What is the feeling we get that we refer to as being or feeling happy? Many like to romantically think of it as something coming from the heart, however the reality is that it is just a bunch of chemicals inside our brains that give us our moods and feelings.
Definitions of what it means to be happy vary so I am not going to attempt to tell you what it is other than to say, you know it when you feel it.
But life is tough. It can knock you down when you are least expecting it. Social media has made it even worse for many people as we can now peer into one another's lives and feel a lot of different emotions based on what we see. Life has become very superficial, and for many, materialistic.
We are taught to work at a job we hate, buy things we can’t afford or need, and to try to impress people online we really don’t like.
So, what really is important?
It’s the experiences we all cram into our short lives, but sometimes we get off track and forget the simple things.
This article grew out of various conversations I was having last year with my 90 year old grandmother. I had the fortune of being able to visit her last Spring at my Aunt’s house. My grandmother had recently gone to live in North Carolina with her and was feeling a bit down about her life, missing home and all of her old friends.
We spent many hours the month I was there talking about being happy and appreciating what you have, not what you don’t have, or what you think you need. I took those conversations and expanded on them to write this for all people at all stages of life.
This article is very special to me because of how it originated, but even more so because a few months later, my grandmother died. I am so happy that tens of thousands of people have taken the time to read it. I hope you can find something within it that can bring you some inner peace in your life.
Do Something for Someone Else
As I was thinking about writing this article, there was one recurring thought that kept coming back to my mind. Over the years, listening to podcasts and reading or watching biographies about famous people, the one thing that was almost universal was they said that being able to give something back or do something for other people, whether someone in financial need or mentoring another, gave them the most satisfaction and happiness in their lives.
And in terms of feeling happy and appreciating the things in your life, this serves two purposes.
Helping others gets those chemicals in your brain moving around giving you feelings of happiness and a sense of accomplishment, but it also gives you a kick in the pants by giving you a different reality, as in someone else’s reality. Because no matter how hard, or how bad you think your life is, there are millions of other people on this planet that can top you on that.
If you don't believe that, try taking an international trip to a place like Brazil or somewhere else off the beaten path and look around. I think most Americans take for granted all of the opportunities that are available to us simply because we had the fortune to be born in the most properous country in the world.
So you get a different perspective whether helping or giving to needy people, or offering advice or mentoring someone younger than you. The result is that more often than not, that new outlook will kick you into gear and get you out of any malaise you might be living in.
Time and time again I have listened to people talk in interviews about how they have dealt with depression in their lives and almost without fail they said that when they finally realized that if they focused on someone else, those negative feelings subsided.
Look for Volunteer Opportunities
Have Confidence in Yourself
If you don’t believe in you, who will?
Your confidence level shows through in many ways, including your body language, how you dress and how you speak or write.
I don’t want this to come off as some dopey pep talk that belongs on an infomercial but you need to understand that if you don’t think you can do something, no one else will. People see through other people and while it is natural for some to be more introverted than others, there are ways of coping with that type of personality to get what you want in life and become more confident.
I was looking through the news earlier this year and they were giving this young golfer grief about saying he thought he was one of the top players in the world.
His detractors were pointing out that he had never won a major golf tournament and that most of his success had been in the junior leagues.
However, I found it refreshing. What is the guy supposed to say, "I’m not as good as the other players".
In order to compete at that level in anything, whether it is sports, politics or the entertainment industry, you have to think you are better than everyone else. It is what drives your success. Doubt is crushing, whether you are trying to start your own business, or writing an article on Infobarrel.
However, confidence is fleeting. It comes and goes for most people. We all have our ups and downs but it is important to maintain as level a playing field in your mind as possible.
So how can you even out the peaks and valleys in life?
Believe in Yourself and the Confidence Will Follow
When I was just out of high school, I worked at Payless Shoes for a little while. There is nothing like starting your day off to the smell of pleather shoes.
Anyway, I was working with this guy that I had gone to high school with although I didn’t know him very well since he was a couple of grades behind me. And I will be honest, this kid was nothing special in the looks department.
One day his girlfriend came in the store and she looked to be several levels of attractiveness above him so we started talking about women after she left. There we were, two 18 or 19 year old geniuses talking about women like we knew anything. Go ahead and laugh ladies.
Anyway, he said something as it relates to women that I have never forgotten. Ladies, close your ears, or eyes in this case, and skip forward.
He said, it doesn’t really matter what you look like or how big or tall or fat or muscular you are, you just have to act like you are the man. It was basically the same advice Dimone gave Mark Ratner in Fast Times at Ridgemont High.
That is a very funny philosophy for relating to women mainly because it is not true, but I am not here to give you advice on how to pick up women. However, if you apply it to other areas of your life, it can be useful.
Everyone needs support, and if you are not your number one fan, who will be? Ok, well, maybe your mother, but it needs to be you and you need to carry that attitude forward in whatever you do. Don’t be arrogant, be confident. There is a difference.
Nutrition and Exercise
I talk a lot about nutrition and exercise. I wasn’t always like that. For most of my life, I didn’t exercise seriously nor did I eat many fruits or vegetables. It is one of my many regrets in life. If I could go back and talk to my dummy self working at Payless Shoes, I would introduce him to broccoli and spinach and the whole idea of blending smoothies.
I would also teach myself how to work out for maximum effect.
Do not underestimate the link between the body and mind. Your feelings do not come from theCredit: mjpyro heart, they come from your head and they are nothing but chemicals like serotonin and dopamine that your brain releases from time to time dictated by certain activities or foods.
In short, if you want to feel better about yourself, do positive things for your mind and body. If you look and feel better, you will be happier. That seems simplistic to say, but too many people miss that in life.
If your mind and body are functioning at a higher level, you are able to weather the storms of doubt, fear and sadness that inevitably comes back around. Those things will still happen, but you can mitigate their effects just by having positive healthy routines in your life.
And just from a practical point of view, your health is the only thing that really matters in your life. It doesn’t matter how much money you make or where you live if you are in bad health.
A couple of years ago, two sisters were living together in a house on my street. Both were in their mid-60s. One of them had just retired, and four months later was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer completely out of the blue, and was dead in three months.
The surviving sister, now retired also, was taken into surgery two weeks ago because they found cancer in her colon and various other organs. A month later, she also died.
I didn’t tell you that story to bring you down, but to make a point.
Your health is the only thing of real value you have in this world so I always encourage everyone to put more effort into living healthy in their own lives. There is plenty of information on the web for eating healthier. I wish I had started earlier.
How to Begin an Exercise Routine
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Nurture the Relationships in Your Life
Be good to the people that have stuck with you over the years. They are the constants in your life and you need that as you age. Time on this planet is short for human beings and we all waste a lot of time doing meaningless activities, only to regret the lost time later in life particularly when it comes to things you should have done or said to people you care about.
We all get busy and days have a way of turning into weeks or months, and we lose touch with people. However, make it part of your weekly or monthly to do list to reach out to family members or old friends. It doesn’t take a lot either. Sometimes a simply message or comment on Facebook can lift someone’s spirits. Technology is your friend in this area, so use it. It has never been easier to stay in contact with the people you care about.
Do Something You Like To Do
Follow Your Dreams
This is a tough one because it involves external forces like bills and jobs. You can get all of the practical advice in the world, but if you can’t apply it because you are stuck in a miserable situation at work, you will be stuck in neutral. There are bills to be paid and if you have a family to support, it is double or triple the pressure.
I am not going to advise you to quit your job and start doing something you have passion for. You have to live in reality, however, that should be your life goal and the earlier in life you have this mentality, the easier it is to achieve.
Decide early what you want to do or be and turn it into a reality through a series of progressive steps. Take note of things you enjoy and look for ways to build an income around it. This is not easy, but it is not impossible either
Everyone has heard the old saying that goes something like “if you find something you like to do, you will never work a day in your life.”
Again, I don’t want to sound naïve. There is a practicality to life that you have to take into account. But if you have the option of pursuing something you have passion for, you are more likely to achieve a sense of well-being that we associate with happiness.
If all else fails, think in cosmic terms. Think about how insignificant your problems are in the universe. We are on a rock hurtling through space around a controlled nuclear reaction and its been going on for billions of years. When you think of it in those terms, it has a way of putting things in perspective and actually making you feel silly for being so self-absorbed.
Some people spend a lifetime searching for happiness without realizing it was right under their noses all along. To get to that realization you have to modify your thinking a bit. For most people this is difficult but not impossible. Start to appreciate the moment and you are on your way there.
This was not meant to be a self-help book. There are plenty of those on the market. I wanted to share some of the things that help me to stay positive and upbeat and mentally healthy in this world.
Life gives little relief and as the old saying goes, "there ain't none of us getting out of this alive."
We all have ups and downs and sometimes the valleys can put us into a shell, but the key to happiness is to always try to move forward. Don't look back or obsess over your mistakes. We all have them, but there is nothing you can do to change the past.
But if you can try to put a few of the ideas in this article to practical use in your life and work on kicking some bad habits, I think it will help you to stay upbeat and achieve the life you actually want to live.
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