Day 16-Fake It til You Make It!

“Fake It ‘Till You Make It”. You usually hear it in the business and show business world.  The idea is that if you look successful, others around you will treat you like a successful person and will send more opportunities your way.

I first heard this years ago from Mary Kay Ash, who started Mary Kay cosmetics. She was speaking to all of us beginning beauty consultants, advising us to pretend we were wildly successful until we got the experience and tools we needed to make it real.  You then stop faking it because you’ve become what you’ve pretended to be.  I can hear you now-“What? Be inauthentic or lie? No way.”  Faking in this context isn’t as phony as it sounds. What you are really doing is modeling behaviors until you’ve internalized them. Once that happens, you will start to see results, because you’ve been working hard at exactly the types of things a successful person does. It only makes sense then that you start to see results.

I did not become a wildly successful Mary Kay consultant, but in the process of “faking it” I learned that I did not want to do what it would take to become one. I later used the same technique”acting as if” to become a life coach, helping people discover all their strength and beauty, which I love!

The interesting thing is that this works in all sorts of different contexts. If you want to be a thin and fit person, start acting like one, eat the things they eat, work out, move around more. After a few months of doing that, it’s no wonder that you’re starting to slim down significantly.

Since happiness is on my mind a lot during this project, I did a little research to see if the same concept could also work for feelings – including increasing a feeling of self-worth, wellbeing, and of course being happier. The good news is that it does. You really can fake happiness until your mood improves.

How to Start Faking Happiness

Faking happiness is a lot easier than you may think. You can start with nothing more complicated than smiling. Remember yesterday’s post? A fake smile will do in a pinch, but if you can get your entire face, including your eyes involved. Give smiling your best effort, even if you aren’t feeling like it. After a bit of smiling, you should feel your mood start to get brighter. Remind yourself throughout the day to smile more! I have to remind myself to smile—I have a neutral facial expression most of the time, so I really do have to work at the smile thing.

When you’re ready to kick it up a notch, give laughing a try. Again, no kidding. Laughter is great for you! Find a laughter yoga class in your area.  If there’s nothing funny going on, just start giggling and laughing. It has a profound impact on the body. Not only will it instantly lift your bad mood and make you feel happier, laughing has also been shown to increase your body’s ability to heal and it will improve your immune system.

Give it a try! Start practicing faking happiness. You can smile and laugh at yourself in front of the bathroom mirror in the mornings. Try to smile more and laugh often as you go about your day.

Day 15 – Brighten Someone’s Day

A big key to our own happiness lies in making people around us happy and helping others. Try starting your day with the intention of making it a good day for someone else. It could be something as simple as giving someone a big smile, have a meaningful conversation with a person who’s feeling a little lost or lonely. It doesn’t matter what you do, but do something today to make someone else’s day a little brighter.

How does that make you feel? Pretty good feeling isn’t it? When you start to think about it, it makes sense, doesn’t it? We are social creatures who must work together to truly thrive. It is only logical then that helping those around us has an internal rewards system built in. Our own happiness goes up when we improve the lives of others.

A great strategy to increase your own happiness is to spread a little cheer. Put a big smile on your face—even when you don’t feel especially cheery, just moving those smile muscles actually makes you feel better. It’s hard to do this kind of stuff when you’re feeling sad and depressed. But those are the times you need to push yourself to do it the most. By simply smiling, your own mind causes the feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins and serotonin to be released. This increases the happiness you feel and that gets mingled with a feeling of pride for helping someone else.

As with many of the other strategies we’ve been discussing about boosting your happiness, the key to making this work is to make it a habit. If it becomes well established in your daily routine to make someone’s day as you go about living your life, you’ll automatically start to do it, even when (and especially when) you don’t feel like it. Those are the times when you particularly need to do something to raise your own happiness and give yourself that little extra boost.

Start by thinking about a few different little things you can do to make someone’s day. It doesn’t have to be anything big or complicated. Instead focus on small acts of kindness that you can do every single day. Bless your loved ones with this kindness, or complete strangers who look like they could use a little cheering up. Help someone unload groceries, fix a meal for a neighbor who needs a little help, or bring your spouse coffee in bed. Chocolate all around!  All these small acts of kindness will start to make a huge difference in you and the world around you.

Day 14 Confidence. Got It?

Think back to some of the happiest times in your life. Chances are that these are also days when you felt most confident. Maybe you were good at sports during that time, or you aced a project at work. Confidence can be a huge happiness booster. But why wait for something good to happen in your life? Why not work on boosting your self-confidence?

Boosting your confidence can happen lots of ways. I have listed a few here. I also encourage you to read up on the topic, pay attention to times when you’re feeling more confident, and then work out a plan to intentionally boost your self-confidence based on your own research and experience.

We tend to respond to different strategies, techniques, and events—we are unique! Some of us thrive on words of encouragement, while others want to see results, or thrive on actions from others. For example, do you put more meaning into a kind word from your boss, a raise, or a promotion? Maybe public recognition for something you have accomplished? We all have different confidence triggers. Your mission, should you choose to accept it is to figure out what your confidence boosters are and how you can get more of them!

General confidence boosters include words of encouragement, making a list of things you are proud of, listening to some upbeat music, going out for a run, and dealing with disappointments in a positive way. Pay attention to your self-talk–you are becoming what you are preaching inside your head. Give the preacher a positive script! Try any other interesting confidence boosting tip you come across a try.

Once you determine what your confidence builders are, take action. As far as I know there isn’t an injection for increasing self-confidence. It takes effort. If you respond well to compliments and words of encouragement, call a friend or anyone else in your life who makes a great cheerleader (your Positivity Posse). Get those positive verbal affirmations whenever you need a little boost. Keep a journal so you can look back and see how much progress you’ve made. This is particularly good if you’re trying to change your life, your habits, or make progress on a long-term project. Being able to look back and see how far you’ve come can be very inspiring. Let yourself feel inspired by your own accomplishments!

When things go wrong – and let’s face it, they will sooner or later – you can either allow it to bring you down and undermine your confidence, or you can look at it as a learning experience. Guess which view is better for your self-esteem?

 

Day 13- Happiness and Getting Your ZZZZZs

Sleep is important for your health, both your physical and mental well-being. Not getting a good night’s sleep can dramatically impact your performance during the day. Chronic lack of sleep can lead to all sorts of health issues, such as depression and even weight gain. In other words, not getting the sleep you need has many consequences.  

On the flip side, making sure you get enough rest can help you feel more energized. You get more done which boosts your self-confidence and in turn your overall happiness. Making sure you get your beauty rest makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it? I’m a night owl myself, so the temptation to stay up too late and “just finish this one little thing” is always there. Even though I know I have to get up early for a meeting, I sometimes push the clock. And the clock pushes back. Hard!

I’m sure you’ve seen this in action yourself. When we don’t sleep well, or don’t get a chance to get enough rest, we end up grumpy and tense. Our stress levels go way up, which makes us feel worse. We might not get the work we had planned done, and we start to feel depressed. Which in turn leads to more sleepless nights. It’s a vicious cycle.

Everything changes for the better when we make sleep a priority. We wake up in a great mood, ready to tackle the day. It’s easier to get work and chores done and still have time to relax and unwind. That in turn leads to a better night’s sleep and an even better morning.

So how do we get to this state of sleep-full bliss and a solid 7 – 8 hours of rest at night? Make sleep a priority! I know, I know, there are times in our lives (like the arrival of a newborn, for example), when getting a good night’s sleep isn’t a possibility. But for most of us, working on a reasonable bedtime routine is not that hard.

Keyword here is routine. Good sleep is a habit and a learned behavior. It takes a little work on your part to change your habits and establish a good sleep and bedtime routine, but it will be well worth it. I promise.

Start by setting a regular bedtime and do your best to stick to it – even on the weekend and holidays. Our bodies get in a rhythm of walking and resting hours. Help your body get there by staying on schedule. Spend some time in the hours before bed to relax and calm down. Stop working, don’t exercise too late in the day, avoid caffeine a few hours before bed, and turn off screens at least an hour before you’re ready to fall asleep. Turning down the lights, playing soft music, and reading an old-fashioned paper book are all great ways to relax and prepare both body and mind for sleep. Taking a warm bath or shower can help as well.

If you’re still having a hard time going to sleep after implementing a routine, consider supplementing with magnesium and /or melatonin. Both are natural and not habit-forming. A lack of either one of those substances in your body can make it much harder to fall and stay asleep. Stick with your routine and you will get into a habit of getting plenty of sleep, leading to happier, more energetic and productive days.

 

Day 12 – Your Happy Squad–a Support System of Positive People

 

Moods are contagious. If you’re around a bunch of sad and depressed people, you’ll start to feel down. Have you been in a room with someone that just sucks the energy right out of you? Black Cloud contagion alert!  If you are in a group of happy people, you can’t help but start to smile. It makes sense then to surround yourself with happy people if you want to increase your own level of happiness.

Does this mean that you should shut all people who aren’t super happy out of your life? Of course not. We all have important people in our lives whom we love and cherish even if they don’t have the sunniest outlook on life. We all have happier and sadder seasons in our lives. It would be horrible if we avoided loved ones during tough times.

SO who are the happy people in your life?  Who are your cheerleaders? Who will put a smile on your face anytime you spend time with them? Take note of those positive people and build a support system of happy people that you can turn to when you’re feeling down.

Along the same lines, you want to be careful about the negative and sad people around you and how they affect your own mood. When you’re having a hard time and are struggling with your own happiness levels, it may be better to avoid people that you know will bring you further down. Those are the times when you want to spend time with your team of cheerleaders– your happiness support system. Again, this doesn’t mean that you need to completely shut people out of your life, just take note of their energy and how they affect you and spend time with them accordingly.

When you are happy, don’t be afraid to share that happiness and spread it around. Smiling, laughing, and feeling good about life, as I said, is contagious. Spread the joy and soak it up from positive people around you when you’re not feeling your personal best. Call up that friend who makes you feel better instantly. Talk to people who love and care for you about this idea of contagious happiness. Let them know when you could use some cheering up and then return the favor. Because, let’s face it, we all have times when we’re happier and in a much better mood than other days. Make it a habit to build each other up and create that happiness support system. It will make a huge difference in your life and those around you.

 

Day 11 Fighting Our Brain’s Negativity Bias

 Have you noticed that negative comments and events stick with us longer and influence us more than positive ones? A positive comment by a spouse or friend for example is appreciated, but the effects wear off quickly. A negative comment on the other hand sticks with you much longer. Say what? Yes, our brains have a bias to negativity. It’s measurable– there have been brain scan studies that show that our brain reacts more strongly to negative stimuli. How do we fight against our brain’s bias to negativity? Good question, right?

The first step is to realize that there is such a thing. Knowing that we react more strongly to negative comments allows us to take each piece of negativity with a grain of salt. It can be incredibly helpful to acknowledge that our mind and heart may be overreacting about something negative. On the other hand, knowing about this bias also allows us to make it a point to savor the positivity. Don’t dismiss a compliment out of hand. Instead, savor it, think about it, and make it a point to remember it, and allow it to lift you up when negativity brings you down.

I know, I know. Easier said than done. We are blasted with negative news these days! Since this bias to negativity is hard wired in our brains, it takes a lot of time and effort to build new, more positive habits. Remind yourself each morning that your mind is trying to force you to focus on the negative stuff and that it takes a conscious effort to balance it out by being mindful off all the good and happy things in our lives.

Over time this will allow us to grow a thicker skin when it comes to unwarranted criticism. Should you ignore every single comment or suggestion that you don’t like? Of course not. There is such a thing as constructive criticism that helps us to grow and get better at what we do. What we need to guard against are the negative words, events, and feelings that make us want to curl up in a fetal position, preferably in a dark distant cave. Counter that feeling with positive action.

A great exercise or ritual is to reflect on both the good and the bad on a daily basis. This helps to gain a little distance and see everything that’s happening to us in a better light. Keep a journal to write and or draw in. Try these prompts: What I loved about today was ______________.  What I didn’t love was ___________. Just the acknowledgement and noticing help balance out your day!  When you’re struggling with something negative that you’ve having a hard time getting past, talking things out with a friend is another great idea.

Do what you can to outweigh the negativity with the good stuff. Keep a box or file with some of the best positive emails and comments you’ve gotten. Read through them whenever you need to counteract something negative.

 

Finding Happiness Despite Sadness or Overwhelm

We all go through hard times. There are periods in our lives where it is tough to find much joy and happiness amid a sea of sadness and overwhelm. We have times when we feel like we’re in way over our head and can’t think straight. That causes lots of stress and as we’ve talked about in a previous blog post, stress kills happiness.

There are also incredibly sad times in our lives. Relationships end and we lose loved ones. There is certainly a time to grieve and we need to process that loss. These sad moments contrast with the happier ones, making the happy times even more precious.

That being said, there are things you can do to find a little happiness during these tough times. You can’t expect to flip a switch and suddenly everything is rainbows and roses. And why would you want that? We need time to process and grieve when we lose someone, and the overwhelm and stress help us stay on our toes and get stuff done. What we need is to see a little light at the end of the tunnel. We need that little bit of happiness to give us hope.

Let’s talk about how you can go about creating that little bit of happiness to get you through the hard times. The first thing you may want to focus on is gratitude. Whenever you feel particularly bad, sad, or overwhelmed and don’t know where to turn, think about the many people and things in your life that you can be grateful for. If you’ve recently lost a loved one, be grateful for the time you’ve had with them and the things you’ve learned from this special person. If you’re stressed out at work or in your own business, be grateful that you’re growing and making progress. It may not be easy, but this overwhelm and stress usually means that much better things are ahead.

I find it’s also extremely helpful to find the joy in the little things. Maybe you’re not ready to be grateful and that’s ok. Instead, pay attention to your surroundings and find a little joy in what’s around you. Let that toddler playing in the park put a smile on your face. Enjoy the first warm rays of sunshine in the spring, or notice how beautiful that flower in your garden is. In other words, look around and find a little joy and happiness where you can. Above all, remember that even during hard times, it’s ok to find and appreciate these little moments of happiness.

Day 9 Savor the Small Stuff – Don’t Sweat it!

“Don’t sweat the small stuff” they say. And they – whoever “they” is, have a good point. It’s easy to get caught up in all the little things that stress us out and ruin our day. Frankly it’s not worth wasting a lot of energy on a many of the things that happen on a daily basis that we don’t like.  We could get upset over the fact that someone else took the last good parking spot or that the grocery store is out of our favorite brand of cereal.

Or we can choose to not make a big deal out of it and use that small annoyance to practice seeing the positive side of things. Having to park further away means we get to exercise a little and enjoy the fresh air and sunshine for a couple of minutes while we stroll into the office. Not being able to find our favorite cereal, means we get a chance to try something new that we may like even better.

As human beings we have a choice in how we look at things–there are often two sides (or more!) to any situation. Make it a goal to look on the bright side and watch your happiness and contentment go up. Then take it a step further and start to really pay attention to all the good stuff around you. You might surprise yourself!

There’s a lot of value in noticing all the positive things around you. There’s a lot of little things in your life that will put a smile on your face, if you take the time to notice them. Make it a habit to spend some of your downtime this week savoring the small stuff. Notice how your cup of coffee smells, how it warms your hands on a cool morning, and how it tastes. Pay attention to the birds outside your window and notice how watching them and their antics makes you smile. Appreciate the hugs you get from friends and family. In other words, savor all the small stuff that makes you happy. Make the time to notice it.

Over the coming weeks, practice noticing and savoring the small stuff. Don’t let the bad stuff bring you down. Instead, make it a goal to find something positive about everything that happens to you throughout the day. Pay particular attention to what makes you smile. Before long you will feel this simple little exercise making a big difference in your overall outlook on life.

Day 8  We Crave Human Connections

Like it or not, we are social creatures who crave human connections (yes, even you extreme sensitives and introverts need connections). It is hardwired into our brains because we need to work together to ensure the survival of our species.  It only makes sense then that forming and maintaining those connections has an internal reward built in. On the flip side, when we spent too much time isolated and alone we start to feel sad, depressed and if that isolation lasts too long, we can go mad.

And it is our interaction with other people more than anything else that brings us happiness. It isn’t the amount of money we make or have stashed away in a bank account. It isn’t the big house, the fancy car, and all the stuff we accumulate over the years. What makes most humans happy is spending time and sharing experiences with other people.

Not every personal connection makes us happy. There are plenty of people we don’t particularly enjoy spending time with, but we do it for a variety of reason. We do it to work together on a project at the office, because they are our neighbors, or because belong to an organization that you also belong to. Maybe not people who are friends or who we would choose to spend time with. Yet, there are still benefits to these relationships. We challenge each other and become better people, and better contributors to society at large when we collaborate.

When we are with people we love and whose company we enjoy on the other hand, we get a lot of joy, satisfaction, and happiness out of those interactions. We have evolved into beings who crave the mental, social, and physical connections. There’s a reason almost everyone appreciates a heart-felt hug.

Spending time with people who love and encourage us, and those that challenge us, and make us push harder, help us grow as human beings. We get better when we have cheerleaders and mentors around us. You become the average of the five people you spent the most time around. Pick those around you wisely if you want to grow as a person. If your goal is happiness, spend as much time as you can with happy, positive people.

And please, make sure you nurture those close relationships with family and friends. Those connections will help boost your happiness and make you feel like you are part of something bigger that gives even more meaning to your life.

Day 7  Happiness and Exercise

When you’re having a bad day, or are feeling down, exercise is a good way to boost your happiness,. There is a strong link between exercise and an improvement in mood and well being. Give it a try. Go for a walk whenever you’re feeling depressed and unhappy. You’ll notice your mood starting to get better after a short time.

This increase of happiness and well being after exercise is caused by two different mechanisms in our body. The first is that exercise causes the release of brain chemicals like endorphins and other mood enhancers. This happens just a few minutes after you work out and the effect can last for a good 12 hours. The second part to the equation is that exercise also helps reduce the levels of stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline in the body. That means you’ll instantly feel less stressed. This one-two punch can have a powerful effect on how you feel. Something as simple as a brisk walk can help you feel better almost immediately.

For best results, you want to exercise a few times per week. Take some time during your lunch break to go for a walk, or work a quick workout in before you head to work in the morning. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you start moving around and get that blood pumping. Pick activities you enjoy that you will stick with.

In addition to the everyday mood booster you get from exercising regularly, there are a lot of long term benefits. Exercise is good for your health and you will start to get fitter and even slimmer and more toned if you stick with it. This in turn will improve how you feel and how you feel about yourself. That added confidence can be a great additional mood booster.

Try to get as much exercise as you can outside. Fresh air and sunshine add to a feeling of well being. Come up with some simple things you can start doing right now. Maybe it’s going for a walk each afternoon. Maybe it’s running. Maybe it’s signing up for a yoga or Pilates class at your local community center, or maybe it’s joining a sports team. It doesn’t matter what you choose to do as long as you make it a goal to get more active and move around. Switch it up and plan a group hike for the weekend, or dust off your bike. There’s a lot of fun ways to get moving and enjoy the world around you.