Chasing Happiness [11 Ways to Get Happy Fast]
Humans talk a lot about happiness. We all want it, so why is it so hard to find, let alone keep?
Humans talk a lot about happiness. Just Google the word #happiness and you’ll find over 1.2 billion results. Search “how to be happy” and you’ll find over 5.5 billion results. Companies spend millions on marketing their products to us, working to convince you that their product will solve all your problems and finally bring you that happiness you've been searching for.
The word #happy is one of the first emotions we learn about as babies. It is a treasured emotion that we value and embrace. Our culture has inserted happiness as mandatory emotion our celebrations (i.e. “Happy Birthday”, “Happy Anniversary”, “Happy Holidays”). It has been deemed such a basic emotion that deep down we start to wonder why we have such a hard time keeping it around. Have we overused the word to the point that we now feel that we can’t even live up to its high expectation?
It’s no new news that depression is at an all-time high in the U.S. From kids to the elderly, no one is immune. I have seen this disease consume my most beloved and nearly destroy them. I have read hundreds of articles on depression, watched videos, talked to experts, just hoping to find the answer to this thing that plagues the people I love. I personally do not suffer from depression but like most people, I often feel #theblues, lack of motivation, #theblahs, and have a general feeling of emptiness at times. Thanks to the pandemic, I think most people experienced varying degrees of the same. Once again, I dove back into my files about happiness. I’m not claiming to be an expert or a psychologist, but I can say that the following methods have worked for us in my home and some of my past clients.
We all breathe, it’s a requirement for life. But not all of us B R E A T H E. By this I mean stopping and taking long, purposeful breaths. Try this now: Close your eyes and take four slow counts in through your nose and eight slow counts out your mouth. Listen to the breath as it enters your nose. Feel your lungs and diaphragm expand. Then exhale hearing the woosh as it exits your body completely. Start to imagine your body from head to toe as the newly oxygenated blood rushes to the various parts of your body. Find the tensest places in your body and breathe out the tension with each breath. This is also the beginning of meditation, so if you didn’t see yourself as a meditation kind of person, this is an excellent place to start. Even for just a few minutes. Breathwork is a whole modality on its own that is showing incredible results for people and might be worth looking into for you too.
2. Enjoy the Silence
Seriously, turn it off. The news, social media, email, TV. Put your f-ing phone away. And turn off the damn notifications. I can’t believe how many people I know get notifications for the dumbest stuff. Do you really need to know every single tweet, news story, email, Facebook post, and Macy’s sale the second it happens? Give yourself the precious gift of not hearing that annoying ‘ding’ every five minutes! Did you know your phone notifications have been linked to increased anxiety? Try driving without music or podcasts. Sorry Spotify, we’re keeping you off today. If quiet makes you uncomfortable, then maybe that’s actually a sign that you need quiet even more than you realized.
For thousands of years, humans lived in harmony with the music of nature. It’s still part of who we are. I love camping for that reason. To get away from the hustle of noise and distraction and only hear the silence of the forest.
3. Move It!
Get off your butt and move. Walk around the block, climb a few flights of stairs, jump up and down for a few seconds, take the dog for a run through the park. Whatever it takes to get you out of your head and sweating a little. There is so much research out there talking about the link between exercise and happiness. It increases oxygen to the brain, plus releases dopamine and endorphins. There is new research suggesting exercise may generate new neurons in the hippocampus, the area of the brain associated with memory, learning, and emotions. So may reasons to sweat it out!
Why not try a little yoga? You don’t have to join a gym or spend a fortune at a yoga studio. YouTube is a goldmine for great yoga videos. Plus, no one is looking (or laughing) as you struggle to gain your balance doing the warrior pose. DoYou.com has a free 28 Day Yoga Challenge For Beginners you could try.
4. Write it out
Journals are “all the go” as my mother-in-law would say. I used to journal when I was young. I still have it and love looking back at what the teenage me was thinking. Boy crushes, girl drama, fights with my mom. I took pen to paper anytime there was a celebration, a heartbreak, or just needed to vent. Looking back it was probably one of the most healthy habits I had as a kid. Writing down my fears, frustrations, and challenges helped me get them out and analyze my thoughts. I still do it today but with a twist.
I have found that when I write out my feelings I feel better. I don’t necessarily give it to anyone, I just get it out. I used to type it up on my laptop and then delete it after I’ve had time to let it breathe. Recently I started doing burn journals. No, not the kind from Mean Girls. It’s kind of my own ritual where I write my frustrations about a specific situation in a notebook, bless it, and then burn it. It’s amazing how much it helps me let go of an issue. Honestly, my family doesn’t even know I do this. Of course, when they read this they will. But it’s just been that personal to me.
5. The Nose Knows
Seek out the smells that make you feel good. The nose knows how to make you happy. I am always diffusing something in my house. I have my arsenal of aromatherapy scents for de-stressing, energy, relaxation, meditation, and more. I use them all depending on what I sense the temperament in our house is. If everyone seems grumpy, out comes the jasmine or lavender. If everyone is tired or sluggish peppermint or lemongrass is on the menu.
We love to tease my oldest daughter incessantly for her affinity with the smell of rubber. She loves walking into a tire shop, it lifts her spirits in a heartbeat. I love the smell of fresh-baked banana bread. It’s a treat my mom makes regularly for my kids and the smell will forever remind me of her. My husband loves sweet scents. He is one of the only men I know who loves to go to Bath and Bodyworks to pick out hand soaps, it literally makes him smile. He also loves sweet-smelling candles; vanilla sugar cookie, watermelon, anything that makes my teeth hurt just smelling it. But if it makes him happy, who am I to deny him this?
6. Clear it Out
Clutter is the antithesis of happiness. Have you ever walked into a place that’s cluttered or had too much oversized furniture in a small space and instantly felt anxiety or claustrophobic? That’s because the energy in the room is stagnant. It can’t move around freely and gets stuck. Stuck energy makes people feel sad, immobilized, and unmotivated. Watch an episode of Hoarders to see extreme versions of this. Once space is cleared out, the energy can freely move about again. People feel alive again and have a newfound ambition.
Feng Shui experts explain there are multiple kinds of clutter we should be mindful of. In her book “Clear Your Clutter with Feng Shui”, Karen Kingston explains that clutter can include things you never thought of including things that are dirty, things that are broken, unfinished projects, even things that have bad memories attached to them, it also includes hidden clutter like the crap you shoved in your closet or drawers. Marie Kondo wasn’t kidding when she said clearing things out and cleaning up will Spark Joy.
How long has it been since you really sat and looked at the miracles around you? From the birds singing outside (seriously, listen to them. They literally talk to each other), the tiny details of a flower or a leaf, the easy laughter of a child. Make time to acknowledge and be grateful for all the little things, because there are millions of little things all around you.
Every morning when I wake up and try to start my day being grateful for everything I can think of, literally everything. I’m grateful for my bed, the safe neighborhood I’m in, the fact I can stand, my toothpaste. Literally anything I can think of for a few minutes. If I forget or if I wake up in a bad mood, I would do it on my commute to work. Anytime I do this, I start feeling better and my day goes better. I know it seems too simple of a thing, but it works!
8. Let the Sun Shine In
My house is naturally dark. We are on a hillside and are surrounded by trees. I wish my windows were bigger because my house needs light. Every morning I go around and open the blinds in every room. There is something that happens when the light comes in. The energy in the house shifts and things come alive. I believe sunshine is mother nature’s way of giving us a hug. We need to periodically go outside and sit in the sun for just a few minutes. Let that natural Vitamin D soak in and remind your body it’s alive.
I have also been systematically changing most of the lightbulbs in my house to “daylight bulbs”. Not only is the room brighter but it also increases energy because they mimic sunlight. Last winter I convinced my mom to buy them. She has always bought the soft white or the ones that cast a yellow hue (blah). A few weeks later she told me that she really noticed a difference with her winter blues. I didn’t even know she was feeling down, but many people in winter states suffer from winter depression, so I wasn’t exactly surprised either. You can also buy sunlight lamps from places like Amazon, but you might just need to start by changing out your lightbulbs!
9. Imagine and Create
Why is it we tend to only connect the imagination with kids? Adults have plenty of imagination, we just stop using it in the playful way that kids do. One of my favorite things about my career in developing kids' programming is that it lets my imagination run wild. I get to think like a kid again. I can let go of the serious and conventional, and dive into random absurdity, the wacky and the ridiculous! I also can get crazy with creativity. As a kid, I loved to draw and sketch. As a young mom, I got really into crafting and scrapbooking. In my career, I have done hundreds of graphic art projects, created backdrops, decorated for events and parties, and so much more. My husband on the other hand is a very analytical mind. But I find his creativity lies in puzzles or problems he can figure out. He loves to garden, cook, and do things that he can keep improving on. But he’s still using his imagination, and when he’s really into a project, he’s the happiest.
One day when we were hiking Stef mentioned that she used to love to sketch. But she hadn’t done it for years. So when I got home I ordered her a sketch pad and pencils and gave them to her the next time we were together. She was shocked. But for me, it was an obvious thing that she was stating she missed doing but hadn’t given herself the permission to do it. So I did it for her (also see #13). What kinds of creative things do you like to do that you aren’t doing any more? Baking? Sewing? Painting? What kinds of creative things used to make you happy? Coloring? Building? Dancing? Everyone has something, so stop thinking and start doing!
10. Binaural Beats
If you walk into my office, about 70% of the time you will hear some sort of Zen music in the background. But it’s much more than just music. What you are actually hearing is a type of sound wave therapy called binaural beats. Never heard of it? Its actually been around since the late 1800s and has only recently been going mainstream. It is still being studied by researchers, but there is plenty of evidence that it does affect the human brain.
Just get on YouTube and search binaural beats and you’ll find tens of thousands of videos for stress, anxiety, sleep, happiness, meditation, concentration, memory, and more. Based on what my mood is, I find the frequency that I need and the music that I like. I often listen to it at night in bed with my headband headphones that I can sleep in. There are some that are just the tones by themselves. I played that once in the main living area of my house trying to clear the energy in the house. My husband kept asking why I was sending aliens signals and when they were going to arrive. So, I’ve learned to just stick with the music type. Want to know more? Check out this great post by Healthline.
11. Let that Sh*t Go!
Seriously. Let. It. Go. Why oh why do we women hold on to grudges like we are hanging on the ledge of a cliff. Holding onto grudges just means we are allowing the negative feelings to continue replaying day in and day out. The record keeps spinning the same old song of hurt, resentment, and pain. What’s worse, the more negatively we think, the more negativity we attract into our lives. We stop seeing joy and first see pain. We start seeing what’s wrong with the world and stop seeing what’s right.
Grudges do no good, especially to the one holding the grudge. Forgiveness is key to happiness and contentment. I’ve known people who have held grudges their entire lives, and not-so-coincidentally, they were some of the most miserable people I have ever known.
Apparently, some zodiac signs are better at forgiving than others. If you’re interested in learning about how your sign holds up, check out the article by Your Tango. If you want to be miserable, then, by all means, go ahead and hold that grudge tight girl. But if you want relief from the pain, hurt, and resentment, then dig down deep and start working on how to Let It Go!
12. Make a Happy Collage
A mentor of mine suggested this for me a while back. It helped me dig deep and really think about what are things that make me happy or feel joy. I did mine on photoshop but you can do it on any free software program like Canva. And it doesn’t have to be digital, you can cut out pictures and glue them to paper. You can even just write a list. It doesn’t have to be fancy. The key is to make it and keep referring to it often. Mine is a mix of people that I care about and things that mean something to me. I can look at this anytime and it brings a smile to my face.
Vision boards are similar to this but focus more on dreams and goals. Placing pictures and words of things you want and aspire to have. Want to go to Paris? Add a picture of the Eiffel Tower. Dream House? Pin it up. Ferrari? Of course! You don’t have to live in the limited world you are in. Dream big. Look at it every day and remind yourself what you want out of life, and expect it.
13. Do Something Nice
Want to feel happier? Make someone else feel happy. Bake some cookies and give them to a neighbor for no reason. Send a card to someone just thanking them for being your friend. Compliment a stranger. Pay for someone’s coffee. Many studies have shown that doing something kind reduces stress, boosts our immune systems, and reduces negative emotions such as anger, anxiety, and depression. Need some ideas? Brad Aronson has an excellent list of ideas on his blog 103 Random Acts of Kindness. One interesting side note, even witnessing someone being kind can release the same “feel good” chemicals in our brains. But you’ll reap more from doing than just watching.
Happiness isn’t something we have to chase. It’s something that we can choose. But beyond happiness (and I think is even more important to feel) is contentment. Having the ability to be content with what was (you can’t change it or go back), appreciate the things that are, and look forward to what is to be. Happiness is coming your way!