A long time ago I decided that one of our jobs in this life was to do what we could to be as happy as we could be. Pretty simple right? It was my ‘Ah ha’ moment all those years ago, and I believe that it changed the person that I became.
You see, back then I was a dweller – one of those people who used to dwell on situations and interactions, replaying things back in my mind, questioning ‘why’, or more accurately ‘why me?’. I wasn’t miserable. Far from it. But at times I’d tie myself in knots trying to explain life to myself. It’s not that life was that hard for me either. My parents worked very hard to provide me with everything I needed and even a bunch of stuff that I wanted; they sent me to a good school where I had a good bunch of mates. For me, life was sweet. I had no excuse to why I leaned toward pessimism, except that perhaps it was hereditary or that it was chosen.
Disregarding the former as it was something beyond my control, I pondered the fact that, to some degree, I could be choosing to be mad, upset, disappointed and all those other things that come with a negative mindset. If I was unconsciously choosing to take an unhappy path, surely some good things could happen when I was making deliberate decisions.
So I made a decision to try and make the most of the things that I could control. An attitude adjustment of sorts. And it worked! I became more relaxed and happy-go-lucky, and importantly more positive. So here they are, my tips to becoming a happy chappy.
1. Respond rather than react. Although you don’t have control over everything, you can choose what happens when you’re presented with situations and circumstances. If your first move is a considered response, it is far more likely to be positive than what your first emotional reaction may be.
2. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Life is full of bumps in the road, and with any luck you’ll be presented with more small bumps than big. But if you choose to trouble yourself over the tiny, insignificant bumps, then unfortunately you’ll probably spend your life troubled. The key is to assess how much the situation really matters at the end of the day. If it’s merely an inconvenience or something you can live with, perhaps it’s better to let it slide. With time you’ll take small bumps in your stride, and with any luck eventually you won’t even notice them.
3. Forgive, forget and let go of the grudges. I discovered that it takes a lot of energy to stay angry at people, and even more to hold a grudge. It takes effort to hold in all that anger, and it will end up hurting you more than it hurts the other party. So take a step back and review whatever has been done to offend you. Use the same yard stick as above – how much did the action really matter at the end of the day? If the answer is not much, then consider forgiving the person. I’m sure by that stage they’ll know they’ve made a mistake and will be willing to make it up to you. If the action or mistake is unforgiveable, then you might just have to cut that person loose. It’s a pretty dire move, and sounds like a harsh action, but sometimes it just need to be done. The idea here is to set the burden free, so if you are going to get rid of the person you’ll need to be prepared to move on. That means no more dwelling!
4. Stop comparing yourself to others. It’s a sure fire way to tie yourself in knots or bring out the green-eyed monster. The thing is, there will always be people who are better off than you, and those that are worse off. You need to remember all paths are different, success is relative and can be measured against many different yard sticks. Pick your path and measure success against milestones. And be happy for others’ success and for your own.
5. Expect less. This one can be a bit of a balance, or it can be a complete false economy. I’ve found disappointment is often set up by our own expectations. If you put 100% into something – whether it’s work, relationships or any group activities – then there is a big possibility that you’d expect the same of others. The thing is that the others involved may not feel the same amount of passion as you do for that particular thing. Perhaps they put their 100% elsewhere, or maybe they’re not 100% type people. For me, adjusting my expectations (to whatever effort is required to achieve a reasonable result) means that I’m surprised and delighted a lot more often.
6. It’s okay to smile. Sometimes you can be so caught up in the negativity, whether it’s environmental or self constructed, that you forget to see the lighter things in life. Even if you are mourning a death or the end of a relationship, the world moves on and there are lovely things happening all the time. If you see one of these lovely things, (e.g. a brand new baby or a puppy) it is quite alright to notice it and to smile. Or if you see something funny, it’s okay laugh. These things will instantly make you feel better, and might even pull you out of whatever darkness surrounds you.
7. Sometimes there is no reason why. Sometimes things happen for absolutely no reason at all, and at no fault of others. Some people think that it’s all part of a bigger picture, whilst others believe in Karma or God’s design. That kind of thinking gives people hope, however I believe that it also puts people on the quest for answers. “Maybe it’s because I stepped on that cockroach yesterday”, or “It’s because I was an evil murderer in my past life”. If you can accept that sometimes things just happen, you can save yourself the anguish of the search for meaning.
Of course there are other things as well – like surrounding yourself with the right people, and ensuring that you’re grateful for what you have – but those were things that I personally didn’t need to worry about. I can’t tell you it was easy either. I was constantly having to force myself to let things go, to allow myself to laugh at the funny things and stop asking why. But eventually discipline turned into habit, and habit became nature. So if you feel like you could do with a positive change in your life, give it a go, even if you start with just one or two of the tips. It may not be for everyone, but it certainly made a difference to me.