With March 20 being International Happiness Day, it's time to celebrate your life. But more than just having a party, it's also a great time to reflect and assess your current state of mind to see if you have been genuinely happy.
Of course, it's hard sometimes to grasp what true happiness is, and it's natural to question whether you are really joyful within. But if you find that you've just been keeping your head down, living day to day or feeling really down in the dumps, it's time to do something about it.
To help you find your own happiness, we've gathered some small tips and tricks that you can implement every day. It's often the small battles that deliver the big wins.
1. PRACTICE MINDFULNESS EVERY DAY
If meditation and mindfulness came in a vitamin pill, we'd all be taking it, every day. Not just a practice for dedicated monks or yogis, every person benefits, almost instantly, from mindfulness.
Mindfulness is a mental training technique that keeps you focused on the present, and helps reduce anxiety and stress levels as well as feelings of depression.
The easiest way to start your mindfulness journey is to just sit in a comfortable position and focus on your breathing. With deep breaths in and out, keep your mind as still as you can and allow it to gently refocus on the present. A wandering mind is absolutely normal and you may struggle initially. But if you start small, say 10 minutes a day, and then work your way up, you'll soon see the positive impact this has on your life. You'll also be pleasantly surprised by the gradual improvements on the length of time you can mindfully meditate.
There is no strict discipline here - you can do it in the morning or evening, or even during a work break, whatever suits you. You don't need to burn sage or wear a yoga outfit either. It's a very simple but hugely effective mental practice that every single person will benefit from.
2. CURATE YOUR THOUGHTS AND EMOTIONS, AS YOU WOULD YOUR DAILY OUTFITS
We need to first accept that we all have negative and degrading thoughts about ourselves and other people. We all have flashes of jealousy, anger and frustration. We all wish our lives could be slightly different, and we all have a constant running internal dialogue inside of us that is, shall we say, less than friendly.
It's easy to believe that these thoughts represent who we are - but this is a common mistake. It's time you learnt that you can, and should, curate your own thoughts and internal discussions, just like you would your outfit. It takes hard work, effort and energy, but the results will be worth it. You need to recognise whenever you have bad feelings or negative thoughts, then actively swap them for a positive replacement.
It's going to take time and you'll not get it straight away, but as they say, practice makes perfect. If you keep doing this over and over, soon your positive mindset will become auto-pilot and you'll begin to think and feel differently.
3. START SAVING
If your finances are a constant struggle and you find yourself unable to save substantially every month, then start small. We're talking cents and loose change. Get yourself a big household jar (yeap, it doesn't need to be an expensive pig-shaped money bank!), and start throwing your small annoying change in there as and when you have it.
There are no rules here, you do it whenever you can. This jar, once full, will hold much more money than you would ever first believe. And the cool thing is, you didn't even notice that the money was 'gone' from your wallet in the first place.
Find joy in the 'extra cash' you have stowed away, and use it to reward yourself at the end of the year.
4. PRACTISE GRATITUDE JOURNALING
Whether you already have a diary or if this is an alien concept to you, writing in a personal journal, every day, can have a huge positive impact on your mood among many other things. If you believe in laws of attraction (it's pretty substantial, do read up on it) then what you're putting out into the universe is something you're going to get back.
So if you wake up and write a few positive lines in your journal daily, you'll start to create your own future on your wants and dreams. Try writing things you're grateful for now as well as things that make you happy now, and then go into your future ideals and goals. It's okay if you find it hard to write a whole lot now. Start with a sentence or two, and soon, you'll find yourself getting the hang of it, and having more to pen down as time goes on.
Not only are you collecting daily thoughts and producing positivity, you're also creating something to look back on, in the future, in which you can see how much you've grown (and hopefully, see that everything has come true too!).
5. SET BIG GOALS BUT ALWAYS START SMALL
It's always a good feeling to give yourself goals or a 'five-year plan' and it feels even better when you can look back and realise you've hit all your goals. But often, goal setting is a daunting task that can leave you feeling overwhelmed and panicky.
Make sure you do set these life-affirming goals and dreams, but then set very small ones that help put you on the right path. Break it all down into more manageable and achievable goals, then work slowly towards these.
Without you even realising it, you'll eventually achieve your ultimate goal just by religiously continuing to achieve all the smaller ones. Bingo!
6. BE DISCIPLINED AT WORK AND KEEP SOCIAL MEDIA AT BAY
It's so easy to drift off into the world of social media, then realise you've lost three hours of your life that you can never get back. And what have you achieved? Absolutely nothing. Feeling like you've wasted your time will lead to lots of frustration and negative thoughts. We recommend separating both work and pleasure (this requires some strict willpower, we know) and only delving into social media when you're on regimented break time or, say, travelling to work.
If you start to get all your work duties done every day before home time - the feelings of self accomplishment - not to mention the lack of stress - will be so overwhelming! You'll be naturally happy, and feel a proud sense of achievement.
7. AVOID CONSTANTLY SEEING OTHERS AS COMPETITION
If you see everyone else around you, and their success, as competition, you're going to be pretty darn miserable all the time. Constantly comparing and competing with your colleagues, friends and even family members will make you feel emotionally drained and push you into a negative spiral, not to mention evoke feelings of incompetency.
While healthy competition is a good thing and pushes us all to strive for more, it's bad news if it makes you feel more down-and-out than motivated.
Instead, try investing this energy to get a more positive outcome for yourself. Genuinely (it must be genuine!) wish everyone around you the best, hope that they get their dreams realised and focus on realising your own. Heck, you might even learn new things from them that accelerates your own dreams into a reality!
8. ACCEPT THE PAST IS DONE AND THE FUTURE HASN'T HAPPENED
Not to get religious on you all, but part of Buddhism teachings for true happiness is to accept that the past is done and dusted, understand the future is yet to happen and all you have is the here and now. To be truly happy you have to live in the present moment, because really - that's all we have. Time waits for no man.
Think about it. Does dwelling on all your previous mistakes make you happier or regretful? Does focusing on ideals or dreams that you've not reached yet make you happier or frustrated? The only true happiness you can find, is in the here and now.
So if you find your mind suddenly fixated on bad memories from the past, or you're feeling angst about future issues, stop yourself in your tracks. Switch these thoughts onto something very present, like your current work project or lunch plans. Find joy in the small things you have achieved for the day.
9. MAKE LEARNING SOMETHING NEW A DAILY ROUTINE
While working hard every day at your job is fantastic, it can often leave you feeling rather uninspired when everything becomes autopilot and you feel like you've learnt everything you can. To get your brain juices flowing and to experience the life changing benefits that come with challenging your mind, try to carve aside some time to learn something new everyday.
Whether it's listening to a podcast, watching a documentary on TV or even just screening interesting YouTube videos on your lunch break, gaining new perspective or knowledge is something we should never stop doing. Dedicating your spare time in the pursuit of learning will make you feel excited and boost your mood, and of course, give you more things to talk about during dinner dates.
10. GET A GOOD NIGHT'S SLEEP
We've saved the best for the last. It may be a very basic and simple function but it's the most important. Worryingly, many people suffer from insomnia in this modern day and age - we find ourselves kept up with work stress, family worries, finance issues or even just an addiction to smartphones and social media.
Not getting at least eight hours of uninterrupted sleep a night will really change your entire outlook that day, your mood, your energy levels and, over time, your appearance too! We can't stress the importance of sleep enough.
A severe lack of sleep, borderline fatigue, is going to drain you out of any happiness you manage to find. Go to sleep early and keep your phone away. Listen to some music and do aromatherapy if that helps. With sufficient rest, you'll feel ready to conquer the world the next day. And we all know we need all the energy we can get.
This article was first published in Her World.