you permission to be a little more selfish this year. Whether you’re focused on family or career, odds are you tend to pay yourself last and end up feeling worn down, discouraged, and completely exhausted.
Honestly, when was the last time you did something for yourself without feeling guilty? If you want to be happier this year, you’ve got to give yourself a little love and feel good about it!
Buy yourself fresh flowers once a week. Allow yourself a solo trip to Target, even if you don’t buy anything. Take a cooking class, just because you want to learn to cook something new. It doesn’t need to be extravagant or expensive. It just needs to nourish you and leave you feeling like you’ve been given a gift.
As women we tend to think that it is our duty to sacrifice ourselves for the betterment of other people. I have no idea where this notion comes from, and I am not the person who will tell you to continue down this road. YOU ARE A PERSON WITH NEEDS! Before you were a mother or a business owner or anything else in between, you were someone who found joy in things. Find that person again and make time for her!
Ah, this again. I hate to beat a dead horse but having realistic expectations is vital to your happiness. Don’t set out to become a “new you.” The idea that in a year’s time you are expected to change every single thing about you to achieve this “new you” is crazy and impossible and has a fail rate of 100%. It’s likely that the current you is delightful but like the rest of us, just needs some polishing. Set out to become a better you, instead. Better is achievable. It’s quantifiable, too. Do you have more energy? Feel more optimistic? Can you run a faster mile than you could last year? That. Is. BETTER.
In the same vein, don’t tell yourself this will be the “best year ever.” In order to be the best year of my life, I would need this year to present me with zero trials or difficult days or anything unpleasant. Someone would also need to pay my bills. In other words, nothing that could ever realistically happen. This year will bring you joy and pain, victories and lessons. It will be valuable even if it turns out to be one of your more difficult years. Accept that you will struggle at some point this year, and instead of “the best year ever” aim to have a year of growth. Of wisdom and awareness. Of better.
Last year, I gave birth to the most precious little blonde boy in the world, and I also suffered with postpartum depression. Despite its many challenges, 2017 was a good year for me, and I expect the same from 2018. I also expect to struggle. Such is life, but I am learning to be okay with the juxtaposition.
I’m learning that our idea of happiness all wrong: as an end-point on a map. That once we have that job or that man or that baby, THEN we will be happy. Unfortunately, when you get there, there will be new reasons to be unhappy (job responsibilities you hate, your messy husband or boyfriend, your baby who refuses to sleep).
Happiness is a process that is endless; some days it will come easily, others less so. This year I encourage you to embrace the process, to delight in the small things, to look for reasons to be grateful. If you can do any or all of these things, I’ve sneaky suspicion that you will find yourself happier.
I want to know: How do you plan to seek happiness this year?