My suggestions for happiness. I don’t always get them right myself, but they certainly help. This list is not exhaustive, or in a particular order.
These are my thoughts as influenced by: life experience, things learnt in Church, values from my family, advice from Christian leaders, friends and mentors, and from the Bible. (Nothing in this post is sponsored.)
Stress management, particularly if you have any anxiety, is hugely helped by exercise. I recommend doing a mixture of strength, stretch and cardio. Though, I find that running is best if you need to clear your head.
The ways in which exercise will aid you are endless, including:
– better breathing
– more confidence
– improved ease of movement
– better mood
– better sleep
– improved circulation
– a sense of routine and control over your time.
Your exercise time can also be your time outdoors, time to learn a skill, your time with others, or even your time alone. I use my exercise time to catch up on audio podcasts and to enjoy my music collection.
For the time poor: 24 hour gyms are now common.
For those concerned with money: you can exercise at home or outdoors, you can also find videos, plans etc online. I paid $500 for 18 months of gym membership with classes included at Crunch gym. It’s cheap enough that if I’d rather go outdoors instead then I don’t feel guilty about waisting my dollars; plus I can bring a buddy to train with me. I also recommend the Michelle Bridges 12WBT for a paid exercise and diet plan.
- Take Vitamin B12 Blood Tonic
I take Nutrivite every morning, it dissolves under the tongue for quick absorption and it’s about $14 for 100 tablets. You can also get this vitamin in the form of injections administered by your GP.
I noticed the benefit to my happiness instantly, but it also gives a sustained lift in mood over time. It’s always best to chat to your doctor about mixing supplements and medications and your personal health situation. This vitamin can be particularly good for people who don’t eat red meat.
- Time Alone
Depending on whether you are more introverted or extroverted, the healthy balance of time alone will be different, but everybody needs (and benefits from) time alone.
The balance to strike within your time alone, is between ‘intentional time’ and ‘lazy time’. Don’t be mean to yourself! Allow yourself some time for the occasional YouTube binge, or staying in bed until midday.
But on the other hand – don’t let all your alone time be ‘lazy time’, because you won’t gain long term benefit. Cultivate genuinely restful and productive time alone – see some of the other points for ideas on how to do this.
- Time Together
Spend too much time alone and you get weird, no matter who you are, and weird is not happy. Time together is about time with your partner, friends, family, colleagues, and others. It’s good to have a mixture of people you need and people who need you (not always mutually exclusive).
Mix-up your together time, so some is purely social, some is about helping others, and some is about helping you.
It’s important to be able to be sustained without people around you all the time, but also remember – “It is not good for man to be alone” in the long run (Genesis 2:18).
If there are kids in your world, then invest in time them: they are refreshing for you and they need good role models who care about them.
If there are old people in your world, spend time with them too: they have a lot to give, plus they have given alot already. They are at a time in their life when they should be celebrated and valued.
Together time can have varying levels of engagement – from deep discussions, through to watching a comedy, mix it up and enjoy it.
Even if you are not a Christian – this is open to you too and I can’t recommend it highly enough. I pray to Jesus everyday. I ask for His help both for myself and on behalf of others. I acknowledge and thank Him, repent of stuff I’ve messed up with and I also listen, it’s a two way conversation.
- Read The Bible
Meditiation on scripture is so helpful – it’s about stilling your thoughts and being peaceful, with positive input. To be still and know God (Psalm 46:10) is an incredible task – so beneficial, but harder than it sounds. Bible scriptures also help us to pray, can entertain us, and are edifying on many levels.
If you want wisdom – look in Proverbs.
For poetic writing which explores sorrow and triumph – the Psalms are helpful.
For the core Christian message – look to the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John).
And there’s obviously so much more there that we could never exhaust it in a life time.
- Colouring In / knitting / cooking / nail painting / or (insert similar activity which is ‘mindless-but-not-junkfood-for-the-mind’ here)
These tasks are repetitive, they focus your attention and can be creative, but they don’t exhaust the mind or require a lot from us mentally/emotionally. You’ll also have something to show for your work at the end. These are good ‘alone time’ things, and are particularly helpful if you are in a difficult season, because you may need something to occupy your mind and time, but your energy levels are likely to be low and your sorrow and stress levels may be high.
- Eat well
By ‘eat well’ I do mean be healthy, but not just healthy: enjoy food and do it well.
Eating well can give you a huge sense of balance and control over your life. So if you’re in a bit of a spiral, maintain your food in a good way and you’ll feel a lot better, it might even help you get on the right track.
Controlling your portions will make you more comfortable. Eating fresh produce and a good variety of foods will get you the vitamins, minerals and energy intake that you need. When your digestion is functioning well you will feel infinitely better.
For health, here’s a few tips that work for me (although everyone is different):
– roughly know your calories and you can’t go too far wrong
– flavour things with herbs and spices rather than fats or salt
– allow yourself to really enjoy delicious foods, including ‘treats’ – but if you portion and space them out they will more enjoyable and sustainable
– take a pro-biotic
– Eat a balance of most things (unless you are genuinely allergic) without overdoing any particular category
- Drink Water
Being hydrated will make you look, feel and function significantly better. You will be exhausted if you are dehydrated, you will also get fine lines on your face and the overall quality of your skin will decrease. It is easier to sleep, breathe, think and speak when you are well hydrated. And you will loose more weight if you need to.
Some of us are better at this than others, but if you make a discipline of it, especially as you get older, you’ll notice the difference. There are things you can do to help you sleep:
– use lavender linen water, mist or balm
– have a heat or cooling pack
– invest in good bedding if you can
– use ear plugs
– use an eye mask
– open or shut windows
– be intentional the time before you go to sleep, the less screen-time before bed, the better, wind down,
*Let there be exceptions to the rule with sleep. Allow yourself have a late night here and there, being tired on occasion isn’t the end of the world.
- Have a project(s)
“Without vision the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). You have skills and gifts that intended for the benefit of yourself and others. Make the project(s) something you’ll enjoy and have an end point if possible. If it’s a big project then set little goals or victories along the way. I do this podcast as one of my projects.
- Be actively focused on others
People are valuable, the more you recognise their value, the more you’ll realise your own (as a general rule). Be deliberate in this:
– set quotas (e.g 2 donations a month, 1 kind word a day)
– decide on good deeds in advance (you’re unlikely to just fall into them regularly)
– put yourself in other people’s shoes (this helps with motivation and method)
It might take the form of volunteering, encouraging, awareness, financial donations, or going out of your way to bring dignity to a vulnerable person etc.
- Get Good Input, and Digest Good Content
This is about reading, listening, watching and relationship. Be intentional about what you feed your heart and mind. Find authors, news, documentaries, music, preachers etc that will give you challenging, edifying and uplifting content. Don’t just invest or you’ll get bloated – digest it too. So talk through it, pray about it, journal, and put it into practice!
- Celebrate and Recognise
Make a big deal out of things that matter, like birthdays, achievements, holidays and milestones. A card, cake, outing, phone call or celebratory toast are all great ways to do this. Maybe even give a gift that matches the occasion. On a smaller scale: just writing something down in your diary, saying ‘thanks’ or ‘congratulations’, are all significant. Take the time to be thankful, proud and excited for yourself and for others.
*Note – don’t let your expectations be too high, and don’t let the celebration (or the expectation of a celebration) overshadow the actual thing you are recognising in the first place.
- Breathe Well
Learning to breathe well is hugely helpful, it’s good crisis management, but it’s also good general maintenance.
Breathing slowly in controlled intervals is generally the way to go. It’s hard at first. Breathing is generally not a conscious activity, so if you have poor breathing habits it’s unlikely that you are aware of it, however, it will be having an impact on your mood as well as your ability to deal with stress and conflict.
As a breathing exercise: I breathe in through the nose for 4 counts, hold for 2 counts, and then breathe out through the mouth for 6 counts.
- Balanced Self Improvement
If you drift through life, you will almost definitely end up where you don’t want to be. This goes for relationships, career, faith and everything else. We need to be intentional about who we are becoming and where we are heading.
Invest time, energy and resource into being a better person.
I’d suggest this means:
– Getting good counsel and being transparent with trusted people
– Actively learning from others’ mistakes,
– Take time and space to genuinely reflect on your experiences, expectations and decisions
– Being aware of your thought patterns and emotions (changing them where needed)
– Admitting mistakes, shortcomings and wrongdoing: say/be sorry, get to the root of it and then change
* The reason I include the word ‘balanced’, is that I strongly believe you should avoid obsessive self improvement – mainly because it negates grace. We all need grace. If you don’t let grace be at work in your own life, you’ll find it hard to have grace for others.
Unforgiveness is corrosive, primarily to the one who is hurt. We can carry unforgiveness and not even know it, so point 16 is a good one to help keep that in-check.
We should be able to wish others well in their lives and that they would come to a place of addressing their offence. Though their offence can in some cases mean we don’t/can’t have that person as a part of our lives.
We may be tempted back to un-forgiveness by the memory of the offence or our pain, this does not mean that we don’t forgive them. But it does mean we need to be on guard against slipping back into a place of unforgiveness.
Forgivness does not make what that person has done to you any less wrong or serious.
Forgiveness should not depend on the person being sorry.
Forgiveness is freeing and significant on many levels.
- Don’t Judge
You’ll be happier if you don’t judge, and generally speaking it’s not our job.
Carrying judgement for others is carrying the weight of their faults (or perceived faults). There is no need to judge. Particularly in a Christian worldview, this technically should be easy, because we know that the God of justice prevails, and that’s what the crucifixion is all about.
*Although we do not need to judge, there is a time and place to offer correction and there are opportunities to express that you feel something is wrong. We can have morals, standards and opinions, and there are contexts in which those can be shared individually and corporately.
Worship is about reverence and adoration – a beautiful combination when directed in the right place. I believe we are created to be in relationship with God.
In the deepest place of sorrow: praising and worshipping God brings a comfort and joy that is otherwise not accessible in tough circumstances.
I’ve heard an analogy used: you don’t use a hair-dryer to toast bread, you don’t use a microwave to play CDs. Just like all with things, people function best when they are aligned to the purpose for which they are created.
In 1 Corinthians 13:4-8, there’s a pretty incredible description of what real love is, so I’m going to leave you with that:
4 Love endures with patience and serenity, love is kind and thoughtful, and is not jealous or envious; love does not brag and is not proud or arrogant.
5 It is not rude; it is not self-seeking, it is not provoked [nor overly sensitive and easily angered]; it does not take into account a wrong endured.
6 It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices with the truth [when right and truth prevail].
7 Love bears all things [regardless of what comes], believes all things [looking for the best in each one], hopes all things [remaining steadfast during difficult times], endures all things [without weakening].
8 Love never fails [it never fades nor ends].