Who am I to tell you what the secret to happiness is? I’m not a doctor, I haven’t done longitudinal studies with a cross section of people to distill a specific recipe to happiness. I may not have done those things, but I think I am qualified to share with you my findings from my own personal pursuit of happiness as someone who suffers from depression. Yes, that ugly monster called depression. I suffer from it, and have for years. I’ve been on and off medication, had really deep, dark episodes and amazing, euphoric peaks.
I am going to list 7 secrets to happiness for you. However, if you read through to the end, you can get the magic bullet. The one secret to happiness that always works, always. My mantra is that there is never a magic bullet, you have to put in the work to see the results of anything you are trying to accomplish. You’ll see why this is a different magic bullet, and one that’s guaranteed to unlock that secret of happiness in your life.
Seven Secrets To Happiness
I didn’t believe this until recently (hello, late bloomer). My depression seems to be cyclical. For me, I approach my long tunnel of darkness around Advent, and I don’t see a bright spot till around Lent. I’m Catholic and live liturgically, what can I tell ya? This season was particularly tough and a very close friend suggested that I take up walking. She encouraged me to get a Fitbit and would set challenges for me daily. She knows I am very competitive. We would cheer each other on within the app as we neared the 10,000 step mark. Slowly, but surely, my days would get brighter and less heavy. I know this is because of the exercise that I have been undertaking 6 out of 7 days a week since January!
Research on anxiety, depression and exercise shows that the psychological and physical benefits of exercise can also help reduce anxiety and improve mood.
The links between anxiety, depression and exercise aren’t entirely clear — but working out and other forms of physical activity can definitely ease symptoms of anxiety or depression and make you feel better. Exercise may also help keep anxiety and depression from coming back once you’re feeling better.
I think, the key is consistency. I had never consistently exercised like this before to see the direct impact on my outlook. As much as I dislike exercising, I know that I would rather feel better mentally and emotionally, than sit on the couch – so I get up and walk!
I am a researcher, a bookworm, and a lifelong student. For as long as I can remember my love of learning has always been a part of who I am. I would read encyclopedias as a kid! No matter what I was curious about, I always researched and learned it for myself. I never waited around for anyone to teach me how to do anything. This has spilled over into relationships with my husband and children. I am inherently curious about what makes them tick, how they perceive the world, their feelings, and how I can be a better wife, and mother. Complacency has no place in life. If you want more, you have to invest more in yourself. I don’t mean with money. Being inherently curious about your life, your goals and your closest relationships, all make for a richer existence and one that you can be deeply happy about.
This has to be a no brainer, am I right? If I don’t get my beauty sleep, I feel sorry for myself and anyone who crosses my path the next day. For my husband, if he doesn’t get enough sleep, his body gets sore and he starts to get run down. If you don’t feel physically at your best (for 38 and 39 years old like we are), you can hang up being happy. You’re sole focus will be all of the pain points in your body and outlook. Where can happiness creep in, if you haven’t even set yourself up to be open to it?
This from the National Sleep Foundation:
You won’t be able to change your sleep schedule overnight. The most effective tactic is to make small changes slowly. If you’re trying to go to sleep at 10:00pm, rather than midnight, for example, try this: For the first three or four nights, go to bed at 11:45pm, and then go to bed at 11:30pm for the next few days. Keep adjusting your sleep schedule like this. By working in 15-minute increments, your body will have an easier time adjusting.
There are whole movements to collect “no’s”. Being persistent is not getting knocked down every time someone says no. You know how many times I’ve been rejected? I don’t, because I don’t count them up and idolize them. I run with the yesses in life. I’ve failed at many things, but I never give up on trying new things because life is too short not to try your hand at anything.
This from Tiffany Han:
Instead of collecting inspiration, go out into the world and CREATE your own. Find inspiration in the trees and the flowers and the butterflies, not on a screen in the comfort of your own home. Screen inspiration is the inspiration that will keep you small.
And who has time for staying small?
Your psyche will thank you for being your own biggest fan and true cheerleader. How do you do that? Write down all of your wildest, hairbrained dreams and ideas. Cull that list down to one thing you can work on right now. Even if that means not finishing this post. I mean it. But, do come back and tell me how it goes!
Lord knows I know everything about this. It’s funny, I take these quizzes and people ask me if I’m a creative type but I never identify as such. But let’s break this down here: I am a classically trained opera singer. I’ve always doodled and drawn on everything and anything. I’ve been hand lettering since before it was cool and popular, often times being asked to write up invitations for friends. I’ve been cross stitching since I was 8, and remember falling in love with cray-pas in elementary school. I love cooking elaborate meals with exotic spices and vegetables. I’ve even written a science fiction novel (for NaNoWriMo – let’s not get excited here) and have been blogging for years. My ideal date is a trip to the Museum of Art in New York City, and I recently opened an online handmade embroidery shop on Etsy.
I think I’m creative, right? There’s something about creating something from nothing that has been in my DNA from the moment I was born. I hear you: “But Cristina, I can’t paint, or dance, or sing, or…” I get it.
This from The Positive Psychology People:
Maybe we have pigeon holed ourselves into thinking creativity means drawing, art, music, writing. This can lead a lot of us to think we are not creative because we can’t paint or write a song. But perhaps scientists are creative in their experiments and exploration, so are computer programmers and accountants in the way they handle their work.
As long as you are growing, making something original, putting out more than what you started with, you are creating. You’ll know whether or not you are creating in line with your soul’s path by how fulfilled, happy and inspired you feel afterwards.
I mean, love. It’s why we’re here right? We are taught to love by our parents, children, relatives, friends and pets. Think about the person who has everything, but no one to come home to (whether that’s a spouse, child, pet, plant, etc.). They may seem happy to you, but inside, they feel incomplete. We are meant to love. I think though, that finding love can be attained easily enough – and I don’t mean spousal love, because I know that takes work. What I am more focused on is loving myself.
Without loving myself – truly loving myself, there is no way I can love anyone else. I know it’s cliche, but how can you know how to love someone else if you haven’t taught yourself first? How does loving yourself look, you ask? Nourishing your body with good food, sleeping well, being active in social relationships, setting boundaries that uphold your self-respect, and knowing when it’s time to walk away from a situation that is detrimental to your personal growth, are all good places to start if you are learning to love yourself.
If even those suggestions seem to big, start a journal right now, and list off one thing a day that you love about yourself. This could range from physical aspects to more abstract ones, for example “I love how I laughed with the mail carrier today when I was caught off guard. I am proud that I didn’t snap at them for scaring me.” This kind of self reflection builds strength and you can look back and smile with each little love note you’ve written to yourself.
To connect with something bigger than yourself can bring such an indescribable peace. You know that you don’t have control over anything at all and in that lack of control, happiness is there. I don’t mean this to say that you should remove yourself from trying to land a job, or work on your marriage, or repair a broken relationship by applying the “I’m not in control” adage. You still have to get your hands dirty. If spirituality means prayer to Jesus, Buddha, God, the Universe, Nature, Allah, Krishna, whomever or whatever it is, that reliance on something other than you brings happiness.
You could do all of the above and maybe a combination will unlock your secret to happiness. If you’re looking for the one size fits all, easiest way to find that secret to happiness? Come closer, and I’ll tell you. Here’s that magic bullet I was telling you about at the beginning of this post.
Bonus Secret To Happiness: Help Others
When you’re helping others you aren’t paying attention to yourself. You don’t have the constant tape of what ails you going on in your head because all of your attention is on the person you are helping. How can you do this? You can volunteer in a soup kitchen like my son did, or you can help someone at the grocery store who has their hands full bring their groceries into the car. You can offer your time to tutor children in subjects you’re good at.
This from Time Magazine:
Scientific research provides compelling data to support the anecdotal evidence that giving is a powerful pathway to personal growth and lasting happiness. Through fMRI technology, we now know that giving activates the same parts of the brain that are stimulated by food and sex. Experiments show evidence that altruism is hardwired in the brain—and it’s pleasurable. Helping others may just be the secret to living a life that is not only happier but also healthier, wealthier, more productive, and meaningful.
What have you found to be the secret to your happiness? Share it in the comments below!
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