Designing Happiness Part 3: Happy Heart

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*This is Part 3 of a 3 part series on Designing Happiness. You can check out the introduction here for more info.

Now that we’ve worked on designing happy bodies and happy surroundings, it’s time to get to the real work: our hearts.

We’ve covered the more surface level aspects of building a happy life, so now it’s time to get to where the truly deep, transformational stuff happens. (Where true happiness comes from.)

There are many ways to approach this, and each person’s journey will look a little different, but I thought it might be most helpful for me to share my five best tips for creating happiness. (And then you can see what you think needs the most work for you personally.)

1. Be nice (to yourself and others)

My very first (and best) tip for creating your own happiness is simply to be nice…even if you don’t want to.

Why?

Because. (Hah – do I really need to explain this one?)

In all seriousness, being nice is actually one of those things that is so easy to forget how simple it is, but it feels good, it makes other people feel good, and it’s just the right thing to do.

Sure, we all have bad days, but that’s no excuse to take it out on others (or yourself) in a negative way.

How?

    • Learn to apologize. Own your mistakes — we all make them. It’s unrealistic to think we can be perfect, but it is realistic to become more aware of how we act when we do mess up. Say you’re sorry. (And mean it.)
    • Avoid judgement.  It’s practically human nature to judge other people. We all do it, even if we don’t want to admit it. But there is a difference between making a snap judgement (that you only assume is the truth) and taking the time to understand a situation from the other side. Courteous, productive, and constructive dialogue is essential, but uneducated, cruel, or mean spirited accusations usually do more harm than good. By trying to avoid chiming in on topics you really aren’t qualified to chime in about, it will prevent a lot of unnecessary drama.
    • Don’t use “honesty” as a free pass to be inconsiderate. How many times have you heard someone say something like, “Your shoes are the ugliest things I’ve ever seen. I’m just being honest.” While I do believe honesty is definitely something to live by, that doesn’t mean you can use it to excuse any potentially hurtful thing that pops into your head and out of your mouth. I think sometimes the ‘I call it like I see it and I’m unapologetically me’  type mentality is glorified in a way that makes people forget their actions still affect others. There is a way to be truthful and constructive while still being considerate. In this case I prefer to go by the old adage: if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.
    • Realize that when others treat you poorly it’s often not personal — their actions say more about them than you. Sort of as a follow up to the last point, someone else’s lack of nice-ness is also not an excuse to lose your own temper. Usually people who act out and have no filter are the ones who need a little bit of extra nice in their lives the most. You can’t control them, but you can control yourself. Kill ‘em with kindness.
    • Think before you react. Take a step back and a deep breath and evaluate the situation from all angles.

2. Stay committed

Why?

Commitment is an integral factor to your success, in happiness and anything else for that matter. Commit to yourself, commit to your ideas, and commit to those counting on and/or rooting for you. Saying you’re going to do something — and then actually doing it — is a super powerful feeling. (Remember we talked about self-confidence being at the root of happiness? #fullcircle) Now this means you’re going to have to put some kind of effort into the things that will make you happy (changing your diet, saving money, etc.), but that makes the reward so much greater. It’s easy to be all talk and say you’re going to do something, but the follow through is even more important than the end result.

How?

    • “Just do it.” We can all take a page out of Nike’s playbook with this one.
    • Make a plan. Ok, so sometimes maybe it’s easier said than done to make something happen. By creating a plan or to-do list for yourself it can help to break what might seem like a too big task down into smaller, more digestible pieces.
    • Accept no excuses. It’s easy to find excuses. Like, really easy. “I’m too tired. I’m too busy. I don’t know how. My car is out of gas.” Try reframing your thoughts to eliminate any possibility of excuses, and instead go into problem solving mode.
    • Dream big, yet be practical. (The Rational Unicorn Theory) I’m all for big dreams. Huge dreams. Gigantic dreams. But big dreams will always be just that — dreams — if you don’t have some sort of practical way to make them happen.

3. Practice balance

Why?

Think of happiness like the fulcrum of a scale — you need things on both sides to even it out. Whether too much or too little, extremes on either side of the scale often put unnecessary pressure on a situation. This pressure can come in all sorts of forms: pressure from others, from social media, from yourself, from the clock…

Balance is all about choice. Make choices that align with your life goals, but also don’t beat yourself up if there are a couple exceptions to the rule.

How?

    • Simplify. Less stuff means there is less to manage (physically and emotionally). Simplify things to only the essentials and your focus can be more clear.
    • Make priorities. A common excuse for not doing something is often “I don’t have enough time.” Timing is all about priorities, though, so how you choose to prioritize things has a direct correlation to your level of commitment.
    • Ask how things can be better while knowing they are already good enough. Practice gratitude and acceptance and know that things can change, both for better or worse, so there is no use trying to change things you can’t control. Push yourself or your idea to be the best version it can be, but do so in a way where it is ultimately about growth and evolution.
    • Be thoughtful, but don’t overthink. Focus on both the details and the big picture, but don’t let either overwhelm you.
    • Dial the “noise.”  Know when to look to others for support and encouragement, but also know when it’s time to take a step back and regroup with your own thoughts.
    • Allow yourself to be sad. You already know I’m a firm believer that happy people should still sometimes feel sad. In fact, I welcome it.  Feeling sad or upset or angry is not a sign you’ve failed at happiness. (In fact, a good ugly cry now and then is quite cathartic!) Feeling all sorts of emotions is a good thing — it means we’re human, it gives us depth. The key, however, is not to dwell in sadness or self-pity or depression or anxiety or any other “bad” feeling for too long. Experience it, accept it, and then choose to move on.

4. Keep true to you

Why?

In order to be unique, authentic, original and happy with YOU, you need to spend more time working on your own stuff than focusing on what other people are doing. In an age of information overload, social media, and reality tv it’s super easy to get too caught up in the lives of others. Focus on your own stuff first and foremost. It’s awesome to inspire others and be inspired, but put your own spin on things. Don’t be afraid to think differently. Don’t assume you need to listen to what others tell you if it doesn’t feel right.

How?

      • Quiet the noise. Just like learning to dial the noise is important when looking for balance, knowing when to silence it completely is the next big step.  Ditch as much negativity as you can, whether it’s in the form of social media, toxic relationships, or self-deprecation.
      • Self-reflect — be honest with yourself about your insecurities. Truth builds confidence so it makes sense that in order to be truly happy you need to be honest with yourself. To figure out what kinds of things you’re insecure about, start by looking at the things you’re afraid of or get defensive about — chances are these things will speak to the heart of a deeper truth. Don’t be afraid to dig.
      • Use inspiration and collaboration as fuel to spark your own creativity, but don’t rely on others to define yourself. It’s true it can be really helpful to surround yourself with positivity and amazing things can happen from teamwork and collaboration — but only if it is a true melding of individual personalities that each bring something unique to the table.
      • Care for yourself.  Emotionally and physically. Understand what you surround yourself with and what you put into your body all affects you. Toxic people, toxic situations, and toxic foods have a way of seeping into your pores and creating a lot of ugliness. Don’t let that happen.
      • Trust your gut. Literally and figuratively. Understand that anxiety, pain, depression, and stress are ways your body communicates with you. 

5. Take things one step at a time

Why?

In this moment, right now, you are the sum of every choice you have made up until this point, and the choices you make from this moment forward will determine what happens next. Most things worth doing take time — don’t rush them. In fact, let’s try to ignore the pressure of time altogether. I mean what does time really mean, anyway? It seems we’re always in a hurry and we want things fast and cheap and it’s too easy to rush through life. Instead be focused on building a solid foundation that will sustain you long term. There’s no quick fix, but there shouldn’t have to be.

How?

    • Practice patience. Remember that things happen in their own time. Rushing through life is not really living it. 
    • Remember why you started. Find your WHY. Don’t lose sight of what truly matters.
    • Take baby steps. Aim for slow, steady growth.
    • Enjoy the journey & have fun! Slow down. Be present.
    • Don’t forget to breathe. Inhale + exhale. It’s all going to be OK.

While there are still a million ideas and thoughts and resources for designing happiness that I can (and will eventually) share, I hope this series was a good place to start!

One More Thing…

I have a bonus for you: To help you on your journey, I’ve created a workbook to go along with this series! Simply download the digital file, print it out, and get to work designing a life you love. 💗 

Designing Happiness Workbook Pages

Best part? It’s a “pay what you want” product, meaning you get to decide how valuable it is to you. I believe this content should be available to anyone and everyone (regardless of financial status), so if you choose to download it for free, you totally can. (But if you really found this series to be helpful and you have a few bucks to spare, any proceeds from the workbook will ensure I can continue creating even more fun & helpful content for you!)

Designing Happiness Workbook Pages

 

Designing Happiness: A Series for Health, Home, and Heart

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