Posts Tagged Happiness

A Simple Guide To What Makes You Happy

A Simple Guide To What Makes You Happy

What is most important in life?  What is the path to happiness?  When you live a simple life, these are very important questions to answer because you are removing the excess to get to the bare essentials, giving you time to focus on what is most important.

Simple Guide To What Makes You Happy

I do have to chuckle that a cynic like me is offering advice on how to be happy, but the truth is happiness hasn’t always came easy for me.  I’ve been in some dark places, felt that depression pushing in on me, but in the end emerged on the other side. This does give me some practical experience in beating back the dark and embracing what truly makes me happy to wake up in the morning.

For me, this really comes down to what makes me happy and doing more of it, plus figuring out what I don’t like doing and doing less of that.  Happiness is something you work towards, it’s an active process.  The hardest part for me and many others is figuring out what really makes you happy.

What Things Make You Happy?

To understand what it will take to thrive, to be truly happy and find direction in your own life, you need to examine your current life to find out what things really turn us on.  We need to identify the things that bring joy to our lives.

happiness worksheets for free

Using the worksheet above, print it out and take it with you during a normal day of life.  Every 30 minutes or so think about what you’re doing, think about everything you’ve done, every little thing.  Reflect on what you’ve done and mark down if you enjoyed it or not.

What Is True Happiness To You?

happiness

If you’re at work, don’t just think about whether you like your job or not, but think about every little task;  you may not love your job, but you may like talking with clients, building the perfect spreadsheet, or working with others to find a solution.  Conversely, you may hate filling out reports, providing customer support, or stocking shelves.

In your personal life think about the things that make you feel energized or fall flat for you.  Do you love spending time with your friends or family at the park, cooking a nice meal, or reading a good book?  Do you hate running errands, cleaning the house, or having a weekly dinner with that gossipy friend from long ago?

In each of these good and bad things, don’t just write down the good and the bad, but think about WHY they fall into the category.  Think critically about if it’s the actual activity or a factor around it that’s coloring the emotion.  In some cases it’s the situation or conditions that make something less or more pleasant.

It is in that why that we will find common threads which lead us to happiness.

How Do You Find True Happiness In Life?

finding true happiness

Happiness isn’t something that finds us, we need to go into the darkest corner of our self and drag it out kicking and screaming.

I’m not going to sit here and spew a bunch of woo woo new age mysticism at you or recite wise phrases from people long ago.  Here’s the rub, being happy isn’t easy.  In this world bad things happen, things aren’t fair and things won’t go our way.  What that leaves us with is a choice!

We must choose how we are going to react and conduct ourselves going forward despite all that.  It is in this choice that we find liberation, contentment, empowerment and of course, happiness.

The state of the world is what it is, we can either bemoan the negatives, or we can CHOOSE to adopt the most positive attitude despite it.  It is in that choice that will determine our happiness in this thing we call life.

Bring Happiness Into Your Life

HappinessHave you ever notice there are some people who are perpetually happy or optimistic?  It’s not because their life is so great, it’s because they have taken a stance to be more positive.

Many people have trained their brains to default to this way of thinking, so to us it seems to come “naturally” but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

A perfect example is I’ve had crappy jobs that were fun because I had awesome coworkers; I’ve also had great jobs that were terrible because the people I worked with.   Now our natural instinct would be to say one job was great, the other was terrible.

However, after some reflection we can determine that what really makes us happy is having great coworkers.  We could take that even further to say, we thrive off of having positive people around us in all aspects of life.

Go through a few days, just jotting down your likes and dislikes, keeping notes and taking time to reflect on each of the things you write down.  Once you’ve done that, look for those common threads, look for trends, look for deeper truths.

Finding Your Happy Place

finding your happy place

With these written down, think about what they mean to you.  Think about why they made their way on to the paper.  It can be a good time to just sit back and consider these things.  Think about ways you can do more of what makes you happy and what ways can you minimize what makes you unhappy.

The trick to finding you happy place is finding the deeper truths and building a strategy to benefit from that understanding.

Developing A Strategy To Find Happiness

Here is a concrete example from my own life: Continuing the job example, the deeper truth was that to be happy I needed to have positive people in my life.  That’s when I figured out the strategy!

I realized one day that if I could find a job with people I like working with and a position that was constantly presenting challenges that require creative solutions, I was very happy.  Conversely I found if I didn’t connect well with my coworkers and my position was very repetitive, I couldn’t stand it.

Putting It Into Practice

That was when I started developing questions to ask in an interview to help me determine if that job met those two criteria.  If they did, I’d continue interviewing, and if they didn’t, I’d politely bow out.

Happiness Without Sadness?

happiness without sadeness

Here is the tough truth, the answer is no, but it’s not without it’s purpose.  To live in a blissful existence might sound nice, but we would quickly become numb to the joy it brings.  Life requires a counter balance, we could point to yin and yang, good vs. evil, light vs. dark.  Whatever your metaphor is, humans are funny things, if we don’t see the counter point to happiness, we won’t enjoy it.

Can I Be Happy If I’m Depressed?

Totally.  We often think of depression as a total absence of happiness, but the truth is that it isn’t all dark, there are moments of light.  In depression the most effective strategy I’ve found is to not say “I want be happy”, it’s about saying “I’m going to be just a little bit better than yesterday”.  In those dark places we have one choice, to adopt an attitude to work towards small wins every day.

Why Everyone Should Have A Therapist

why you should see a therapist for good mental health

Yes, even you!  Even happy people!   A therapist is an ally to you in this journey we call life.  It can be hard to sit down on that couch and share things, but it’s one good way to make real progress.

Working with a therapist gives you space to talk out loud how you want to address challenges you face in your life and the steps you’re going to take to make every day better than the last.  Taking this time is simply allowing you to carve out a concentrated time to focus on you and a therapist helps you uncover truths, deal with the hard stuff and make a strategy to move forward.

The trick with therapy is that you need to show up ready to dig into things you’ve already done your best to sort out.  Take time before hand to think about the possible things you’d like to discuss and then put them in order of priority.  Take a few minutes to reflect on your top items, this will set the stage for a successful session.

It’s Your Life, Be Happy

be happy

In the end, being happy is something we need to work towards.  In this post I’ve given you some tips about how to dig into into things and find those deeper truths.

The most happy people will have most accurately identified what is most true for themselves and acted upon it.  It’s not that we will ever be able to eliminate all things that we don’t like doing, but that our lives are so rich with what we love, that those unpleasant task are just a small part of what is a great life.

Your Turn!

  • What questions help you find what makes you happy?
  • Was there something that surprised you in doing this?

Evaluating Your Time, The Trick To A Happier Life

They say that when people start to track what they eat they generally start eating less, just because they’re being conscious of what they are eating.  The same rings true when you look at how you’re spending your life, what time you dedicate to different things.  Over the past month or so I’ve been taking a look at how am I spending my life, where is my time going and how do I feel about it all.

I wanted to map what my life is actually like and compare it to what I want it to be.  The difference between what it is and what I want it to be signals where I need to make changes.  To do this, I’ve found a few tools that I’ve really liked and thought I’d share some of them here.

Track your life with Life Cycle

This is a pretty neat app that automates the tracking of your entire day and it does it pretty well.  It uses your GPS to figure out what you do where and then tracks how long you’re doing it.  You tell it where you work, it tracks time spent at work.  You tell it where you work out, grocery shop, get dinner, do errands and it tracks it all.  At the end of the day you get a snapshot of what your day was.

So here you can see I spent 7 hours and 23 minutes sleeping, 6 hours 28 minutes working, and so on.  The app interfaces with the iPhone’s health app, tracking your steps and it also connect to their other app, Sleep Cycle (more on that in a minute).

Track your sleep with Sleep Cycle

This is from the makers of the Life Cycle app and interfaces with it, its basically required to use.  Basically it analyzes how you sleep by detecting movement on your bed and breathing patterns.  It operates on the premise that when you are in deep REM sleep (the kind that really gets you rested up) your body actually prevents itself from moving so we don’t act out our dreams and many other reasons.  This means when we are in deep sleep, we don’t really move.  The app tracks this and measures your sleep patterns.

Understand better how you work with Rescue Time

If you’re like me, when it comes to work, it’s almost all done on a computer.  Rescue time puts a little program on your computer to track exactly what you’re doing and for how long.  It can spit out reports to show you exactly what you’ve been up to, it can categorize those into “productive” or “non productive” activities.

rescue time tracking

This is really good for those who get distracted easily on the web or on their computers.  We know that just because you’re on your computer, doesn’t mean you’re actually working.  Since using this app (over two years for me now) I’ve found that I get on my computer, do only work, then shut down and move on with life.  In short, I don’t waste time, get my work done quickly and get on with more important things.

Dig into emails with Gmail Meter

One of the lessons I learned from using Rescue Time (above) was that I spend a lot of time in email.  Email is often a terrible use of time.  The saying goes: “an email inbox is a convenient way to organize other people’s priorities.”  I use an add-on to Gmail called Gmail Meter which analyzes your email.  I’ve taken some drastic steps to help reduce the number of emails I receive.  For example I used to receive around 400 emails a day, now 170 email per day.  I still have a very long way to go.

It also shows your top people who email you.  This helps me identify people who I need to break it off with if they are endless emailers or validate that the emails I do get and send are productive.

So What Does This All Mean?

After sitting with this data, I break out my life into three main categories:  Recreational, Sleeping and Business Activities. Having objective data is a very important step because we can get down to specifics and reality, not guesses and gut feelings.

I then can ask myself, what do I want my life to be like?  What do I want a day to look like?  Then after that I can delve into things more specifically: what do I want my free time (recreational) to look like?  When I run my business, what should that look and feel like?  How much sleep do I want to make sure I have?

The important part here is defining what will make you happy and then comparing it to reality.  The gap is where I need to focus and make intentional changes.

For me, email is a huge issue.  I also spend more time driving that I like.  My average sleep time is around 8 hours, which is good, but I need to work out more.

You can use fancy tools like I have here or simply jot down in a notebook.  The point is, how often do you take inventory on your goals and your life?  Most people don’t.  Most people do nothing or at best, work of guesses.

Your Turn!

  • How do you track your time spent?
  • How do you keep on track to your goals?

How Was Your Worst Day Your Best Day?

Today I was listening to a podcast when I heard a question that was radically profound in the way it looked at things.  The truth is that our happiness is often not what happens to us, but how we choose to perceive it and react to it.  The question was this…

in-what-was-was-your-worst-day,-your-best-day

It’s fascinating how re-framing something can change our world view.  I could go on, but I think for today, just spend some time thinking about how your worst day was actually your best day.

Back in the World of the Big Houses

Tiny houses are hard, but so is everything that is worthwhile.” -Ryan Mitchell

Hello tiny life readers! It has been some time since I last wrote an article and I am so excited to be back writing articles for one of my favorite blogs! Last year I left The Tiny Life while trying to reconfigure my everyday life in what I refer to as the world of the big houses. It has been quite the journey!

reinvent businessI had to start this article with the title of a post Ryan made at the beginning of the year. It’s pretty much my motto at present. At an organized retreat I recently attended in Vermont we started the weekend by stepping in to a ring of river stones and visualizing ourselves leaving behind our daily realities. We called it the rabbit hole, a term borrowed from Alice in Wonderland. It is a psychological exercise, or ritual if you prefer, aimed at letting go. It allows an individual to fully immerse oneself in the present and provides temporary release from ones daily grind. I found this experience to be a symbolic reoccurrence in my existence, the most recent being my experience living the tiny life.

I can certainly compare my time living in a tiny house to jumping down a rabbit hole. Besides being of relatively small dimensions, the rabbit hole and a tiny house share traits that I find incredibly appealing including whimsy, excitement and a general disregard for the limiting options provided by our present day world. Living the tiny life requires an ability to accept a different reality than that currently proposed by society at large and an embracing of the alternatives that come with the lifestyle. These aspects make living in a tiny house wonderful but also extremely difficult.

futureWhen I moved in to my first tiny house I escaped many realities that I did not care to face, primarily a mortgage but that wasn’t all. There is a certain flexibility and unpredictability in mobility that a tiny house provides which I enjoyed. Most of all, living outside the norm was thrilling to me. There was less distraction from the present moment in such a small space! For me, smaller spaces are conducive to my own creative processes in terms of mental focus although physically they are limiting. It’s these contradictions, however, that keeps such a life interesting and allows for expansion in ways you may never have imagined (think biscuits that make you as big as a house or as small as a mouse a la Alice’s experience). Sometimes though, it reveals to you challenges you are not sure you can handle.

I bring this up because for nearly 2 years I lived in a tiny house and then about six months ago I had to leave due tonext-step an unsafe situation in my life. It was devastating to leave behind my home and try to figure out how I fit in to the world of big houses again. It didn’t take long for me to find a house, but a home I have yet to find. I am currently homeless and wandering, wondering and trying to figure out where the tiny life exists for me now. It’s disconcerting but there is excitement in the new and unknown. The tiny life continues to be an alluring alternative to me and even after all the turmoil I hope to again have a tiny house of my own.

Ultimately, the change means recreating my reality all over again. For awhile it was okay living back in the world of big houses. Who am I kidding? It was awesome! Having a regular bathroom and renting a house that held the most amazing tub I have ever had the pleasure of using was fantastic but after a few months the retreat started to get old. I miss my compact life and the feeling of safety small spaces provide me. I miss the independence and pursuit of sustainability within my home space. I miss talking to people about the merits of living such a life and having a beautiful example to invite them in to. I miss my cheap rent! After leaving La Casita, I felt completely disconnected from the movement and it took me a long time to feel as  though I still belonged. Just because I no longer live in a tiny house does not mean I’ve lost dedication to the movement and its ideals. I just had to figure that out for myself and reinstate a commitment to the tiny life. It has been a very vulnerable time for me and it has helped me realize that living the tiny life is still in my plans and I am excited to discover new opportunities within the movement.

whats-next

Your Turn!

  • Can you relate to jumping down the rabbit hole of the tiny life?
  • What keeps the tiny life alive and exciting  for you?

 

Gratitude In The New Year

With New Years right around the corner, many folks are thinking about what will come in 2014.  Many people will also be making new years resolutions.  I’d like to propose something a little bit different this year.  Instead of looking forward to what will be, lets look back and what has been; more specifically, lets practice gratitude for all the good things that we enjoyed in 2013.

This looking back and practicing gratitude has been show to be more productive.  It is something that I have learned this year to be a huge boost to my happiness, there are moments where I am struck by how lucky I have been and what a great life I have been fortunate enough to live.  I have learned to appreciate the things we often take for granted.

This practice of expressing gratitude has been shown in studies to actually boost happiness.

2013 was an amazing year, lets be thankful for it.