Make a Plan to Keep This Happiness Going

It is hard to believe it has been 30 days since we started this Happiness Challenge together. We covered a lot of ground and if you followed along with the tips I shared and made an effort to improve your mood, your gratitude, and your joy, I’m sure you’re seeing a lot of progress and growth. Don’t let what you have learned evaporate!

Let’s take a minute and look back at everything we’ve covered so far this month:

  1. Welcome and Why Happiness Is A Choice You Make Every Day
  2. Make A Commitment to Cultivating Happiness
  3. What Makes You Happy?
  4. Start Your Day with Gratefulness
  5. Happiness and Doing Stuff
  6. Stress Kills Happiness – Easy Ways to Destress
  7. Happiness and Exercise
  8. We Crave Human Connections
  9. Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – Savor It
  10. Finding Happiness in a Sea of Sadness or Overwhelm
  11. Fighting Against Our Brain’s Bias To Negativity
  12. Your Happy Squad—a Support System of Positive People
  13. Happiness and Getting Your ZZZZZs
  14. Boost Your Confidence and Become Happier
  15. Make It a Point To Make Someone’s Day
  16. When All Else Fails, Fake It
  17. Talk to Yourself–Keep A Journal
  18. Learn to Deal with Negative Thoughts and Emotions
  19. Live in the Moment
  20. Positive Communication
  21. Giving Back Makes Us Happier
  22. Meditating Your Way to A Happier You
  23. Trade Things for Experiences
  24. Happiness in Simplicity – Declutter Your Life and Your Mind
  25. Stop Complaining. Take Action.
  26. Good Nutrition–Good Mood
  27. Calling Me for a Date with Me.
  28. Happiness Is Contagious
  29. Are You Noticing a Difference?

I hope you’ve been following along and enjoyed this happiness challenge. It’s amazing what will happen when you start to pay attention to how you feel and do what you can to increase your happiness and that of those around you. I hope you have found some tools, techniques, tips, and ideas that have helped you increase the joy in your life.

Where do you go from here? You keep implementing and continue to practice being happy regularly. Remember the Happiness Journal I talked about back on day 17? It’s an excellent tool you can use to keep yourself on track. I will be sending you a link tomorrow for some tools that might help you keep on the happy path.

Keep coming back to these posts as needed. It may not be a bad idea to bookmark this post as a quick reference tool. Above all, keep learning, keep smiling, and keep growing your joy and happiness.

Day 29 – Are You Noticing a Difference?

Over the past 28 days we’ve been talking a lot about happiness and what we can do to increase how we feel. We’ve talked about a wide variety of different things from how sleep, exercise and nutrition can affect our mood, to simple strategies like decluttering and practicing gratefulness.

Tomorrow I’ll give you a quick little review and we’ll make some plans to go from there. Today though, as this 30 Day Happiness Challenge is coming to a close, I thought it would be a good idea to take stock and see if intentionally focusing on being happier is making a difference. I know it has for me, but how about you? I hope you’ve been following along and giving the various ideas a try. One thing we talked about in the past is keeping a journal. At the time, the idea was to practice gratitude and pay attention to the good things by writing them down. That same journal is also a great tool to judge how you’ve been doing throughout this challenge. Compare the earlier entries to the last few, or even how you’re feeling now. Hopefully you’re seeing some great improvements.

It’s important to remember that we go through seasons in our lives. There are times that we are overall happier, and times that are more challenging and sad. It’s ok to go through those sadder phases. We need to sad to make the happy stand out more, to appreciate the good times. If you’re stuck in a tough time, that’s ok. Do what you can to make yourself and your loved ones get through it and then work on bringing the joy and happiness back into your lives.

More than anything else I hope this short little challenge is making you more aware of the beauty and joy around you. It’s so easy to get sucked into our everyday lives and troubles to a point where we miss the people and things that will make us happy. This challenge was designed to make you more aware of them and create new, positive habits that you will continue to carry forward from here on out. We’ll talk a little more about where to go from here in tomorrow’s wrap up post. For now, I hope this has made a difference to you and I’d love to hear how you’ve enjoyed it and what you’ve found particularly helpful. Leave me a comment, connect on social media, or send me an email. I look forward to hearing from you.

Day 27 – Happiness Is Contagious

Did you know that happiness is contagious? A fun fact that you may not have realized is true, but I’m sure you have experienced it. Think about a time when you were with a person who was experiencing pure joy. Kids are wonderful not only being completely happy, but also sharing and expressing that exuberant joy. If you’re around a small child that’s laughing, giggling, and having a grand time, you can’t help but smile along. Their joy makes us happier because it is contagious – sort of like a yawn.

Since happiness can spread from person to person, consider it a tool we can use to share our joy and excitement. Use it to make a difference in how happy you feel on any given day and don’t be afraid to spread it around.

Soak Up the Happy

When you’re having a rough day, cheering yourself up may be as simple as finding a happy person. Surround yourself with positive people who are good at sharing the joy. Find your own personal cheerleaders that you can call on when you need a little boost. While watching a comedy or happy movie may help, experiencing happiness in person seems to have a much bigger impact on how you feel. Go out there and soak up the happy.

Spread Happiness Around

Not only can you feed of the happiness of others, you can also start to spread it around. We talked in a previous post about how giving makes us happier than receiving. Along those same lines, sharing your happiness will benefit both you and those around you. If you are out there intentionally sharing your joy and excitement with those around you, you’ll create a positive energy that is infectious. You’ll start to notice your family and friends smile more, laugh with you, and have a good time.

Then something interesting happens. You start to feed off their positive vibes and happiness, increasing your own joy. Keep it going and you’ll create a spiral of happiness that keeps spreading everywhere. A simple smile or a shared laugh can change the mood of an entire group of people. That’s pretty powerful stuff.

Start to pay attention to the mood and be aware that feelings of both happiness and sadness can be contagious. Use what we’ve talked about in this post to your advantage and where appropriate, change the mood in the room by sharing happiness. You don’t have to be exploding with joy to make a difference. Instead, take a moment to focus on a happy memory, or think about what you’re grateful for. Then show and share the happiness you’ve created and watch it travel around the room. Smile, have an encouraging conversation and work towards making the world a happier place.

Day 25 – Stop Complaining. Act.

Since starting this 30 Day Happiness Challenge here on the blog and via email, I’ve been a lot more aware of the happiness of the people around me. I’m sure you’ve experienced the same thing. It is causing me to look at people more closely and pay attention to their actions, their feelings, and how that seems to connect. It’s has given me some fresh perspectives on this whole happiness thing.

Something that’s stood out in the past few weeks is that the people that seem the most unsatisfied with their life and the least happy are the ones who spend a lot of their time and energy complaining. Do you have a few of those people in your life? They are too busy talking about how horrible their life is that they don’t have any time left to do something about it. Or maybe they’d rather complain than change things. Either way, the solution seems to be simple. Stop complaining and start doing something about it!

We all have times when we complain about one thing or another. Sometimes we do it in our heads, sometimes we vent with a close friend or family member. We grumble, get it off our chest. That’s fine, provided complaining isn’t all we do. Sure, there are times when we complain, feel a little better, and the situation resolves itself. But there are other times when things won’t get better and we won’t feel happier unless we do something.

So what do you need to do? If you’re not happy in your job, start looking for a different position or even change companies. If you’re not happy with your salary, work towards that promotion, take some classes, and do whatever it takes to start earning more. If you are stuck in a relationship that makes you unhappy, work on it, or take the action to move on. If you’re not happy with how your kids are acting, work on your parenting skills, and work with your kids to make things better. If you’re not happy with the way you look and feel, start eating healthier and get outside for some fresh air and exercise.

It’s truly amazing how much you can shape your life for the better once you stop complaining and start taking action. What are you going to do today to make your life better and increase your long-term happiness?

Day 24 – Happiness in Simplicity – Declutter Your Life and Your Mind

One of the reasons vacations are so relaxing is because we are away from most of our stuff and the responsibilities that come with it. You don’t have to worry about all sorts of projects and chores around the house and can just relax and enjoy the space you are in. You’re away from appointments, work, and being reachable. This allows you to focus on the people with you.

In my last post I talked about how much focusing on experiences instead of things can help reduce stress and increase happiness. Today, I want to take that one step further and focus a little more on getting rid of things – both physical and mental. The idea is to find happiness in simplicity.

While we can’t replicate this feeling of vacation, what we can do is reduce the clutter in our lives and simplify things. This lets us to focus on what’s important and what makes us happy. Here are some simple little ideas to help you start decluttering.

Decluttering Your Home

Let’s start with the simple stuff. There are tons of books, blog posts, articles and even TV shows about decluttering. While it isn’t easy, it is simple. It boils down to going through your home, one room or one area at a time, finding the things you no longer need or want. These can then be thrown out or given away. The idea is that in the end you are left with things you appreciate and a clearer space that’s more relaxing to live in and easier to keep clean and organized.

Decluttering Your Calendar

Next look at your calendar–the activities and obligations in your life. Being busy makes us feel productive, but often the best use of our time is to cut out all the extra stuff that really isn’t necessary and doesn’t bring us joy. Don’t be afraid to be ruthless and even a little impolite at times. Feeling obligated shouldn’t be a good enough reason that you’re doing something. Get rid of it and then use the gained time to do things that help you relax, get ahead, and most importantly make you happy.

Decluttering Your Mind

Finally, it’s time to declutter your brain. It’s amazing how much “junk” we let build up in there. We all have this running list of things we should do, ideas for future projects, what to cook, what to shop for etc. What we don’t realize is how much brain power that kind of thinking takes up. The best way to deal with it is to do a “brain dump”. Get out a piece of paper and start writing it all down. Everything you have in your head that you think you need to remember from the book you want to read next and what to cook for dinner tomorrow, to the meeting you need to schedule at work. Write it all down. Don’t judge, don’t edit, and don’t try to organize it. All of that can come later. For now, write it down to get it out of your head.

When you’re done, notice how much lighter and happier you feel with each area of your life decluttered. While it isn’t the easiest thing to do, it is well worth it and something you should try to do regularly.

Day 23 Trade Things for Experiences

We live in a materialistic society where our main goal seems to be to acquire more stuff. We buy bigger cars, bigger houses, and of course, lots and lots of stuff to fill these houses. The idea is that we can buy happiness by buying more “stuff”. We’ve been living this way in the western world for quite some time. But are we happier with all those material possessions?

Increasingly, people are starting to feel that all this extra stuff weighs us down and adds to the stress we’re feeling. All these things must be taken care of and with bigger houses and cars come bigger maintenance issues and repair costs.

In the search for happiness there is a new trend of owning less, and living simpler, more minimalistic lives. We see it in the trend towards minimalism, tiny houses, and in the success of books like “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up”. There must be something to this idea of owning less and focusing less on buying and owning things.

Does this mean that to be happy we need to give away all our stuff and move into a tiny house or apartment? Of course not. But what it may suggest is that spending a little time decluttering and getting rid of some things can give us a feeling of breathing room and freedom.

It also means that instead of accumulating more stuff, we should try focusing on experiences. Instead of buying a fancy car, new furniture, or a new set of golf clubs, take that money and spend it on a fun family trip. Use it to spend quality time with your loved ones and make beautiful memories. Not only will you be happier during the time you’re on vacation, you’ll also feel joy as you remember this trip and the time spent with your spouse and kids.

You don’t even have to go that far. Vacations are great, but we can’t take them all the time and they aren’t always practical. Think of your time as a gift, instead of buying gifts. Don’t buy another blouse or book for your mom or best friend, take her out on her birthday for lunch and some girl time. Instead of picking up another electronic gadget or tool, go hang out with the guys at the ballpark and cheer on your favorite team. Think experiences and making memories instead of buying more stuff. Experiences are more fulfilling and don’t have to be dusted!

Meditate Your Way to A Happier You

Stress is such a buzz kill. Nothing brings you down faster than feeling stressed out. It keeps you from sleeping well, staying productive, and being in a good mood. It only makes sense than that reducing stress increases happiness. One of the best ways to bring your stress levels down and increase your joy is to mediate.

In addition to reducing stress and increasing happiness, meditation is good for your health, helps you practice self-awareness, and increases your concentration. New to meditating? Here’s a quick primer on this ancient technique of clearing the mind.

Meditation is a state of thoughtless awareness. It’s reached by practicing clearing your mind of thought, until we can reach that state of mind easily and effortlessly. Along the way meditation will help us concentrate, contemplate, and gives us more control over our mind and our thoughts.

There are all sorts of different ways to practice mediation. Some will have you focus on your breathing, some will have you focus on your body. You can practice in complete silence, while listening to white noise or soft music, or you can work through guided meditations.

If you’re new to meditating, a simple guided meditation may be your best bet. There are plenty of recordings online, on YouTube, and even on apps. Some of them will be free, while others are paid guided meditations. Listen to a few of them until you find a mediation you’re comfortable with.

If you want to just try this without downloading or buying any guided meditations, give this basic meditation exercise a try. Start by laying down comfortably on your back. Have your hands to your side and relax. Close your eyes, and breathe naturally. Notice how the breath moves your body and try to focus on each exhalation and inhalation. If your mind starts to wander, bring it back to your breath. Aim for a few minutes of meditation to begin with. If you find yourself nodding off, that’s common at first. Meditation can be very relaxing and is a great way to help you get to sleep.

With practice, you will be able to mediate for longer periods of time. Experiment with techniques and lengths of mediation time until you find your own routine, something you can stick with for the long run.

Day 21 Giving Back Makes Us Happier

I couldn’t wait for Christmas when I was a kid. I’d spend days and weeks anticipating and trying to guess what Santa would bring me! I’d make wish lists and circle things in toy catalogs. It was all about the presents I would get.

As I’ve grown older, that has changed quite a bit. I still appreciate a thoughtful gift, but to be honest, most of the fun at Christmas for me is giving gifts. I find joy in the process of finding just the right gift, wrapping it and then seeing the eyes of the recipient light up when they open their present. If you have little ones that squeal with delight on Christmas morning as they open the gifts under the tree, that’s a precious joyful time, right?

It’s simple–giving makes us happier. It isn’t just about physical gifts. Any time we can give, whether it is a kind word, sound advice, our time or a hug, it makes us feel good to give back. Giving grows our own happiness.

Doesn’t  it make sense then to focus on giving back more to help lead a happier and more fulfilled life? Think about the things you could do to start giving back more. Volunteering is a great place to start and there are so many opportunities to do just that. You can help at your child’s school or at the local church. Homeless shelters and soup kitchens are always grateful for an extra pair of hands. If you’re good with animals, help your local humane society to walk dogs and socialize kittens. Reading to patients at the hospital or people in a senior living facility is another wonderful way to give back.

If you’re not able to get out of the house much to volunteer, there are still lots of opportunities to give back. I know people who knit preemie caps for a crisis nursery at a local hospital. Another friend sews pet blankets for a local no-kill shelter. Help organize online events, or offer to virtually tutor kids who need homework help.

Find something that fits your time and talents and notice how good it makes you feel. It inspires a sense of pride and purpose in you and that in turn will helpboost your overall happiness. Giving back to your community and family is a wonderful feeling that I hope you get to experience more.

Day 19 Live in the Moment

Worry. Do you worry? One of the fastest way to stop any feeling of happiness in its tracks is to worry. We worry about things that haven’t happened yet, and we worry about things in the past that we can do nothing about. Think about how many happy moments we are missing because we are too worried about the past or the future.

One of the solutions to living a happier and more content life is to learn to live in the moment. You don’t want to miss all the amazing little things life has in store for you because you are too busy worrying and agonizing about things that are outside of your control. The goal then for a happier life is to learn to live in the moment.

Start by simply paying attention to what’s going on around you right now. Enjoy the people you are spending time with. Treasure the conversations and interactions you have with them. Look around you and notice the beauty in your surroundings. Each season brings new natural phenomena that can help you stay in the moment and make you happy. Notice how the light filters through the colorful leaves on a crisp fall day. Treasure the first few green sprouts at the end of winter. Laugh and play in the first snow of winter. Bask in the sun and look at how the light plays over the water on a hot summer day. Each day, each season, and each year has amazing treasures to offer if you take the time to stay in the moment and notice them.

If you find yourself slipping back into your old ways of worrying about things challenge the worry: What evidence do you have that the situation will take place?

Here are some tips to gaining a positive attitude when worry seems at its worst:

  • Put a time limit on your worry. For example, you may want to give some of the worst worries more time – 10 minutes or so – and other, less stressful worries a couple of minutes. Think about all the outcomes of your worry and then stop! Put it out of your mind. You gave it the time it deserved – now get back to now.
  • Keep busy. When you’re focused on a task that keeps your mind occupied, it’s difficult to worry. If you’re especially troubled by worrying, take a walk or a run. Getting exercise releases endorphins in your brain that can stop worry.
  • Think in terms of “law of averages.” How likely is it that what you’re worrying about will happen? The odds are probably against what you’re worried about. If the problem is inevitable and there’s nothing you can do to stop it, strive to accept the situation and make plans about how you’re going to handle it.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. It’s a way of counting your blessings rather than your troubles. Even if it’s little things like a fire keeping you warm or a loving pet beside you – being grateful for what you have staves off worry and helps you keep a more positive attitude.

Does this mean you should stop all planning for the future? Does it mean that you shouldn’t look back on the past and learn from it? Of course not. Those are both important parts of life. There are times to plan a vacation, figure out what groceries we need for the week, or plot a move or job change in the future. Those are constructive ways to look ahead. Along the same lines, there are times when we should look back on the past. Maybe we can right a wrong, improve on things, or if nothing else learn from them. That’s important as well. What isn’t important or productive is to dwell on the past or future events, worrying about things we can’t change. Whenever that happens stop yourself and focus on the present. It won’t take you long to get out of the habit of worrying about things outside of your control. That, in turn, gives you more time and energy to focus on what does make you happy!

Day 17 Talk to Yourself–Keep A Journal

In earlier posts, we have discussed the fact that acknowledging all the good things in our lives is a great way to increase our overall happiness. Getting in the habit of showing and experiencing more gratitude is a one of the most powerful ways to increase your feeling of happiness.

There is a simple little tool that will help you stay on track, requires no batteries and you already have everything you need to use it – a journal. A journal is a wonderful thing, something that can have a surprisingly big positive impact on your life. Best of all, you don’t need anything fancy. Grab a notebook and a pen, or if you prefer, boot up your computer and open up a word document. I highly recommend pen and a simple notebook of some type, but if that doesn’t work for you go ahead and use the computer. It’s better than not doing it at all!

The idea is simple. Each day write for a few minutes, thinking back on anything that made you happy throughout the day. By listing all the positive things in your life, you’re putting them in the forefront of your mind. That alone will help to increase your mood and make you feel happier and more accomplished.

Not only will your writing help you right away, as you create each daily entry, you’re also making a great memento of your happiness journey. Later, you can pull out your journal, curl up on the couch and read through it whenever you need a little boost of happiness. Seeing in black and white (or maybe wonderful colors) how far you’ve come throughout the past weeks, months, and even years is truly amazing.

As you start to read about the events and people that you felt grateful for in the past, you’ll start to relive those memories, and with it those feelings. Think of your journal as a happiness battery you can plug into whenever your happy energy level goes down. You’re storing your good feelings in an easy format that allows you to access and relive them on demand. What a powerful idea.

Writing in and reading your journal regularly will help you form new positive habits. You’ll start to have a more positive outlook in life, and since the journal focuses your attention to think of and find the things and people you’re grateful for in any given day, your brain will automatically start to look for the positive instead of the negative.

Lots more fun stuff in this 50 Journaling Tips document!