Spring has sprung, or at least that’s what I tell myself! Despite the cold weather and snow sprinkles we’ve seen the past few days, my body still senses a new season approaching. I can also see and hear it at appointments with coaching clients – showing up in bright clothing, with new-found motivation and general excitement around goal-setting. Spring is a time when moods begin to shift. People are waking up from winter and getting ready to move around more. Everyone’s energy climbs with the lengthening of days. It’s great.
But for some of us, just the thought of a new season isn’t enough to get us ticking. Thanks to Sonja Lyubomirsky of University of California, this post includes some helpful practices that will make your days brighter as you wait patiently for Spring to show up more fully. I also added some of my own suggestions to the mix, so I hope you enjoy!
1. Count your blessings. So maybe your life isn’t perfect. Nobody’s is. However, research shows that if we pay attention to the things we have in our lives that are going well, our overall happiness is greater than our peers who do not practice gratitude. Not sure how to be more grateful? Try out one of these practices:
- Start a gratitude journal. Each week, pick one day to write down 3-5 things that make you feel grateful. Try to switch it up so your entries vary. Be sure to include the big and the little things that make you happy. If it brings you joy and gratitude, write it down.
- Pay a gratitude visit. Write a testimonial to a friend, teacher, or mentor, or even better, pay them a visit and read them the letter in person. Studies have shown that this one act can give you a whole month’s worth of feeling happy…that would buy you until May!
- Three Blessings: Martin Seligman finds that an exercise he calls, Three Blessings, can provide you with three to six months of satisfaction. Every day write down three things that went well in your day and why. Keep this up over time and see what happens.
2. Practice self-care. Do you chronically go to bed late, wake up early, and then feel lousy the rest of the day? How do you feel when you get enough rest? Better, right? Sometimes the key to happiness is as simple as getting enough sleep. Such a simple answer but for many of us so hard to execute. Understanding what you need to do to keep your body and mind at optimal functioning is important. Start by making a list of your basic needs and try to check a few off the list each day. Experiment with it, and practice, practice, practice. The more you are able to work what you need into your life on a regular basis, the easier it will become.
3. Be compassionate. Being kind to other people for the sake of being kind is so good for your well-being. Pay it forward. It makes you feel generous and capable, and it builds your self-efficacy – your belief that you can do it! It also gives you a sense of community and connection to others which provides you with acceptance, smiles/appreciation, and reciprocated kindness. All of these results will bring you more happiness. Being kind to others puts you in a good mood, it’s that simple. Just make sure that it is genuine. If it is not something you are doing from your heart you will not get the same benefits.
4. Have fun. On average babies laugh 300 times a day. Adults laugh 20 times a day. These figures are staggering and affect our ability to be happy. In order to raise the bar, do things that you enjoy every once in awhile. Smile. Smile when you look at yourself in the mirror. Smile at someone else. Smile with your eyes. If you really can’t get yourself to smile, hold a pencil or pen between your teeth, and your body will passively start to generate some positive feelings. Do this while looking in the mirror and you may actually start laughing 🙂 If you find yourself too busy to “do” something fun each week, try to work on enjoying or simply noticing the parts of your day that are fun or pleasurable.
5. Forgive, forgive, forgive. The time you spend mulling over experiences and people that bother you or have wronged you is time wasted. Being angry or resenting others will only suck the energy and vitality out of your life. Write a letter of forgiveness to the other person and send it to them, or just strike a match and let it burn away. Let it go. Work on practices that help you let things go. Yoga is a great framework to help with forgiveness. Through breathwork – breathing in nourishment and letting go what no longer serves you – you can change your life and learn to let go. Meditation is another great way to work on forgiveness. Imagine a person in your life that you love a lot and focus on sending them all your love and compassion. Then repeat with the same focus and feeling but send your love to someone who you are trying to forgive. It’s not easy, but it helps. The sooner you can detach from being angry at others, the sooner you can achieve freedom and happiness in your life.
6. Spend time with friends & family. Study after study shows that after you reach a level where your basic needs are met, where you live, more money, your job title, or even your health status will NOT make you more happy. What does make you more happy appears to be strong personal relationships. When you are busy chasing life, if you want to be happy, do not forget this piece. When you are too busy for your friends and family, reconsider. If you don’t want to see your friends or family, ask yourself why. If it is because the people make you feel rotten, then build a new community. Always surround yourself with people who support you, and make sure to take time for these special friendships as they will bring you the most joy.
7. Find meaning in your life. As mentioned in the healthy retirement blog post, having a purpose is central to our ability to be satisfied and happy. For a lot of people this is tough. What this one boils down to is a lot of self-study – the ability to know yourself inside and out. What makes you tick? The better you know yourself the easier it will be to understand what drives you and motivates you. Knowing your strengths and finding ways to realize them in the world can boost your happiness and feelings of satisfaction. If you have trouble with pinning down your strengths, ask people that know you well and that you trust. See what they say. You might be surprised or you might receive affirmation in what you already know about yourself.
8. Show up. Get engaged in what you do. Dig into the good, the bad, and the ugly. The more you disconnect yourself from your surroundings, your work, your friends, your family, the worse you are going to feel about your life. Life is not easy, but if you come to the table with your eyes and heart open, you will have a better chance of being resilient to the daily stress and challenges that life ultimately brings. If you try to avoid or ignore the hard stuff, you are only going to cause more trouble for yourself down the road. The best thing you can do for yourself is show up and be an active participant in your life. Nobody else is going to live your life but you. So go out there and live out your legacy!
I hope this post gives you a little inspiration, I know it revs me up! It can be a little overwhelming, I know – believe me. But what I find works best for me is to pick one or two items to focus on at a time.
How many of these 8 practices do you have in check?
Which ones do you feel like you need to work on right now?
Any other practices you find helpful in your own life that you would like to share?