These days, there are a lot of challenges that many of us face, including heavy workloads, inflation, chronic illness, lack of time with family and friends, social media and news overwhelm, and feeling like there simply isn't enough time to get everything done. With all of these challenges, it can feel like it's ever more difficult to live a life that is happy and one that brings smiles. But, it is possible, despite these challenges. In fact, these challenges make it even more critical to make the time to live a life worth smiling about. Below are ten suggestions on activities that might just bring joy and happiness to your life. And, if one suggestion doesn't work, try another! I would also love to hear from you on ways that you incorporate happiness into your daily life. Reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Walking! Getting outside for a 5 mile walk most days makes me feel good. I get to enjoy looking at the trees and the scampering squirrels, that always give me a chuckle. Plus, I love chattering at them, and it's a real "bonus" when they chatter back at me and we have a good "conversation!" Walking allows me to not only get in touch with Mother Nature, but also with other humans, which is so very critical in these days where many of us work remotely, or mostly so. Whether it's saying hello to someone biking or walking by, or talking to the local barista at one of my favorite coffee shops at the end of the first half of my walk, it's wonderful to connect with others outside of sitting in a car in traffic. And, speaking of traffic, try walking when you can instead of using your car. You will save wear and tear on your vehicle (and on your psyche!), reduce your carbon footprint, save money, and get in lots of steps, which is great for your heart and soul and soles, too. My soles remain bare on my walks, as I prefer walking barefoot, as it's yet another way to connect to the world around me. I am a "tactile explorer," and I love feeling the various temperatures under my bare soles, as well as the different ground textures; rough, smooth, hot, cold, it's all part of the awesome experience. I can't say enough good about walking...if you can do it daily, all the better for your physical and mental well-being. Tell the squirrels I said hi!
Talking to family and friends daily! Walking allows me to connect with many in my community, but I also make time to check in with family and friends daily. Whether it's a quick phone call, a text message, a Zoom check-in, or email or Facebook message, making time for family and friends is also so important for a happy life. Making time for regular get-togethers is also very rewarding; coffee and tea with friends is fabulous, dinner with parents is wonderful. The venue isn't important, the quality of the time spent together is what matters.
Spending time with pets! I love spending time with Roger, my 8 year old domestic short-hair fur baby. Although, now that he is 8, I guess he's more of my middle-aged kid! He has his moments of affection with head bunts and lap time, but he also has a strong desire for his "alone time" as well. For some people, a dog might be a better "happiness solution," since the affection is a little more "consistent," but a cat might be better for some, based on their lifestyle, and how often they are home (or away from home). Pets are always "in the moment," and I really appreciate that aspect of spending time with them. They aren't caught up in their heads, mentally preparing for the next work presentation on Tuesday, or worried about what they said to a friend two weeks ago Thursday. Pets are steadfast and creatures of routine. If you are often overwhelmed by the amount of change these days, a pet can bring some stability and comfort to your world. Roger makes me smile every day, and his presence is definitely a happiness booster.
Indulging in enjoyable foods! I try to make sure that I balance out my dietary indulgences, since some of the foods and beverages I enjoy are best in moderation for my lifestyle. On the "healthful" list, avocados, tomatoes, beets, snap peas, broccoli, cucumbers, and salmon generally rule. On the "other" list, hot chocolate, coffee, margaritas, dark chocolate, fish and chips, and eggs Benedict are so very enjoyable, but I have to be careful to keep them in moderation, or I might have to indulge in a lot more walking! In any case, having a list of foods that brings happiness is a great way to incorporate more of it into your daily routine. And, make sure you drink plenty of water every day, too. It may not be the most "exciting" beverage, but kicking it up a notch with lemon, lime, or orange slices can make it more enjoyable, while keeping your metabolism and overall health in check!
Incorporating a positive and contributory perspective at work! This doesn't miraculously make the tough days disappear, but it does allow you to look at problems more like opportunities for which you might have a possible solution. It makes you feel more empowered and engaged in the process, and work becomes more like a game, where there are trials and tribulations, but there is also a way to move to the next level and continue on a forward path. With my job, I create online training and website content, so when a challenge arises, I look to my skillset for ways that I can use a website or online training module for a solution, or at least part of a bigger solution. I like feeling like I'm part of the solution!
Listening to music daily! Music is so important to me. I listen to music at home, when I'm out walking (but low enough so I am still aware of my surroundings), and when I'm working. Music brings me comfort, happiness, and often good memories, too. Not only do I listen to music, but I often sing along as well. But, I try to refrain when I'm working in a coffee shop, as the other patrons may not always appreciate said singing! There is something about the act of singing that can be so cathartic...but perhaps not for the person sitting next to you at Starbucks! Music often can change my mood in literally seconds. If I'm having a rough day, I turn off the news, and crank up the tunes. It is a definite mood-enhancer. Have some "feel good" tunes at the ready on your smart phone at all times. You won't regret it.
Limiting social media and news consumption! This one can be tricky. Social media and news can be an important way to keep in touch with others and with what is going on locally and throughout the world. But, too much of it can cause some of us to feel overwhelmed, depressed, and less connected. Better to set a time limit on news consumption, so that you know what is going on, but don't feel overwhelmed by it. Also, better to spend more time reading local news, as there is a better chance for taking action on local news stories and feeling more empowered. For social media, using the time to wish friends a happy birthday or anniversary or congratulations on a new job or baby can be much more rewarding than just mindlessly scrolling. Mindfulness is key when it comes to news and social media consumption. Maybe use social media time to schedule a get-together in person, where you don't need a screen or emoji to connect?
Volunteering! Find activities and non-profit organizations that resonate with you. As a volunteer, you will likely get as much (if not more) from the experience than the organization and people you are helping. I know I have, and continue to do so. Not sure where to start? Check out Volunteer Match, a great website that provides a myriad of ways to search for volunteer opportunities. There are volunteer opportunities for young and old, and everyone in between. Whether you have a lot of time to spare, or just a little, there is a non-profit organization that can use your skills! And, if you don't have much time, donating some much-needed funds can be another way to positively contribute to a cause you care about.
Having a spiritual connection! This often goes along with volunteering, especially if your spiritual or religious beliefs help guide your volunteering. For many of us, feeling there is something bigger than us helps to create a feeling of connection with others and helps drive us to continue moving forward, even during the hard times. It adds value to what we do and why we do it and makes each day feel more meaningful.
Creative pursuits! These pursuits can be almost anything and everything. For me, they include creating weekly music and public affairs radio shows, writing blogs (though I am a "slacker" in this area!), and performing as an actor in local community theater. Whether you like to sing, paint, act, draw, dance, or partake in some wonderful combination of all of these, find and stoke that creative spark!
And, there you go! Ten suggestions on how to (hopefully!) incorporate more happiness and smiles in your life. Reach out to me at email@example.com with your ideas and feedback. I would love to hear how YOU create and engage in a happy life.